by Oisin Fagan
Really enjoying this one. The novella-length first story, Being Born, is set in a secondary school and you can feel that that the material is just pulling the pen along, with the writer hanging on for the ride. Hilarious, very perceptive, and plain weird by turns. It’s very luminous and gripping prose, and a relief to read if you’ve been reading too much poised literary writing – or writing it yourself. The reviews of Hostages pump out adjectives like dazzling, verve, uproarious, deranged, genre-bending – and they are all perfectly correct.
This is from No Diamonds, which is the zaniest story in the collection. It shows Fagan’s exuberance.
Tara is important ’cause that’s where I brought Sinead on our first date, but according to John the Hippie, a Texan who dressed up as a druid and pranced around Lia Fail every morning whenever white sunlight leaked through the smog, breaking up the storms of cawing crows around his feet that looked like blots of tar and who, by that stage, due to a population explosion, basically ran the place, according to him there wasn’t always diamonds in Tara, and the Sinead thing wasn’t all that important, or at least, not as important as the mines themselves, although I said, ‘John, that’s just your opinion, Sinead is the importantest person in the world,’ which he said was just, for reals, my opinion. This is the John who preached in shite Irish to a bleary sun, slap-bang next to the M3.
The other stories are less whimsical (whimsy is best in small doses). There are ironic allusions to market ideology gone mad, ageing teachers all at sea in grasping PC culture, and the exploitation that underlies our cheap consumer goods. The clever playfulness is a bit like early Will Self, though with a warmth that Self’s stuff lacks.
The characters feel very real – in the school-setting story, you think to yourself, yeah, he’s grabbing all the characters he knew at school, but in The Sky over Our Houses Fagan sets down a dad with teenage daughters, and his wife Marianela, an Argentinian who has lived in Ireland for twenty years. Marianela is an amazing creation, spouting curses in Spanish, occasionally reliving the horrors of political violence she was witness to, passionate about community politics, and a living antidote to apathy. Very very real people – and this in a story where corpses float down from the sky at night!
I’m guessing Fagan is from somewhere around Kilcock, Trim, or Summerhill – these are the placenames that crop up in a couple of his stories. Well he’s putting these towns on the map!