In praise of Claire Keegan, by John Kelly

Irish Women Writers: ‘Her stories are original, sometimes shocking and always spot-on in the smallest of details. The sheer skill on display (and indeed hidden from display) is breathtaking’

Claire Keegan: “I wanted to see if her stories still floored me, as they did when I first read them. They did. If anything, they’re even better than I thought. I recall what Anne Enright said in a Guardian review about Keegan’s stories being so ancient that the reader is ‘scrabbling for a timeline’.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Claire Keegan: “I wanted to see if her stories still floored me, as they did when I first read them. They did. If anything, they’re even better than I thought. I recall what Anne Enright said in a Guardian review about Keegan’s stories being so ancient that the reader is ‘scrabbling for a timeline’.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Before declaring for Claire Keegan I went back to her 2007 short story collection Walk The Blue Fields (Faber & Faber). Conscious that my tastes had changed and my reading had shifted, for the most part, towards the Americans, I wanted to see if her stories still floored me, as they did when I first read them. They did. If anything, they’re even better than I thought. I recall what Anne Enright said in a Guardian review about Keegan’s stories being so ancient that the reader is “scrabbling for a timeline”. No wonder then that they stand the test of time – even the time I’ve spent avoiding anything involving farms, priests and all the rest of it. But like John McGahern, say, with whom she is often and easily compared, her stories are original, sometimes shocking and always spot-on in the smallest of details. The sheer skill on display (and indeed hidden from display) is breathtaking.

Other favourites: Edna O’Brien and Maeve Brennan

John Kelly is a writer and broadcaster. From Out of the City (Dalkey Archive) was shortlisted for Irish Novel of the Year at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards.

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