McCann on the IMPAC shortlist

Colum McCann has once again made the shortlist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. He has been nominated for his novel TransAtlantic.

As well as McCann’s novel, there are nine other entrants including novels from Australia, Nigeria, the UK and the USA.

“The titles on this year’s shortlist were nominated by public libraries in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA”, said Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

“The winner will be chosen from this intriguing international shortlist which includes four women writers. The novels come from Africa, America, Australia, Brazil, France, Ireland and the UK” said Dublin City Librarian Margaret Hayes.

“While many of the stories reflect contemporary themes, they bring us characters facing timeless challenges of love and loss, of innocence and isolation. These engaging stories are set against contrasting landscapes which include Brooklyn, Iceland and Lagos,” added Ms Hayes.

The IMPAC Award, run by the Dublin City Council, is worth €100,000 to the winner.

Here is the shortlist:

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Horses of God by Mahi Binebine
  3. Harvest by Jim Crace
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
  5. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  6. K by Bernardo Kucinski
  7. Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andreï Makine
  8. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
  9. Someone by Alice McDermott
  10. Sparta by Roxana Robinson

Fish flash fiction

I’ve always been a fan of the Fish writing competitions. They draw fierce competition from around the world. However, this also makes entering one of their prestigious competitions more than a little daunting.

But, I decided to go for it this year and entered the Flash Fiction competition. This genre of writing always appeals to me as it is so short. Flash fiction is like a micro short story. The stories are usually limited to 300 words or to one page.

I entered a short piece called Cancer and I am pleased to say that I made it to the long list. I mean, first place would have been better (!) but to rank at all in a Fish competition is an honour. I made it to quite a long list of 200 writers out of 1,285 entrants. So not too bad at all.

Here is the piece I entered below:


A single sheet of white paper, filled with words, carries a story. In a linear fashion, it starts at the beginning trickling cautiously past milestones like a young stream. The pace picks up. The story rushes along. Adolescence passes in a series of stormy, tempestuous clauses.
Later, there are important pauses – for the important moments. And finally the tale slows down, meandering along with middle age. But one day, for no reason, a drop of black ink falls on the page. It creates a dirty and pernicious blemish.
At first it seems small, manageable even, but steadily the mark spreads across the second paragraph obliterating punctuation, words and entire sentences. The ink holds fast like ivy to brick yet it’s not confined within that middle piece of the page. As a relentless shadow chases the light away, the ink seeps upwards into the feet of the first paragraph. And then it edges downwards to the third paragraph like a low tide lapping quietly and consistently at a message written in the sand.
The ink, insidious and black, can be wiped, mopped, blotted, smudged but it soon becomes apparent that its passage is unstoppable. Soon the page itself becomes heavy with the fecund volume of ink and finally it tears.
What was once someone’s journey in words comes to an abrupt end – mid-sentence, with no conclusion.
The story would have ended, naturally, at the bottom of the page but now it has been cut short. Senselessly, in a most malevolent way, it has been destroyed. And nobody knows why.

Thoughts on Alice Munro

Last week I wrote about reading an Alice Munro novel. The book is called Lives of Girls and Women.


It is a slow, meandering novel but enjoyable. I read a great piece in the chapter called Heirs of the Living Body that I thought I would share.

To put it in context, the narrator Del is a girl of about 10 or 11 years old by my reckoning. She is talking about one of her aunts and the writing demonstrates Munro’s impressive knack for descriptions. The relative in question is Aunt Moira, a large, middle-aged woman with varicose veins…

“…it seemed to me that the gloom spreading out from Aunt Moira had a gynecological odor, like that of the fuzzy, rubberized bandages on her legs. She was a woman I would recognize now as a likely sufferer from varicose veins, hemorrhoids, a dropped womb, cysted ovaries, inflammations, discharges, lumps and stones in various places, one of those heavy, cautiously moving wrecked survivors of the female life, with stories to tell.”

Great writing and it’s good to see a novelist who is not afraid to tackle taboo subjects such as women’s unspoken ailments.