The Wind Across
" Going Home. The hit of it. The
bring-you-down feelings. Despite your happy childhood.
Everything’s the same but changed. You’re like a
giant in a familiar land, nowadays you find you must climb over the
bushes instead of through them."
Reviewed by Julia Bohanna
have always felt that poets are more alive than other people, that they
see exquisite and painful detail in even the most mundane and neglected
parts of life. Nuala Ní Chonchúir epitomises the
poet/writer who uses the intensity of her poetry skills in prose to
produce, in The Wind
Across the Grass, sensualist microcosms of love,
life and love gone astray. Here is a sharp but compassionate eye that
can make us believe that these strange and wonderful characters
breathe, hope and suffer. In each small neat chapter – for
the stories are perhaps shorter than in many collections –
there is one main character from whom the story spreads out like mist.
Sometimes there is a strong and feisty Irish voice but, as in Odalisque,
Nuala can turn her hand to a French painter’s muse
or, in Any
Man’s Fancy, a Scottish embalmer – all
with equal aplomb.
of each piece, some of which are so
tiny they are like musical interludes, lies in strong assured
beginnings that often lead through to ‘dying fall’
endings rather than punches, to great effect. This is a writer not
predominately enslaved to plot. It is the exploration of character and
language that she makes dance, work for their supper. For example
Babby, the title character in The
Queen of all Ireland, has
‘mangled’ rather than ‘tangled’
hair – in a single word she has encapsulated this wayward
woman who is both monstrous and admirable.
As with the
writers of short stories, we are privy to the writer’s
obsessions and they translate eloquently enough to fascinate us. Here
are strong themes of water, blood and the limitations of mortality.
Particularly water. In her website, in a section entitled Why Short
Fiction, Nuala talks about a remembered Dublin where
were rumoured to have been pulled from the Liffey River. She uses this
haunted imagining to place ghosts in the mind of the reader.
success of The Wind
Across the Grass is the way each
story may resonate for the reader to varying degrees until eventually
they have a mirror to their own face, their own life. I was struck
particularly with the soured memory of childhood in The River Flows On
– so acutely observed and melancholy that it stayed with me
longer than should be healthy. A good writer, like any good artist,
should perturb and make us think. So with this criteria, she fully
deserves all accolades accorded to her.
Why not read a
book where dead sheep, foxes and pigs are woven in
amongst the lovers and the lost in clever and thoughtful prose? I have
learnt a great deal from this book, both as a reader and proactive
writer. Language can hit hard with plain dynamic sentences but then
soften with poetic resonance in the same story. Speed up, slow down
– like an erratic heart. Most of all, that poets are more
alive than most of us and a poet who then writes prose can be
journalist and short story writer, Julia Bohanna has won or be placed
in many short story competitions including the The Lancet Fact to
Fiction Competition 2007 (Joint winner), The Guardian/Virgin Trains
Short Story Competition 2007 (runner up),‘Woman and Home'
Short Story Competition 2006 (winner).
Publisher: Arlen House
Publication Date:May 2004
Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin in 1970
and now lives in Galway County. Nuala teaches creative writing
part-time. She has collected many literary awards and published two
short story collections: The Wind Across the Grass and To The World of
Men. She also has two poetry collections: Welcome Molly’s
Daughter and Tattoo:Tatú.
with Nuala Ní Chonchúir
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