Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco- REVIEW


Let’s get the declaration of interest out of the way: I first encountered Tina Pisco at the 2008 West Cork Literary Festival where I heard her read a flash piece. It was knife-sharp; darkly incantatory. Some years later I recommended Pisco to Spolia – an online literary journal in the US. The story Spolia published (‘Erase And Rewind’) features in Sunrise Sunset. While guest-editing the ‘Fear & Fantasy’ issue of this journal, I read another story from the collection (‘The Strip’). I’m declaring this because I am name-checked in Sunrise Sunset’s acknowledgments – for which, thanks. But really, I had nothing to do with the making of these stories. They are all Pisco’s own.

And what a good thing that is.

Like Nuala O’Connor’s recent collection Joyride to Jupiter, one of the pleasures of Sunrise Sunset lies in its variety of both form and content. There are thirteen pieces here, including flash fiction, a graphic story, and a short novella which transposes ‘A Christmas Carol’ to contemporary urban America. The tone shifts too – from unapologetic fantastic-realism (‘Spell Work 101’) through gritty observation (the sublime ‘Declan’s Sister’) to witty borderline-polemic (‘A Carol’s Christmas’). There are stories which grapple with global realpolitik: forced migration, rape, fundamentalist warfare. There are creepy tales of the unexpected. There are coming-of-age narratives set in suburban and not-so-suburban homes. Yet for all its kaleidoscopery, the overall impression is one of coherence: this witch’s broth has been brewed by a singular, intelligent vision.

Coming away from Sunrise Sunset, I was left thinking about cycles: circadian, seasonal, menstrual, life, familial, economic, global – the rise and fall (and rise again) of worlds, inner and outer. This tidal swing and sway is reinforced by Pisco’s recurring motifs: seals, handsome men, lions, cats, birds, heat, the sea, blood, cars, sunrises, sunsets, even names – John and Carol/e. The swirling semantic rhythm reminded me of the great art of the Neolithic: its spirals carved on burial chamber walls, its ceramic figurines of women nursing baby lions. There is an underlying philosophy at work here: almost Buddhist, except it refuses to be named. And perhaps this is Pisco’s greatest strength as a writer – her ability to leave the important things unsaid.

Yet Pisco is never obscure. She understands story: not just the dynamics of each tale, but the art-fo

rm itself. Her narratives are full of hints that are seeded, followed-through and brought to satisfying dénouements. She is generous and upfront in referencing her sources: folklore, Dickens, Neil Gaiman (the black cat in Coraline, anyone?).There are oblique nods too to Angela Carter and Daphne du Maurier, particularly in the title story, and the building creepiness of ‘Erase And Rewind’ and the marvellous ‘The Strip’. This means, particularly in the more fantastical pieces, that we catch on very early to what Pisco is at and where the story is going.

This presents a risk, especially with the novella, where the transposition at first feels quite slight – okay, we get the joke, we know what’s coming, so why should we care? But Pisco understands that good transposition needs, sooner or later, to deviate from its source. The writer has to find a story and moral logic that both honours the original and carries the correct weight for the new context. As we delve into ‘A Carol’s Christmas’, we encounter tiny deviations from Dickens and it’s these that make the story most satisfying. We realise that Carol is both Scrooge and the over-extended, bullied Bob Cratchett; this blurring, like print off-set, puts both the original and the new into sharper focus. Pisco also grapples successfully with the time-bomb Dickens left for any adapter – sentimentality. She doesn’t shy away from pulling heartstrings: I, like Carol, had a tear in my eye at her vision of Christmas Future. But Pisco’s Ghost is too sardonic, too wise, too knowing – too modern – to let anyone’s tears flow for long.

Similarly in ‘The Strip’, though we can guess where narrator Ellen is heading, the reveal is written in language so distilled it almost takes the breath away: ‘Ellen knows everything: what the Universe is made of, how time can run backwards, where all the dead souls go, why some choose to stay.’ The pay-off is no

t epistemophilic, the rush of disclosure. It is poetic; to fully get what Ellen sees in that moment, we have to exercise sympathetic magic – put ourselves in her place and imagine.

Pisco’s prose is assured throughout: never showy yet full of startling images. A woman sits on a bayside deck, illuminated not by moonlight but the glow of her tablet. A ghost prowls through an edit suite, smartphones cables leaking from her rotting corporate suit. The voices of the many narrators are distinct and embodied: smooth, seductive, misleading, self-recriminatory. Every great sentence – and there are many – has the simple, casual, muscular grace of a lioness flicking out her paw to bat at prey.

The range is exhilarating. It’s refreshing to read magical realism that doesn’t make apologies for itself, a mature female voice that’s not pretending to be anything else. At times, the collection feels almost like a guide for living as woman in this complex, compromised world. ‘My body! My choice!’ screams teenage Ruby alone in the woods, terrified by the prospect of how her vegetarian feminist lesbian mother will respond to her first period. What a clever choice, to put a marching slogan into this most personal of places.

Some pieces, however, did leave me wanting. While ‘Four Flashes from the Frontlines’ is taut and convincing, deft in its handling of contrasts, ‘Moon Angel’, which tackles related subject matter, feels less sure – particularly in the chosen point of view and the level of detail around the narrator. Is this a story that could be taken further, I wondered; or was I meant to read it as an exercise in disconnect? ‘Declan’s Sister’ – though a beautiful piece in its own right, redolent of Colin Barrett in its depiction of small-town anomie – made me long for Pisco to write a full-on novel about the young, set in a grotty, post-rece

Because, for all the delights of the fantastical pieces, it is when Pisco turns her attention to the ordinary that this collection slices most profoundly. Her innately magical sensibility blends with realism to create moments that linger, meanings that percolate through the mind once the reading is over. Ruby tying her top around her waist to hide her new blood. Carol/Scrooge hauling wet sheets out of a washing-machine. Rob describing Declan’s desperate Sister as an ‘angel’, in a town where sink estates have ‘mushroomed like fairy rings’. The Strip’s sad raver, Buddha-Boy, smiling to himself as he listens to music only he can hear. And, compellingly, the powerless narrator in ‘Imagine This/Imagine That’, who, in her tiny last line, creates that most magical of storytelling illusions: trifurcating her identity so she is simultaneously herself, the reader, and the author. Leaving us with a reproach which is also a wish, an impossibility which is also a call to arms. That’s a spiral worth engraving on the walls of any burial chamber.

Fish launched this collection of short stories, flash and comic-strip fiction from West Cork author Tina Pisco at the West Cork Literary Festival in July 2016 

Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty realism as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination. An astute, empathetic and sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life as they dance from the pages into your mind where they linger long after the book is put down.

Sunrise Sunset is an Aladdin’s Cave of gems that offers the perfect blend of magic surrealism and gritty realism. –                                                                                                                             Conal Creedon

I loved ‘Ruby and the Red Tent.’ Long live all the denizens of the red tent, and those on the outside too.                                                                                                                                                David Mitchell

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The launch was in Ma Murphy’s pub in Bantry. Tina read to a packed house and Mary Morrissey launched the book. Afterwards it descended into a full-blown session of music and song, with musicians, both local and blown-in, from Jack Lukeman’s Songwriting Workshop at the Festival. Jack led the singing and it all went superbly until we were kicked out well beyond closing time.

Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2023

Fish Anthology 2023

… a showcase of disquiet, tension, subversion and surprise …
so many skilled pieces … gem-like, compressed and glinting, little worlds in entirety that refracted life and ideas … What a joy!
– Sarah Hall

… memoirs pinpointing precise
feelings of loss and longing and desire.
– Sean Lusk

What a pleasure to watch these poets’ minds at work, guiding us this way and that.
– Billy Collins


Fish Anthology 2022

‘… delightful, lively send-up … A vivid imagination is at play here, and a fine frenzy is the result.’ – Billy Collins
‘… laying frames of scenic detail to compose a lyric collage … enticing … resonates compellingly. … explosive off-screen drama arises through subtly-selected detail. Sharp, clever, economical, tongue-in-cheek.’ – Tracey Slaughter

Fish Anthology 2021

Fish Anthology 2021

Brave stories of danger and heart and sincerity.
Some risk everything outright, some are desperately quiet, but their intensity lies in what is unsaid and off the page.
These are brilliant pieces from bright, new voices.
A thrill to read.
~ Emily Ruskovich

Fish Anthology 2020

Fish Anthology 2020

I could see great stretches of imagination. I saw experimentation. I saw novelty with voice and style. I saw sentences that embraced both meaning and music. ~ Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2019

These glorious pieces have spun across the globe – pit-stopping in Japan, the Aussie outback, Vancouver, Paris, Amsterdam and our own Hibernian shores – traversing times past, present and imagined future as deftly as they mine the secret tunnels of the human heart. Enjoy the cavalcade. – Mia Gallagher

Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

The standard is high, in terms of the emotional impact these writers managed to wring from just a few pages. – Billy O’Callaghan

Loop-de-loopy, fizz, and dazzle … unique and compelling—compressed, expansive, and surprising. – Sherrie Flick

Every page oozes with a sense of place and time. – Marti Leimbach

Energetic, dense with detail … engages us in the act of seeing, reminds us that attention is itself a form of praise. – Ellen Bass

Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
Really excellent – skilfully woven – Chris Stewart
Remarkable – Jo Shapcott


Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]

Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.

Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
Ruth Padel

I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
Claire Kilroy

Fish Anthology 2013

Fish Anthology 2013

The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.


Fish Anthology 2012

A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.


Fish Anthology 2011

Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart


Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2008 – Harlem River Blues

The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo Gebler


Fish Anthology 2007

I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael Collins


Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane Fountas


All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank Delaney


Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo Hamilton


Feathers & Cigarettes

In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe


Franklin’s Grace

It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher Hope


Asylum 1928

There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’Riodan


Five O’Clock Shadow

I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology ­ these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms ­ the short story. – Clem Cairns.


From the Bering Strait

Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskey


Scrap Magic

The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn Sweeney


Dog Day

Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’Connor


The Stranger

The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy Doyle


The Fish Garden

This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.


12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


News & Articles

Poetry Prize 2024: Results

15th May 2024
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Here are the winners of the Fish Poetry Prize 2024, selected by Billy Collins, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. Below you will find short biographies of the winners and the Long and Short Lists. From all of us at Fish we congratulate the poets whose poems […]

Short Story Prize 2023/24: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, congratulations to all of you who made the long and the short-lists.  Apologies for the delay in this announcement. The 10 winners will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland – […]

Flash Fiction Prize 2024: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   From all of us at Fish, thank you for entering your flashes. Congratulations to the writers who  were short or long-listed, and in particular to the 11 winners whose flash stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland […]

Short Memoir Prize 2024: RESULTS

1st April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, we congratulate the 10 winners who’s memoir made it into the Fish Anthology 2024 (due to be launched in July ’24 at the West Cork Literary Festival), and to those writers who made the long and short-lists, well done too.  Thank you to Sean […]

Launch of the Fish Anthology 2023

12th July 2023
Tuesday 11th July saw the launch of the 2023 Anthology in the Maritime Hotel, Bantry. Nineteen of the fourty authors published in the anthology were there to read from their piece, travelling from Australia, USA and from all corners of Europe.             Read about the Anthology More photos of the […]

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