Throughout time, the large-scale violence that entire groups of people inflict upon other groups has been depicted in all forms of art. In the literary arts, in particular, the aesthetics of war have long been glorified or explicated through tales of heroes and tales of disillusionment, chronicles of fighters and resistors, historically accurate accounts and revisionist retellings . . . With the short story form, there have been some game-changing, award-winning collections, from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), about Vietnam, to Phil Klay's Redeployment (Penguin, 2014) about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have not sought to glorify violence but to show us the many individual and heartbreaking ways that wars are waged, witnessed, and resisted.
For those of you following along, I had been posting a monthly short stories column here for the last 1.5 years. It has now transitioned over to the PopMatters website. You can read it here. This month's theme is 'Souvenirs' — the things we collect throughout our lives and why. All three short stories (see below) are free to read online, as always. I have added annotations/notes on the theme and each story too.
For those who may not know, Dame Edna O'Brien is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet, and short story writer. This past week, she was given the PEN/Nabokov Lifetime Achievement Award "for breaking down social and sexual barriers for women in Ireland and beyond." I have always loved her short stories the most and have featured them in this series in the past. This month, let's celebrate and honor her with a roundup of some of these short stories (free to read online.) The themes she often returned to in these stories were of the challenges faced by Irish rural communities, mother-daughter conflicts, girls coming of age (with their "conscious innocence,” as John Mullan calls it), the other woman, and so on.