Steven's Reviews > Antarctica

Antarctica by Claire Keegan
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's review
May 03, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: short-stories, irish

She's won a ton of awards in Ireland, and the writing is quite beautiful, but she excessively describes—too much picture painting as Gass would say. Unlike Edna O'Brien (one of my favorite Irish writers, and whom Keegan seems influenced by) the accumulation of details does not appear to be in service of the mood or the character's emotional state. So my first impression is that these stories are a bit over-cooked, over-written, with the exception of "Passport Soup" which is a gut wrenching story. If she'd cut that final paragraph, cut those 14 undermining words, it would be one of the best stories I'd read all year. As it was, my first thought was "you ruined the story!" Great lesson in that. Many of the stories have intriguing scenes and unsettling images, "Sisters," for instance, ends with the scissors and the spiteful hair cutting. But the scenes and images, to me anyway, seem buried under all the word pictures. The description diverts attention and saps the tension. One of these stories—"The Scent of Winter"—is just plain bad. Really bad. Someday she might be embarrassed to have published it. "Burns" on the other hand is quite good, maintaining its initial tension, heightening it, and then really delivering a surprising and satisfying ending scene that doesn't resolve anything, yet captures the emotion of the situation perfectly.
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