Last year Faber and Faber brought out Claire Keegan’s second book of stories, Walk The Blue Fields and suddenly critics were effusive in their praise. Irish Times – a writer already touched by greatness and Joseph O’Connor declared – this is one of the most exceptional collections of short stories… among the greatest practitioners of the form now writing.
On Sunday 2 November, she will give a reading at 12 noon in the Granary at Waterford Treasures as part of the Imagine Festival. Her work shows a strong sharing of the rural farmlands of McGahern and in fact one story Surrender is sub-headed (after McGahern) about a taciturn Garda sergeant carefully contemplating marriage when he runs out of options but not oranges.
Keegan was reared on a Wicklow farm and she recreates the oblique sense of saying things by leaving them almost unsaid. People nurse hurts and fear the unspoken criticism of neighbours as much as an unkind word at home. Keegan catches this circumscribed world in The Forester’s Daughter with chilling impact and the matter-of-fact way he went to town and picked a wife is as calculating as a stalker who needs a wife to cmplete the neighbour’s view of his world. Love is an image in church or on a card.
In that story his chosen wife becomes a storyteller and a healer to make sense of the oppressive grind of farm life and Keegan uses this theme of folklore and superstition in other stories as well, especially the novella length Night Of The Quicken Trees – Margaret Fluck had neither hat nor rubber boots nor a man.
On the theme of stories, this Imagine Festival will also feature two family sessions with the world-famous teller Eddie Lenihan at the Granary, Saturday 1 November at 4 and 8pm.
During the festival Mark Roper will launch his New and Selected Poems and Roger McGough will perform shows on Friday 31st October and 1st November at Good Shepherd Chapel, organised in conjunction with WIT.