Posted on Leave a comment

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


Posted on Leave a comment

Editor’s note issue 1

Issue 1

As recently as two years ago it was put to me that short stories are a hard, if not impossible sell. In general, readers prefer novels and their expanse; agents prefer to talk up whole and intricate narratives; publishers can brand a novel simply and with one succinct tagline and foreign publishers and foreign readers can digest, interpret and ultimately translate a story of universal suffering or hope far easier than a varied and nuanced collection of similar lessons with multiple casts of characters.

At the time, I nodded in feigned belief and utter misunderstanding. In my naivety and perhaps my simplicity, I thought:

If you really like a bunch of stories, then surely you can communicate that and invoke others to feel the same.

Or at least you can encourage them to give the stories a chance where previously they had not been considered. I suppose at the time I decided that I could sell a collection of short stories with sheer enthusiasm, love for the genre and bloody-minded determination.

Now something has changed. There has been a shift in the length of time it takes to convince someone that their life might be enhanced by reading a short story or two. Why is this easier? Is it that the work is better? No, there have been good and excellent short story writers around (especially around these Irish parts) for decades. Is it that the publishers are interested again? Perhaps. Bloomsbury has named 2012 the year of the short story (planning to publish a collection a month until May). But there is evidence that there may have already been a year of short stories: in 2009, the American novelist Eric Puchner concluded that their popularity is cyclical rather than something brand new (Arminta Wallace, Irish Times, 25 February 2012). Have agents found the way to strike a deal? Hardly. There is no end to the ways in which agents will strike a deal. And finally, as is the natural conclusive question these days, does the internet have anything to do with it?

In the years and decades to come, we will decide that the internet had everything and nothing to do with the many shifts in behaviour at the turn of the twenty-first century. There is much talk now about diminished attention spans and the short story, being short, has been branded a fitting salve for this phenomenon. But there is a danger of forgetting, or never even knowing, the work that goes into creating a narrative full of perfect holes and for this reason, now more than ever, the short story must be hoisted above the parapets but defended against assumptions of simplicity and easy digestion.

THE SOUTH CIRCULAR passionately believes in the short story as an enhancer of lives. We are here because we want to be. Our duty is to that passion first and then to do these stories and their authors a faithful service in bringing their work to a wide and new audience.

The stories we have chosen for the very first issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR are, we believe, examples of good short stories. Eddie Stack, Eley Williams, Shane Hulgraine and Adrian Duncan are talented emerging writers. Their stories ask much of their readers; they have created contained little worlds with astonishing logic and surprising rules; they are moments of clarity in a world clogged with junk and we think they are entertaining enough to hold your attention for just a few minutes.

One of the motivators for us when we started THE SOUTH CIRCULAR was the opportunity to collaborate with creatives in industries other than publishing. Hannah Doyle of came on board just in time to create a handsome issue and a nifty website too. And as we’ve said elsewhere before, we are absolutely ecstatic that for the cover of our very first issue, Fuchsia Macaree agreed to create something original and true to the spirit of the journal: a shared discovery.

There is a song by Joanna Newsom, called ‘En Gallop’ which carries the lyric ‘… you unending afterthoughts …’ If we have one wish for the first issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR, it is that the stories contained in issue 1 spend just a little longer in your thoughts than the time it takes to read them.