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Editor’s note issue 8

The South Circular issue 8 cover © Meg Turner detail

The short story is dead. Long live the short story.

Rather, the short story as you or I have known it. No, that’s not entirely correct either. What I mean to say is the reputation of the short story as you or I have known it is dead. As Kevin Barry described the recent state of it in his introduction to the Faber collection of Irish short stories, Town and Country:

There was a time when the short story looked – to use a great and morbidly descriptive Irish phrase – as if it might turn in to face the wall, and the expectation was of a low-key funeral with a smallish turn-out.

But, writing short stories has always been a respectable way of finding one’s voice and a publisher before getting on with the real work of writing novels (and signing contracts). And yet, in October, Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mrs Munro is the first writer whose oeuvre is restricted to short stories to be awarded the Nobel. Her singular scrutiny of the lives of girls and women made hers the first real books I read after I grew out of June Considine and Ramona Quimby. Still, after all this time, I can’t claim to have fully grasped her contribution to the form but I feel that Mrs Munro’s achievement is a significant part of my exquisitely slow digestion of the short story.

There was a time. The short story was neither born nor faces a certain death. It is the means by which most of us make sense of our everyday lives. And as long we have been around, the short story has too. None of us survive a daring trek across the city in a snowstorm in the wrong footwear, carrying all the Christmas shopping and the first born, and decide to write a novel about it. No, we describe it and enact it in bullet points. For effect, we might sprinkle the early narrative with asides whose relevance will become clear later and we may return to minor occurrences when pestered for clarification. Some of us, quietly, will begin wording the whole cluster-bang of hurdles and bawling and sweat (‘Oh, I was glowing like a swamp donkey’) while we are still seated on the 123, somewhere between Dame Street and Thomas Street.

Amidst the clatter about the value of the short story, came the quiet and significant (for THE SOUTH CIRCULAR at least) inclusion of a story by issue 2 contributor Andrew Meehan in the Faber collection. This makes us want to strut around for a bit, glancing back only to note the spectacle of our silly rear. But only for a bit; for the publisher’s appetite is never sated and our achievements should be privately acknowledged. So each issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR is an ever-so-narrow sliver of the work produced by emerging and young writers. It doesn’t come often enough; such is the restless march of that busy parade.

Like the Market Street Power Station of New Orleans in Meg Turner‘s photograph for the cover of this issue, the short story is now in ‘open space’, where its ‘use and intent can be projected by any passerby or intruder’. We prescribe no theme to the stories by Víctor Balcells Matas (translated by Keith Payne), Ronan Flaherty, Danielle McLaughlin and ER Murray published here in issue 8 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR. All we want is for you to hold them out in front of you, to let ‘the bawl of life’ out of them and into your life. It’s our continued privilege to bring good stories to you in a way you might not have considered before but which is becoming increasingly relevant and valuable in our age.


Aoife Walsh


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Editor’s note issue 6

Cover issue 6 June 2013 (detail) © Hannah Doyle,

In the aftermath of the party we threw for THE SOUTH CIRCULAR’s first birthday, a familiar vapour of uncertainty began to parade around my workspace and I began to doubt. Again. For with the affirmation, the highs of the live readings, the sugar rush of the cake my sister had baked and the comedown, I wondered ‘Is that it?’ and ‘Is that all we had to do to get to this point?’

Something happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.

In Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro resists calling this happening a ‘moment’ but here I will throw the words catalysis, catharsis and chrysalis at you and trust that your imagination will bring you to such happenings as you have known in your own life. When the before and after are so clearly defined that you cannot believe or accept that either state relates to the same life or you, the same person.

But by avoiding such hackneyed terms, Munro shows that what constituted a life is often only the result of fabrication in hindsight and known after the event. Fiction is this creation before.

We consider the four stories (by Seán Kenny, Helen Chandler, Pierce Gleeson and Tim Smyth) in issue 6 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR to be about such happenings, confidently executed with singular voices and employing a tingling tension inside the ordinary. This tension is possible in fiction, when a tale is told with imperfect detail and the reader addresses at once the quotidian as well as the irresistible pull of change. Because we cannot draw the arc in our own lives in advance, we find in these stories that happening which does, someplace else, for someone else, at some other time.

Overt or not, the happenings of these stories set an image, a sense, a sign for the next time we glimpse animals in a field, kiss the wrong person or take a job we never wanted.

And the process used by our long-time collaborator, Hannah Doyle, to create her cover perfectly mirrors the register of at least one of the stories in this issue: ‘A moment passes and nothing has changed, or maybe it has changed dramatically, only for us to see. The window was painted on wood with spray paint, gouache and acrylic, then literally dragged through a thorny field. The dots are vinyl composed on clear acetate, and the text was written on a steamy window and digitally cut-out. Everything was then layered in Photoshop. This is how I usually work: get an idea, gather imagery, draw, paint, sculpt, experiment, photograph. Through trial and error, and trial again, things happen.’

By mentioning ‘other places’, Alice Munro faces the fact that life goes on and what once was sacred to you is now in the hands or heart or mind of another. So after our party we got up and began work on this issue almost immediately and we turned again to Object Lessons: the Paris Review presents the art of the short story. We listened to New Yorker fiction podcasts and we took notes when Jon Hamm spoke to Pete Holmes about curiosity, certainty over arrogance and becoming undeniable. And we took heart from points made in Art and Fear and decided that no, that’s not all we had to do to get to this point. For you our readers, we’ll work now and draw the arc later.

Aoife Walsh