Sunday, 19 September 2010


Ah, the Frank O'Connor Festival. How I love ya. I'm having a ball - low on sleep, high on chat and readings and inspiration. Every time I come here I 'discover' a new (to me) writer. Last year it was Wells Tower. Before that I was introduced to the short fiction of Manuel Munoz and Yiyun Li and Tim Winton. This year, for me, it's Tess Gallagher.

Tess Gallagher

Tess is really better known as a poet but she is also a fiction writer, essayist and playwright. She was famously married to Raymond Carver and is responsible for releasing Raymond's un-Gordon Lished stories i.e the original versions of the stories as Carver intended them to be. But Tess read one of her own stories last night, a stunning piece called 'Girls' which is about ageing, friendship, women, mothers/daughters. It was funny and moving, and had a clarity and lightness of touch that I simply loved. It was a long story but, despite crushing tiredness, I was riveted. The story is from her collection The Lover of Horses (written when she was with Ray) but is now available in her selected, The Man from Kinvara.

In an afternoon interview, Tess talked about her and Ray Carver's mutual support of each other's writing. I was transported to her glass house - 'Sky House' - in Washington and their place in Syracuse, NY, as she spoke. She said Ray helped her put tension into her work and he was a good editor: 'He could really skin it down. He was an acute cutter of things. Slash! Slash!' she said.

She also said, 'We had a fantastic time collaborating. It was friendly; there was a great atmosphere. We stimulated and encouraged each other very much.' I've always thought it would be nightmarish (for me) to be married to another writer. They seem to have managed it enviably well.

She said another great thing about short fiction writing, with which I would concur, especially as I am now back writing stories and, as a non-plotter, I am groping my way through the process, feeling like a beginner all over again:

'Writing fiction, you are going off on safari and you don't know if you have the goods packed that you need.' Well said.

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As a complete aside, the stage for the readings is dressed beautifully with a sculpture of a dog reading one of Frank O'Connor's books, a Philippe Starck chair among other cool chairs, a sheepskin rug, and an art installation of weirded out dolly heads by Mark Noone. They are spooky and compelling. Here's a couple of pics:

Mark Noone's doll head artwork


Kar said...

It's sound wonderful and inspiring - I would have loved to be there! Great pics too even if they are a bit scary...


It was fab, Kar. Looking fwd to hearing about your week-end!

The doll heads are fascinating, alright.

swiss said...

i met tess gallagher a couple of years ago and she was lovely. not only thta she got me into carver's poetry which was an added bonus!

Rachel Fenton said...

Very enviable escapades! I'm half way between really liking the dolly heads and worrying if that's a bad thing...Tess sounds like a great lady and I'll hunt out her writing..


I love the doll heads - whacky!