Thursday, 28 November 2013

Of Dublin - and Other Fictions, by Nuala Ni Chonchuir

It is entirely possible that this tiny yet enormous little book is the same physical size as the photograph here - I haven't measured either, but they look pretty close.  One thing is for certain, 'Of Dublin' might be physically tiny but it is a big-hearted little tome which surpasses much heftier books with its sheer strength. I was delighted to be sent a copy.
     Nuala Ni Chonchuir is one of those writers who refuses to be pigeonholed - short stories, flash fictions, poetry, a novel and a second due out early next year. Each of the eleven stories in this 28 page gem sings a different song, and yet, like the best of choral acts, they are in harmony. This is an enormously gifted writer.

Photo credit: Emilia Krysztofiak

Her gifts are apparent immediately in the opening story, 'Jesus of Dublin', its strength of voice, its characterisation, its seeming irreverence - 

I'm the O'Connell Street Jesus, I have a granite plinth and a glass case so swanky it could have come from the National Museum. My old box had a pitched roof  - draughty - and I nearly passed out incide the PVC yoke some nut-job from Irishtown threw together.
the whole a short romp between Jesus and 'the mother,'
down the Bull Island doing the Stella Maris thing, watching over sailors
until you reach the end and her lyricism takes over, becomes prayer-like but totally organic with the piece, leaving me for some unfathomable reason with a lump firmly embedded in the throat,
I'm the Jesus of taxi man and Traveller; of Garda and gambler; Jesus of the pissed and the pioneer. I'm Jesus of culchie and jackeen; brasser and nun. Jesus of Nigerian and Pole; of wino and wierdo. Jesus of soft rain, December snow and rare sun...

and I think that's why I enjoy this writer's work so much. She is never ever predictable.  Her voices are many, and fluid, and great. In the following story, '12th July 1691', the voice shifts to encompass the rhythms of a lost time, and in 'Treedaughter' becomes something like the teller of a fable. The boisterousness complete with a liberal sprinkling of glorious profanities comes back in 'Penny and Leo and Married Bliss' - but there is more than an echo of poignancy as well; 'What Became Of The People We Used To Be?' and 'Fish' seem to me to share that poignancy, an ache.
        Fish is probably my favourite story in this chapbook, and for some unaccountable reason I can't get the trailer to embed here (technofail) but please do visit Dan Powell's blog to read his review and watch the trailer, to hear 'Fish' being read to you here:
        Or is my favourite 'The Road that Mills and Boon Built'? It's very very clever - its well known that pulped paperbacks were used in roadbuilding in the UK - and this story is just magic.

Thoroughly recommended! An object lesson in how a tiny book can pack a real punch. Kudos.

Of Dublin is published by Tower Press, San Francisco. 


  1. Thank you, Vanessa! Blushing!

  2. Smashing review, Vanessa - I've put my order in!

  3. It sounds an absolute delight. I shall have to make sure that Father Christmas knows I want a copy.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Rachel and Caroline. I will do an Xmas giveaway of the chapbook on my blog this week. Stop by, even if you have already purchased. A friend may like it!