This collection of short stories is strikingly original, bizarre, and often hilarious. Irish stories tend to feature wee leprechauns, ghosts, magic, bogs, guilt-ridden Catholics, etc. In fact, so does this one, but with such a bizarre twist that they seem radically different - unlike the common precious, melodramatic, self-absorbed voice of stereotypical Irish literature, the reader is confronted with brash wit and a sort of in your face attitude. The stories are quintessentially Irish, but minus the cliche. In fact, in direct opposition to the cliche. They're crude but funny, very clever, and written in a peculiar style that's quite difficult to describe. " 'What are you doing?' she asked him again and again. 'I'm shoving my cock in your cunt,' he replied like a true British empiricist." There's a cosmopolitan perspective coupled with a curious kind of xenophobia, a sense of being a duck out of water in the age of globalization - "Every time I spoke French it felt like standing in front of a doctor and being examined for the clap. I was ashamed. My words were inflamed and ulcerated." There are cults, yogis, communists, ghosts - it's a great time.
Nina FitzPatrick, incidentally, is a nom de plume - the stories are co-written by Nina Witoszek, a Polish writer, and her husband, the Irish Pat Sheeran.There was a big scandal when Fables of the Irish Intelligentsia was nominated for the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus Irish Literature Prize for Fiction and Nina FitzPatrick turned out to be unable to prove her Irish origins. The prize was given to Colm Toibin instead.
In any case, maybe it's because I study Polish and Irish literature, but the revelation that the authorship of the book was Polish-Irish made perfect sense to me, and did a lot of work in accounting for the particularities of the tone and style. There's some of the dry Polish humor and penchant for the absurdity, coupled with lovable, effusive Irish bizarre-ness. A marvelous book.
An anonymous person has posted several comments informing me that Nina Witoszek and Pat Sheeran were never married. She certainly claims to have been, but Anonymous Poster says it's a lie. I really am not qualified to speak to the issue, but I wouldn't want to be accused of spreading misinformation, so there you go.