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Editor’s note issue 11

Editor's note

What I’m striving for is authenticity; none of it is real.
– WG Sebald

I mean that the self-referentiality of my novel is a way of exploring how fiction functions in our real lives—for good and for ill—not a way of mocking fiction’s inability to make contact with anything outside of itself. My concern is how we live fictions, how fictions have real effects, become facts in that sense, and how our experience of the world changes depending on its arrangement into one narrative or another.

– Ben Lerner, in conversation with Tao Lin for The Believer

THE SOUTH CIRCULAR celebrates its third birthday with the publication of this, our eleventh issue. I don’t lie or exaggerate when I tell you that at the outset, when all I had was an idea and convictions, I could absolutely imagine and not imagine this anniversary ever happening: it would always just be me, we would grow to a staff of twenty-five; the stories would speak for themselves, the stories would win prizes; we’d find an office in an old shop-front in Dublin 8, we’d open a second office in Toronto; we’d always only publish four stories, we’d sometimes publish five; and so on. The narrative that is THE SOUTH CIRCULAR has been moved, by and large, by the writers who have offered their work to us for publication, the very act of which causes them not to imagine a different future, but to live it.

And time and time again, during this year in Toronto, something which has emerged as an unplanned residency of the mind, I imagine multiple and fluid narratives, as I navigate our new home, the consolations of what I have over what I have left behind, the creation of new touchstones. We are bombarded by opportunities here (choosing is the hard part), a place of diversity and equality where, apparently, no one culture prevails, where youth as well as age are relevant to ability, where you are what you say you are and you must leave your beloved idioms at the door. In the space of one day, the narratives alternate along the lines of ‘What’s for ya won’t pass ya’ (our comparable future) and the kind of leanness we might be ill-equipped to endure (because of our past). The fictions, as Ben Lerner says and Sebald alludes, become our facts, our authenticity.

In the spirit of, or as a result of, this change, this new normal, this new fiction of our own making, we bring you five (not four, see?) stories engaged with moments of diversion, in places their characters might rather not be. After Michael Garvey’s captured protagonist’s pen runs out, do you already know what happens in the white space that follows? Christopher Ringrose’s young man rethinks his brief ‘friendship’ with the mysterious Vincent. Vicki Thornton’s child character sees something she can never unsee while Bethany William’s Fi seems to have prepared for her pregnancy since the death of her mother when she was just thirteen. And Siobhán Harte’s care worker will do it all again tomorrow – the same only different. But this is not to divert, either, away from the powerful fictions happening within the actual limits of these little stories; they are familiar and strange and entertaining.

Accompanying her image with text, in the publication in which it first appeared, Laurie Kang said this of 33 Circles: ‘An exercise is repeated an arbitrary thirty-three times over wherein light-sensitive, photographic paper is exposed and torn to make collages and photograms. Circles: various compositions.’ There were several, if not actually thirty-three, images we could have chosen to detail on the cover of this issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR. The one you see is the one we wanted you to see. It could have been so different.


Aoife Walsh



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Editor’s note issue 10

The South Circular issue 10 July 2014 cover © Aleana Egan

Sing with the voice your god gave you. But know your song before you take to the stage.

In 1997, I auditioned for my secondary school’s annual musical show. I was in transition year, a time of academic, creative and legal experimentation. Or, as it is often called, a doss year. Lacking any friendships that would last into adulthood, I was a good student of English and technical drawing and a poor student of nearly every other subject I thought I had to take. During the course of this year, I took modules in Italian, music, art, Celtic Studies and, I think, archaeology. However, with my sights set on a life designing buildings, I opted for physics, chemistry and higher-level maths to get me there. By the time of sitting my pre-Leaving Certificate, I had dropped chemistry in favour of technical drawing; I had moved to ordinary-level maths and my knowledge of the physical world was limited to the first portions of a few theories and the simplicity of displacement. It’s fair to say that I was pretty lost for those six years and sometimes the hardest thing was to speak my mind. I listened in on conversations but I didn’t really hear. Later, at home, I’d think of a response or an idea and I’d practise it, for a next time that never came. I looked but I did not see what was around me. I spent a lot of time in my own head, reciting what I would say, and what I would do, if given half the chance. Those who know me now may find that hard to believe, as I am a foaming, conversation-hogging, arm-waving motor-mouth even at the worst of times. Those who know me now also know that I do not sing.

And so I auditioned for the school show not because I was musical, or knew the songs and wanted to sing them myself. Nor did I do it to perform or be seen. I did it because everyone else was doing it. And I sang the worst, least Vaudeville song around: something by Alanis Morissette. Well, I didn’t get in and instead I worked in ‘costume’, a job for which there was no precedent. Not having a voice that day meant, officially, I became one of the silent ones, the crew the audience is not supposed to see or hear. I wasn’t even one of the crew; many of them skipped outside during scenes to mix Coca-Cola with Paracetemol and wait and see and hope that something would happen. But when the tuck-shop man told me, looking me straight in the eye, that I was ‘the only one around here doing their job properly’, I smiled, inside, quietly, so no one could see.

My point in sharing this familiar story is to say that ‘voice’ arrives when you least expect it. Sometimes it is not yet perfectly formed when it gets here. And sometimes you have to momentarily bury one voice for another to be heard. THE SOUTH CIRCULAR is still, at this moment in time, the best expression of my abilities and my interests and that expression or new found ‘voice’ could not have been realized without the support of all of those who have graced these pages or swiped them. Since moving to Toronto, it’s been my calling-card and has given me access I could only have dreamed about before coming here. And yet, there are other voices, private, domestic, familial and social, which have become marginally muted while this process of introduction and adjustment runs its course.

The theme I am choosing to assign to issue 10 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR then, is a theme of voice/lessness. All of the muted characters in these stories find ways to lay their mark on their environments and the wrongs they wish to right, some with tragic results. Along with the four stories picked from this quarter’s submissions, by Australians John Bartlett and Mark Brandi and Canadians Laurie Myers-Bishop and John Christensen, we are delighted to welcome special guest writer John Connell to our ejournal. John, though raised in Ireland, has lived in Australia for the last five years and moved to Toronto late last year. He is a producer, curator and investigative journalist and his debut novel, The Ghost Estate, will be published by Picador Australia in 2015.

We chose the cover image, of a work by Irish artist Aleana Egan, because it carries an insistent hush. Her work, ‘on the one hand . . . draws our attention to the way things look, how they settle, sag, curve, or hang; on the other, her forms and shapes act as traces or memories, and as a tentative articulation of shifting responses to remembered places or everyday moments . . . Similarly, her frequent literary and historical allusions, which are never explained, are reticent and elliptic.’ We hope you enjoy these stories of doing, not saying.


Aoife Walsh




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Editor’s note issue 9

The South Circular issue 9 March 2014 cover Dave Comiskey web detail

When I was just a child, a lonely boy
I held onto my dreams, like they could run from me
The hopes I harboured fled, as they often do
But I still dreamed of you
And now my dreams come true

– ‘Little Dreamer’, Future Islands*

THE SOUTH CIRCULAR and I will relocate to Toronto, Canada, in April this year. Know that this is a positive move, one of expectation, desire and, I think, courage. I am not throwing away, giving away or running away from any of what my home country and my adopted city of Dublin have provided me with.

Rather, know that I am taking it all with me. Whatever I’ve seen, heard or been told now travels to Toronto. Call me an envoy because I certainly consider myself a messenger of sorts. How could I resist telling Toronto everything of what I know in Ireland, when that is so good? And how can Toronto fail to impress upon me some of what I hope to find, and more of what I never knew possible? The transaction will go both ways.

Dublin has risen above its boom and has met its bust face-on, like the heroine it surely knows itself to be. Dublin is self-involved and dying to please. She is now the same and unrecognizable, still checking herself out in shop windows, and still spotting something inside and going right in, to see what all the craic is about. This culture of canny competition and coaxing has forced me to positively realize a potential for expression I have always assumed would give me a life less ordinary.

So, in these final weeks, while preparing issue 9 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR, dilatorily packing boxes, pinning lists to lists, ‘reaching out’ to strangers and gathering ever closer my people, I am distracted by the effect that belonging has on one’s sense of self. And the stories we have chosen for issue 9, by Gila Green, Mary McGill, Mary O’Donoghue and Warwick Sprawson, address this universal concern: what happens when you drop out, resist the new order or just can’t connect any longer?

Dave Comiskey‘s cover has a gorgeous delicacy while at the same time being robust and utterly present. Of it he has said: ‘I started this cover by drawing objects that I thought might potentially play an important part in an imagined story, things that a plot could hinge on.’

These separate elements then, belong in the ninth issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR, for as many reasons as there are people reading this. Somehow, our quarterly digital journal of short stories is still one of a kind but it also belongs here, for the time being. Just where here is exactly, is happily, necessarily in a state of flux.


Aoife Walsh