Book Preface

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I make the truth as I invent it truer than it would be – Hemingway

 

To paraphrase Clive James, most first novels are disguised autobiographies. These short stories are disguised memoirs – creative memoirs. Some are closer to being autobiographical than others, but they are all stories – figments of my imagination, including my reminiscing ramble Down Memory Lane that formed the basis for the stories. Hemingway suggests that by making them ‘truer’ is what makes all good books alike.

 

Michael McLaverty advises to go for the intimate and the local - this I have attempted.  Seamas Heaney describes McLaverty’s “love of the universal, the worn grain of unspectacular experience, the well-turned grain of language itself” – this, too, was part of the endeavour.
 
Little nuggets of memories give birth to these flights of fancies.  Writing these stories is the next best thing to time travel: exploring that period of childhood through creatively making the memories ‘truer’ was great fun. Frank O’Connor talks about rewriting stories that have been published, reworking them maybe fifty times. I discovered I was rewriting stories over and over in my head and I am sure I had versions stored on lost floppy disks, almost two decades ago. 
 

Most of these stories emanate from the innocent years before secondary school, and the growing out of it - that awakening provides the richest well to draw from. A Bump on the Road reflects an observant child attempting to understand the world around him.  Family - parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and the wider community: The Church, The Troubles, secrets, ghost stories, leaving home, myths and legends, all this comes under the microscope of a child growing up. A couple of stories deal with going to England and migrating to Australia - moving away from the security blanket that is home.

 

The boy (and the young man) describes that world with wit and bittersweet nostalgia.  The reader is taken on a gamut of emotions in this rich and amusing journey from whooping Christmas joy, childish preoccupation with play, and avoiding boredom, to grief and fear of adults in school and church. This world of small town Ireland is brought evocatively to life by his wonderment of snow, holidays, playing, family, school, church and gradually moving away. Sorrow is never too far away.

 

The well of childhood is explored through various themes from seemingly routine family activities – Free Range and Family Secrets, The Troubles – Incident and Our Place, the lore of ghosts – Front Row and The Hump, Christmas expectation with a twist – Glorious Morn and scrappy street gangs - Run to the phenomenon of the show band era – If Only.

 

In for the Day reveals the fear of starting secondary school and the excitement of visiting the big city. It is a tribute to Eamon Friel’s folksy, unmistakable voice and lyrics that mirror the Northern Irish earthy mood; a mixture of the melancholy and the craic. Big Pol reveals bored pupils against a background of The Troubles.  

 

Other stories included here have some connection with childhood: My Dear Boy reflects stark grief when the unthinkable happens.  Milan Kundera states we are always children because we constantly have a new set of rules before us such as starting afresh either in Manchester or Melbourne: A Weak Tummy and New Neighbour.

 

So You’re Off Then, set in Northern Ireland  in the early 1900s evolved through looking for William O’Connell and his wife Maggie, my great-great-aunt who migrated to Australia about that time, meshed together with some oral family history told to me by my Granny’s sister, Priscilla, when she was 99 years old.  

 

In The Deliverance of Destiny, a contemporary piece on migration where the sins of previous generations permeate through to the children.

 

My thanks to Rosemary for her constant encouragement – it is almost as old as the memories, to Jill for reading, proofreading and making some excellent suggestions, and to Matthew who wants to be the first to buy the book.

 

 

 


© Hugh Vaughan 2017