The Book: THE LONDON SILENCE, a collection of stories by London-based Irish writer Stephen Moran. ULA poet Frank Walsh encountered Moran when they were both performing at a lit show in Dublin, Ireland this summer. Frank passed along Moran's book to me.
I like Stephen Moran's writing style-- not mannered or pretentious as with American literary authors. The collection contains several very good stories, my favorites being "Panic," a tense tale about lights going out during a subway train ride; and "Kenny," a short yarn about a parakeet.
Stephen Moran gives an atmospheric sense of both Ireland and London, showing a continuity with great Irish story writers of the past, in that the world since, as Moran portrays it-- aged, dingy, and impoverished-- hasn't changed all that much.
The stories of the second half of the collection comprise a coming-of-age narrative, done in reverse order.
Many story writers have covered such ground before, of course, the best of them being James Gould Cozzens, whose young men see life as a learning experience, a test of one's ethics; and F. Scott Fitzgerald with his magical "Basil" stories-- ambitious young Basil focused on accomplishment, on endless yearning, possibilities, and hope.
For Moran's character there is no hope. He's a young man, and child, for whom everything goes wrong. Because of this, the scope of his vision and goals are confined within narrow limits. He learns little from life, other than that he doesn't much like it, and maybe that's why Moran presents his character's story in reverse.
We see as a result not a development into maturity, but a regression from confusion into the comforts of ignorance. This gives the collection a growing impact of depression, as if the world is so overwhelming the character wants to go backward. It's harshly realistic about the fate of young people who don't come from a glowing Cozzens or Fitzgerald background.
A melancholy book!
(More info at www.pretendgenius.com.)