11 thoughts on “Walk The Blue Fields – Claire Keegan

  1. THE LONG AND PAINFUL DEATH

    “; now she had fixed a time, the day in some way was obliged to proceed in the direction of the German’s visit.”

    Heinrich Böll’s house in Ireland (on an island) has been used as a residency for writers, and this woman has come here, to write, and has made a cake, read Checkhov, watched a hen jump over a cliff, swam naked, had a German Professor’s visit at the time fixed, a man who wanted to see over this famous house. Full of potential plot spoilers, this story also has a complex and/or emotional preamble, a preamble paradoxically at the story’s end, not at its beginning, as is common with William Trevor stories that this story resembles and differs from in equal measure. Seems suitable that I am currently working through all his stories HERE. This is not a spoiler as I am convinced that I have misinterpreted it, but she has, in her mind’s eye, the German visitor dying of cancer not of the poison she put in the cake. There was no poison in Chekhov, only a gun, presumably. And the title of this Keegan story was, when she must have written it, a distant prophecy of our Coronavirus predicament today, I feel. After which the new rubble can be written about by her just as Böll did after the holocaust.
    It was her 39th birthday. Young enough to survive, unlike me, who is 72. Probably the same age as the German Professor, waiting to jump off a cliff, too. Ah, how old is she now, thinking about it? Probably more than 39! She wrote at least one wonderful story. This one, the only one I have read by her – so far.

  2. THE PARTING GIFT

    “: walls papered yellow with roses,…”

    This is the most moving story of ‘you’, a girl now woman spreading her own wings, after that sparrow…

    “You watch him until you can’t watch him any longer and he flies away.”

    I wonder if he flew away at the precise moment you yourself flew away, well, which of you blinked first? After a lifetime so far in Ireland with your white-streaming from egg-boiling mother and abusive father and thoughtful but eventually powerless brother and, once, other siblings, you are leaving for New York…

    “In the bathroom you wash your hands,…”

    A powerful work. One of the most subtly powerful stories you are ever likely to read, I suggest. And I wonder whether she washes her hands again when she leaves the airport stall…?

    “Instead you remember that time the setter had all those pups.”

  3. WALK THE BLUE FIELDS

    “Were you ever down wud the Chinaman, Father?”

    A story of a wedding as seen through the imputed eyes of the officiating Priest who is subsequently invited to the Wedding Reception and dinner and dance. This is a gradually dawning story, full of well-characterised characters, where we begin to realise the connection between the Priest and one of the main participants in the Wedding. And that is not necessarily with the Groom’s best man and his giant cock! We feel it is ironically appropriate today as we read this that it is the Chinaman in the village who is the healer… and not the wild ducks, not the refreshing walk in the fields under an atmospherically blue night, oh yes, not Nail the bone-setter, not even the Priest’s own God. A Trevor trove of a story, yet uniquely dealing with temptation’s tension amid the tensions of muscles as mental and emotional threads eased through manipulation. (My wife has been seeing a Chinaman for the past few months for her back trouble submitting herself to the Chinaman’s manipulation and acupuncture, one who closed his business down recently for two weeks after returning from a holiday in China. She, though, does not have freckles and is even older than I am!)

  4. DARK HORSES

    “The silence is like every silence; each man is glad of it and glad, too, that it won’t last.”

    A telling portrait of a man, an oddjob man, I guess, as well as perhaps lackadaisically running his own small farm. The pubs he visits, the beautiful woman he once lived with, his unthinking words deterring her, about her beloved horse, now a regret that returns as a dream. Or is it real? Has she returned by dint of the truth of such fiction?
    The shoeing of another horse in the rain is another of this work’s lingering truths.

  5. THE FORESTER’S DAUGHTER

    “; all she could see were slot machines and shelves of coppers that every now and then pushed a little excess into a shoot to let somebody win?”

    Should that not be ‘chute’? Well, dreams are like talking to someone, each a parachute from pointlessness. “, how lifting the potato stalk was magic for you never really knew what it would yield.” This novelette, is of Godless forester Deegan’s dreams, and it is also of his wife Martha’s ‘stories’, that neighbours came round to listen to. One story, I guess, is of the retriever dog with narrative skills for us in its thought processes, a dog that Deegan brings home for their daughter, a dog found not bought; their daughter, we got a hint about earlier on that her father never wrote a letter to her. Or to Martha. The roses he seeded. One son is a simpleton. “…he had no grá for farming; when the boy sat in under a cow, the milk went back up to her horns.” Both sons disappointing, I recall. The dog has baths with the daughter, or was that a different story? The whole marriage disappointing, even if they accepted it for what it was, and we grow to know all these characters, until Martha’s final story to the neighbourhood co-opted the author’s own narrative skills, as if story characters were the real people and the author and its readers now become animals. The saddest moment was when the dog went back to its rightful owner, and the daughter realised whoever gave it to her never loved her at all. Whoever’s daughter she was. The house Aghowle that Deegan had misrepresented to Martha at her story’s outset of his even-handed marriage proposal to her was simply a simpleton’s paper or plywood model of it – easier to burn along with the paper the story is printed on? Or if spoken in some oral tradition by a wonderful storyteller, it stays with you forever, whether burnt by fire or not. The greatest stories are the ones you remember better when you know it is impossible to read them again. And you simply know that there is sheer pain just in the look of a word like Aghowle… and the title, in hindsight, represents the author’s biggest fake news or, at best, irony of all. “The desperation in her voice travels all the way down into Aghowle’s valley, and the valley sends back her words.”

  6. CLOSE TO THE WATER’S EDGE

    “She avoids the aisle of toilet paper…”

    Young man staying with his mother on the coast in Texas, his mother in a mercenary marriage with an overtly homophobic millionaire (“‘You all ready? I could eat a small child,’ he says”) … and the parallel story of the young man’s grandmother’s decision about her own marriage back when, a striking decision that only fiction can make seem true, as it is, indeed, truer than — by dint of — the ostensible fiction it is within. Meanwhile, I sometimes prefer breathless shrieks in Xenakis to mannered melodies in Handel (although I relish experiencing both equally – most of the time).

    “It’s like those beautiful, high notes on the violin, just a hair’s breadth away from a screech.”

  7. EFE12764-BE83-4146-B861-907CB87D893D SURRENDER (AFTER MCGAHERN)

    “Hope was always the last thing to die; he had learned this as a child and seen it, first hand, as a soldier.”

    Bingeing on two dozen oranges, being pleased to discover they were more expensive to buy than he expected, also buying that loaf and depriving a boy of it, even if a new loaf was promised. There is a remarkable passage in this story — a story that relishes keeping secret references from me, but this one I knew already, disregarding the one about Orange aspect of the Irish history, now become a Protestant POTUS known for the same colour — and that reference is the upside down bike and fast-twirling the spoked wheel with the pedal, and having a finger clipped off at the end. Above I show my own finger that was shortened by such a process in 1958. I wasn’t even oiling the bike, as in this story, nor was it a punishment by another. It was quite gratuitous. But machines, wars, people, plagues etc. often work with a gratuitously oiled synergy? Like literature, wheel to wheel. Gestalt real-time reviewing. Brainstorming, like Toynbeean history. Returned rings of affiancement.

    “Everything was made for something else in whose presence things ran smoothly.”

  8. NIGHT OF THE QUICKEN TREES

    “Her feet were bigger than shoe-boxes and reminded him of a song.”

    A second novelette in this book, one that has a folklore lodestone of a haunting quality that will strongly harbour or hook within not only the minds of mainstream or literary readers but also the minds of those who love the dark hyper-imaginative genres wherein, over the years, I have often moved about with my gestalt reviews and my own fiction work. From ‘feetwater’ to the place of the ‘quicken trees’ where both Margaret (eventually a healer by truth or superstition) and a priest (breaking his vows) once created a caul, if nothing else that lasted. And even the caul failed to last. She now lives in that deceased priest’s house (containing his ghost), wall to wall with the house of a man called Stack who sleeps in the same bed as his goat.. These characters emerge from visionary dream as well as truth, and need to be formulated in your own mind gradually. As you negotiate objective-correlatives and other images…only a few examples among many… “To be an adult was, for the greatest part, to be in darkness.” Stack has his own memorabilia next door, including his mother’s sewing machine to resonate with my concurrent review of Grudova. And bicycle parts in the porch. And there is Margaret’s memory of the priest’s hot water bottle; I wonder if it was like the one above with my fingers as the equivalent of this work’s ‘ostriches’. “All the finest people she’d known were odd.” The fat lizard as penis. Margaret’s own release from earlier assumed barrenness… eating eel in her nightdress on Christmas Day with Stack. “The priest was jealous, but the priest was dead.” Putting a live frog’s legs in the mouth to assuage toothache. “And then the future was blotted out, gone, like something that falls from sight without a sound.” The sledgehammer to break wall from wall. The denouement that feels sad as well as content with itself. The priest’s earlier haying now a Stack….

    “For most of the time people crazy or sober were stumbling in the dark, reaching with outstretched hands for something they didn’t even know they wanted.”

    Reaching for this book, I suggest.

    end

  9. Pingback: The Quickening Reach | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS — A golden sphere in fey balance between clarity and confusion

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