Friday 8 May 2020

Read 2020 - 48 - New Music for Old Rituals by Tracy Fahey

I bought New Music for Old Rituals at Sledge Lit in 2018 (don't kick me if I've got the date wrong - it was definitely a Derby gig)* and it is signed by the fair lady herself. Tracy did an excellent reading at the launch, who couldn't listen to that fantastic Irish lilt all day. Onto the book, because unless she's reading it to you personally, that reading isn't going to matter to you.

These are fairy tales rooted in the everyday, folklore hidden within your mother's washing or in the outside loo. I just made those analogies up, Tracy's are far more interesting. The collection begins with Under the Whitethorn, a quiet tale of grief, fairy wishes and the often catastrophic result of both. In The Crow War we have an ancient Irish goddess, a festival with crow masks and liquorice in candy floss (if I read that right and if I did - how disgusting!). There is a sinister truth beneath the pageantry.

The Changeling brings us a mix of emotions. For one brief moment, we have humourous revenge and then Fahey offers a devastating gut punch. My favourite story in the collection is Dark It Was Inside. A retelling of Little Red Cap travelling from Ireland to Germany. I'd like to see this story really examined as a novella.

In the heart of Dublin, a flourishing metropolis, there is a b&b just to the left of normality, where all new employees of the company stay. What Lies Beneath is both claustrophobic and a swathe of emptiness - a quiet, unnerving horror. There is a gentleness to many of these stories, followed by a tearing of the throat.

In the beautiful The Graveyard of the Lost an American writing a thesis on graveyards/cemeteries in Ireland comes upon a story of a mermaid's last resting place. Then in the excellently titled The World's More Full of Weeping, we have actual fairies, and a warning that they are quick to anger.

The Witch That Was Hurt with its curio of shops and curious shopkeepers reminded me a little of Effie & Brenda and the cast of characters in Paul Marr's Never the Bride. It's a story of the harm we can do to others.

An excellent second collection.

*wish I was in Derby now and in the fabulous Quad. I love that the conventions are held in the same place so there's no hunting for rooms (okay, sometimes a little hunting) and everything is familiar. I'm a creature of habit.

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