If writing is, as I’m becoming increasingly convinced it is, writing one good sentence that makes the reader want to read the one after that, then McCann has to be considered a master. This odd little collection (I think it must be British; there’s not a price in dollars on the back) features 2 great short stories and one longer one. (Or is it, at 102 pages, a novella? I’ve never really understood what qualifies something as a novella.) They are Irish stories about the Troubles. These are not stories about those who are on the proverbial front lines of the struggle between Northern Ireland and England. They are, instead, stories of those who suffer as a result of what goes on there.
All three stories are so well-crafted, but the longest piece – “Hunger Strike” – is most exquisite. Though I loved Let the Great World Spin and Zoli, I think his plotting is tighter here.
Some sample sentences from “Hunger Strike” –
The protagonist wears “a shirt of aloneness” (45).
“He thought God must have been a sly and complicated bastard to give people different words for normal things” (66).
“Her feet left prints where she walked and the grass bent back as if it held the memory of her and all the places she had been” (85).
“[H]e wondered to himself if he was two different people within just one word, both a boy and a man” (87-88).