‘Island’ by Philip Ó Ceallaigh

A man, the narrator of this brutal and astonishing story, has moved to an island to live a remote life, tending to the grounds, and specifically the grapes on a crumbling hillside house. As he works in solitude, his peaceful wine-sipping is interrupted by a pair of mating monkey (type things). The ‘monkeys’ have a lot of sex and the man watches them. From here, it becomes more surreal. What opens as a typical, fairly sparse form of contemplative masculinity diffuses into a gentle hallucinatory departure from normal life into an exotic death. The whole of Trouble (the collection) is rife with this effortless switch from what a lot of people call ‘muscular writing’ into something shatteringly tender. I’m always so glad when these turns come along, and I always find myself staring at the page for a long time after this story.  

First published in Trouble, Stinging Fly, 2021

‘Graceland’ by Philip Ó Ceallaigh

Another Stinging Fly! I love this story. It depicts a father’s day out with his daughter so beautifully that it made me reminisce about father-daughter museum days I’m not sure I ever had. It’s also a very touching look at how children perceive the world, the things they notice that adults have become blind to. It’s an honest depiction of a fractured marriage and the protagonist’s frustration at being unable to see his child. This image, in which the father is acknowledging and making peace with his rage, particularly struck me: He hushed the violence. He whispered to it and caressed it like you would a cat to gain its trust then he gripped the loose skin of the nape and removed it squirming from the room.”

First published and available to read in The Stinging Fly, May 2021. Collected in Trouble, The Stinging Fly 2021