launch debut novel
The River and Other Stories
Clarendon Bar Lounge, Strand Road, Derry
Thursday 25 November at 7:30pm
Guildhall Press is pleased to announce the launch of The River and Other Stories, a collection of short stories from local author Seán Mackel. This absorbing debut publication explores the intricacy of narratives between people and place, across time and territory. In the title story, an ageing house painter discovers the river to be the only true bridge. Elsewhere, a young couple reconciles the past through music, a dusty professor finds release working with a Czech puppeteer, and a surprise awaits the 1948 Tillies Shirt Factory Queen. The reader embarks on an intriguing journey beginning in 1920’s Donegal through Derry during WWII, from Australia to Poland and back again to a contemporary city on the cusp of cultural celebration.
Seán explains: “The thirteen short stories are thematically linked by a river, in this case the Foyle. In exploring these narratives, I was influenced by one translation of An Feabhal as ‘estuary of the lip’. And it was this link between life and language, which intrigued me. So the first story in my collection acknowledges the Irish language as the roots of our imagination. The collection then flows forward from the 1920s, through the forties, and addressing the Troubles, it continues up to the present day featuring characters from Australia , the Czech Republic , Germany , France and Poland . Given our recent history in the North, the title story, The River, explores the idea of truth. It is placed at the physical centre of the book. Like the River Foyle itself it has the capacity to divide and, more importantly, to unite.”
Seán added: “I’d like to give special thanks to Marilyn McLaughlin who was instrumental in the editing process of this collection and to Guildhall Press and the Arts Council for giving me the opportunity to have my work published. I hope everyone will enjoy my stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.”
Included are stories previously short-listed for the Brian Moore Short Story Award 2003/04, Raymond Carver Short Story Contest 2004 and the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award 2008. In his foreword to The River and Other Stories, Derry-born author Sean O’Reilly writes:
‘These stories display a scrupulous sympathy for the characters and the small rewards they find in their attempts to keep on going. The writing is simple and honest and touched with wonder ... With great delicacy, these stories ask the question: What saves us all from drowning in the past?’
Seán Mackel was born in Belfast in 1957. He now lives in the North West of Ireland. His poetry has appeared in Cuirt Journal, Cyphers, HU, Poetry Ireland , Waterford Review and Four W, Australia . A chapbook collection of his poetry, Strangled Laughter, was published in 1998.
The River and Other Stories by Seán Mackel is published by Guildhall Press and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Paperback. ISBN: 978-1-906271-33-6. £7.95. Available from all good bookshops and www.ghpress.com