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The Feminists Go Swimming

By Michael Collins

This is a collection of short stories by the author of The Meat Eaters and The Life & Times of a Teaboy, who was educated in Ireland and America, and now lives in Chicago. Despite the fact that he is only 32, his work would be at home with that of a previous generation of Irish writers, and has a very dated feel to it. One has the impression that this is the sort of writing produced by Irish people when they want to please Americans. Except for ‘In Hiding’, which is set during the Second World War, all the stories seem to have a contemporary setting, but are suffused with all that Catholic guilt nonsense that nobody here takes seriously anymore, but that the Yanks lap up. Nuns and priests abound, as if anybody in Ireland with half a brain pays a blind bit of notice to what the religious say anymore. ‘The Horses’ even includes a reference to it being a Fish Friday; didn’t the church itself get rid of this custom years ago? ‘The Fornicator’ (which, incidentally, should be called ‘The Adulterer’) contains the sentence: ‘Murphy felt fortunate to live in a country where the press had a scrupulous regard for preserving the status quo, where the Church kept truth from people.’ Someone should tell Collins that those days are gone, over and done with.

In several of the stories masculinity is seen as being under threat, and the men are either feckless or downright bastards, but Collins offers no solution to these problems. The women acquiesce in their own subjugation.

The New Yorker has said that Collins possesses ‘an eloquence beyond his years’. It’s a shrewd guess that he knows which side his bread is buttered on, and will continue ploughing this furrow, selling a version of Ireland to a foreign audience which has very little to do with today’s realities.

First published in The Big Issues

 

 

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