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Fishing the Sloe-Black River by Colum McCann
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Fishing the Sloe-Black River (1996)

by Colum McCann

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Worth reading for the final story alone. "Cathal's Lake" blends the real with the magical with the spiritual, and in a few pages says much about the modern world and the problem of evil that manifests, in this story, in the violence in Northern Ireland not too long ago. It should be read once without knowing the ending, then at least once again knowing what it is all about.
Every other story in this collection, some more than others of course, is well worth reading too. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 25, 2013 |
The audiobook Fishing the Sloe-Black River is a book of 12 short stories, narrated by Clodagh Bowyer, Tim Smallwood, Paul Nugent, Fiana Toibin, Sean Gormley, John Keating and Ed Malone. The Irish patois was perfectly executed by all except for the one story narrated by Ed Malone. Only he failed to space the words and give an intonation that fitted the lines well! I noted how if a narrator emphasizes the wrong words the meaning of the sentence would be messed up! Paul Nugent and Fiana Toibin must be Irish! Fiana even sang some songs for us! The lilt and the off-key tone could not have been improved upon.

I would not recommend listening to one story after the other, as I did. They all became jumbled in my head. I couldn't keep any of them straight. Some I didn't understand. So many people and such miserable existences; I was truly saddened. Usually this author makes me smile but only one story did that for me, and this was the second to the last one entitled "A Word in Edgewise"(Fiana Toibin). You soon realize that this is one woman reminiscing, as she lovingly and delicately paints makeup, for the last time, on the dead woman lying before her. Her lips, her cheeks, her eyebrows had to be done up just right! What these two did together! Shared jokes. Swimsuits today were nothing more than dental floss! Maybe their suits were more substantial but they were "a wiggling too" back then! Re condoms: "It must be like washing your feet with socks on!" If you are anything like me you will smile. But this was the only story that had me smiling, and this is unusual for McCann. The stories were too depressing.

Many marvelous details that pepper his longer novels are repeated in these short stories. Repeated, they are less fun. Songdogs and fishing and marmalade cats and blue anoraks and even exact phrases from the novels are here.

So this book was just OK. This is my first two star rating for a McCann book. Read something else by McCann. This is not representative of what he can write. However, I am not going to return this book to Audible. Why? Because I did like that one story, the one mentioned above. It was that good; I will listen to it again. It is beautiful and funny and sad, all rolled together.

Completed Mar 23, 2013 ( )
1 vote chrissie3 | Apr 13, 2013 |
These are tales heavy with loss, grounded in life’s heartbreaking moments, yet buoyant in their inherent hopefulness. The twelve short stories in Colum McCann’s Fishing the Sloe-Black River are a true achievement of imagination and poignant effect. Ranging from harshly realistic to magical, the language and dialogue are deceptively simple, yet evocative. McCann is equally at home with settings in his native Ireland and his adopted United States, and creates characters that we know, ordinary and flawed, yet unfailingly dignified in the face of life events that are both familiar and unimaginable.

Some perform simple, personal acts of courage and remembrance. In A Basket Full of Wallpaper, a reclusive Japanese émigré to Ireland, imagined by his young employee to be a survivor of Hiroshima, finds peace in his obsession with hanging wallpaper. Breakfast for Enrique conveys a quietness of waiting, as a man employed as a fish-gutter prepares breakfast for his very ill lover. In Step We Gaily, On We Go an elderly boxer, slipping into senility, steals articles of women’s clothing, imagining them to be gifts for his wife. The small, daily acts undertaken for loved ones are portrayed in A Word in Edgewise, as a woman rambles on while helping her sister with her hair and make-up, one final time. And in the book’s title story, Fishing the Sloe-Black River, mothers fish in a futile effort to catch sons who have drifted away, while their aging husbands play football on a team in need of younger recruits.

Others struggle more outwardly. In Sisters, a woman bitter from years of promiscuity, illegally enters the United States to visit her dangerously ill sister, a nun who suffers from severe anorexia and self-abuse. In Along the Riverwall, a bicyclist who is confined to a wheelchair after being hit by a bread truck, disposes of an unwanted gift. And in From Many, One, a woman’s obsession with painting quarters leads to her husband’s discovery of a disturbing secret.

Employees and residents of institutional settings find solace in their commonalities. In Through the Field, a maintenance worker at a State School for juvenile delinquents reacts in an unusual and puzzling manner after learning that a resident who committed murder turned himself in because he was afraid of the dark. Stolen Child is narrated by an Irish immigrant, who while working as a counselor at a NYC children’s home, develops a surrogate-father relationship with a blind resident and must accept her plans to marry an older, disabled Vietnam veteran. And in Around the Bend and Back Again, a maintenance worker at a psychiatric facility becomes involved with a patient, unwittingly assisting in her final, destructive act of revenge and freedom.

The closing story, Cathal’s Lake, is simply heartrending. A farmer’s lake is overflowing with swans, as he is cursed to dig these stately birds out of the soil, one for each person dead from sectarian violence.

This is one of the most consistently excellent short story collections that I have read. What I loved the most was that each story, while complete in itself, leaves a space to be filled by the reader’s own imagination, interpretation and memories. ( )
4 vote Linda92007 | Jun 1, 2012 |
A collection of short stories that expertly reveals character and conflict through subtle, yet concise details. McCann’s uncanny powers of manipulating the written word lie best in creating rounded characters that encounter struggles that grow out of their own actions (or mis-actions.) The collection truly highlights the importance and beauty of a well-turned sentence.

My favorite from the collection (and better with every read) is "Step We Gaily, On We Go." ( )
  JosephJ | Dec 16, 2011 |
The short novellas included in this book have some points in common, like the recurring theme of Ireland and Irishness, stories of displacement and personal tragedies. The tone is not overly joyful, but you feel that each storyline has some deep background history that only the author, or displaced Irish citizens, can explain. There's a sense of intimacy that is shared throughout, with different narrative voices and also with the plots treated independently from each other. I have been pleasantly surprised by the stories and I would recommend the book to anyone who has lived in foreign countries or who has escaped from small, rural, communities to life in cities. We can never change where we come from, even if we live elsewhere. ( )
  soniaandree | Dec 6, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0753805367, Paperback)

An ageing nun is tracked to ground by her sister; a garrulous beautician must lay out the corpse of a loved one. These are eloquent tales of exile and displacement, of characters always in search of a way back home or of a way to leave it. Mischievous, assured and versatile, Colum McCann's collection of short stories marks him out as one of our best contemporary writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:51 -0400)

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