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Editor’s note issue 7

It’s that time of year again: school’s back. Little people are taking one of their many steps towards becoming hopeful, positive contributors to this world. For the healthy and watched-over, theirs is a compact world, punctured only occasionally by unfamiliar adults, places or impulses. For the neglected, it’s a constant confusion of adults, places and impulses. Most will make it. Somewhere along the line, the difference between success and failure will be marked by a simple choice between doing and not. For the others: the dim, the doughy, the unheard and the unseen, that choice will never present itself.

I will admit that this was not on my mind when I began to read the submissions for issue 7. But it’s true the stories that slid out of the pile and were labelled ‘promising’ are tales of children and adults who know that something is up. These are not stories of humdrum innocence ruined by epiphany. Jonathan Gibbs‘, Krishan Coupland‘s, Shane Mac an Bhaird‘s and Hila Shachar‘s characters know they have the choice to seek another way of being in their world. Innocence has no room here. Rather, their natural irreverence for the sham of a ‘real world’ they encounter might allow them to move through it protected. These stories beckon the reader to imagine their fates after the last line.

While choosing these stories I came upon a story by Sylvia Townsend Warner: ‘The Children’s Grandmother ‘. It is a story in which the sub-narrative (the terrible deaths of six of the grandmother’s seven own children) distracts the reader in their summation of her present handling of her grandchildren. Colm Tóibín says that by the time this gothic tale begins, these deaths have happened so long ago that there is the assumption that the grandmother is ‘out of character’ for much of the story. In her mind though, the grandmother has chosen to deal with grief in a way so spectacularly robust that in her final words, she can pity her daughter-in-law who, she believes, has the worse fate of seeing her children grow up and leave her.

They say life is all about how you choose to meet it.

When it came to deciding the medium of the cover of issue 7, I knew I wanted to commission a photograph. When I thought of bright and promising photographers on my radar, Philip White‘s name had been on my long-list for some time, having been introduced to me nearly two years ago by Richard Gilligan. And then I saw Philip’s photographs of Irish musicians Mmoths and Orquesta for Thread magazine’s fifth issue and my hunch became a hunt. The starkness, nay bare-facedness, of his portrait of Clare reveals the kind of confidence, conviction and haunting vulnerability exquisite in the very young and the very brave.

For me, Philip’s photograph is a near-perfect calling card for the kind of written work we at THE SOUTH CIRCULAR strive to bring you every quarter.


Aoife Walsh


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Mary Costello, The China Factory

We’ve just started reading Mary Costello’s The China Factory, recently longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. From the off, it’s clear who Costello’s influences are: Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Colm Tóibín and maybe even Anne Enright. In fact, in her review of the collection, Enright said:

Like Alice Munro, Costello is not afraid of a good car accident, a cancer diagnosis, the arrival on the scene of a roaring madman.

Costello’s style is clipped, to say the least, and in this first collection she shows the knack for saying a life in one sentence. This is the kind of economic writing of which we’re a fan. The gaps and holes are left up to the reader to fill and the reader’s imagination is nearly king over the writer’s desire to tell how it is or how it went.

Congratulations are due to The Stinging Fly, the independent publisher based in Dublin and run by Declan  Meade, who published Costello’s collection. A few years ago The Stinging Fly published the first collection of an emerging story writer called Kevin Barry. Barry went on to publish a novel (City of Bohane; currently undergoing redressing as a graphic novel and a playscript) and a second collection of stories (Dark Lies the Island) with Jonathan Cape. Barry also went on to win the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012. Here he explains how he did it.

Here’s wishing Mary Costello a similar trajectory.