Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Orkney Library's Short Story Reader

Who Likes Short Shorts?

Steven Gough of Kirkwall Library has put together this handsome display of short stories on the coffee table beside the sofa, a favourite spot for library users. It will be interesting to see if readers take up the offer. Usually short stories are dispersed throughout general fiction or are not on display at all. This experiment will help us see if there is any appetite for a short story reading group. I like the idea of a group where you can read a shorter piece in depth. 

We Like Short Shorts

Here Majella Waters, also from Kirkwall Library, tells the blog about the origins of her love of the short form:

I first became a fan of short stories when I read “The First Confession” by Frank O' Connor (pictured below) while still at school. This story is narrated by the seven year old Jackie, who is preparing for his first confession before he can receive his First Communion. It tells about the young boy's experience of growing up in a Catholic family in rural Ireland and how he overcomes his fear of making his first confession. 

Seeing life through the eyes of Jackie has plenty of humour for the reader as we witness the way in which he copes with what seems to him like insurmountable problems: his annoyingly pious and hypocritical sister Nora who never misses an opportunity to tell him off; the embarrassing and often disgusting habits of his grandmother who has come to live with his family; the absolute terror and guilt instilled in him by the formidable Mrs Ryan as she prepares his class for their much-feared first confession; and his fear of confessing his sins to the priest for the first time in the dark daunting confession box.

The story ends with Jackie confessing to the priest his desire to murder his grandmother. Instead of receiving a severe penance, Jackie is given sweets and some reassuring words from the understanding priest, much to the annoyance of his sister Nora, whose treatment of her brother Jackie is in fact the real transgression.

The pivotal moment of the story comes with the sympathetic words of the priest. The weight of fear is lifted from Jackie's shoulders as he realises that in order to conquer fear one has to confront it.

When I read this story it reminds me of my own schooldays in Ireland during the 60s and 70s. The first confession figured very prominently in our young  lives filling even the most courageous with fear and trepidation which is why this story has a resonance for me and I suspect for everyone who has undergone this experience.

I had a look on the library shelves and in the back, and we don't seem to have a copy of Frank O'Connor's stories at the moment. But you can read The First Confession here. And we do have plenty of other short stories apart from the ones on the stands. Just ask.

Who Likes Peedie Breeks? We Do!

A peedie red headed dynamo barrelled into me today. At only fifteen months, Cole Mitchell was managing to cover the whole floor of the library at some lick! His granny was hard pressed to keep up with him. But, she told me, when things go quiet, she usually finds Cole at a book. As long as it has tractors in it! Cole attends Book Bug sessions here with Louise and Patsy, so is already used to the idea that books are fun and a source of singing and rhymes as well as tractors. Looks like Cole will be a good all rounder: farmer, sportsman and avid reader!

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And you can see what else is going on In Orkney Library and Archive here: http://www.orkneylibrary.org.uk/ 


  1. It will be interesting to see if people pick up the short stories now they're on display. We really enjoy them (:

  2. Yes, I'm interested too. We're going to set up a reading group for short stories and another for poetry, see if we get any takers. We need a quirky angle to grab people's interest and tempt them out on dark winter nights - or even afternoons. Dirges in the Dark? Sonnets for the Solstice? Short Tales for Short Days? ...? ;)


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