A journalist sees an otherwise average house rise into the air. Two old codgers speculate about a utopian life created by writing that need never be read. An elderly priest and an even more elderly widow scan deep space in search of the meaning that eludes them at home. A woman invites a friend from the distant past to attend her suicide. The late great Earth is going through a phase and is desperate for new answers. Its creatures, crawling about seemingly having a good time, are strangled by their stale imaginations. A world that now has nearly everything is still pathetically short of the long haul.
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Look around you.
A failed farmer becomes writer-in-residence in a town you know. A beautiful artist roars into your village on a motorcycle and neither art nor the village will ever be the same again. A painter paints a picture of himself that then talks back to him...
Written with great compassion and humour, Michael J. Farrell's stories are crammed full of life; and they quietly celebrate all the mystery and potential of our frail existence. Just live as long as you can, they urge us, and expect the unexpected.
About The Author:
Michael J. Farrell grew up in County Longford not far from the Shannon. By the time you read this, he will be at least seventy-four. This is his first collection of stories to be published. One reason it has taken so long is because he was a priest for some years, during which time he edited the annual literary reviews, Everyman and Aquarius (he has just edited a book of the highlights from these, Creative Commotion, for the Liffey Press).
Farrell spent his middle years in the practice of journalism in the USA where he was an editor at the National Catholic Reporter. He also edited and contributed to books, while reviewing others for, among many, the Los Angeles Times. His novel Papabile won the Thorpe Menn Award in 1998. Since retiring to East Galway in 2003, his stories have appeared inLet's Be Alone Together (The Stinging Fly Press, 2008) and The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories, 2006-2007, while another was runner-up for the RTE Francis McManus Award in 2006.
"This is a great collection. The stories surprise, and are full of surprises. They are funny, provocative, clever, charming, and quite brilliantly written."
"Michael J. Farrell embarks in Life in the Universe on a kind of probing trip to find out if there is life yet in the light up above, and light in the life here below. Such a title in other hands might be facilely grandiose, but in Farrell's hands it is a glory [. . . ] these stories keep you looking up in a philosophical sense, looking beyond the immediate material world to speculative dimensions that are partly religious, and partly scientific."
- John Kenny, The Irish Times
"Throughout Michael J Farrell's first collection of stories, there radiates a serene, bemused wisdom in tales told by an omniscient narrator. Farrell's eccentric characters fret endlessly, but usually instructively, about such matters as galaxies, virtual worlds, entropy and the space-time continuum. A refreshing and provocative debut . . ."
- Paddy Kehoe, The RTE Guide, 4-star review
"It's always bracing to begin a book with no expectations - no advance praise, no foreknowledge of the author - and then to find oneself irresistibly ensnared by its originality and wit. Life in the Universe is such a book. I learn from the dustjacket that the author of these 11 stories is in his seventies and was a priest for some years, two facts I'd never have guessed from the spritely and mischievous prose he writes, or from his droll and sardonic view of human beings in all their fumblings and foolish optimism. 'The only thing worse than night is day,' 'Self-Portrait' begins. 'Night is when people usually die, and the only thing worse is to wake up in the morning.'"
- John Boland, Irish Independent
"Michael J. Farrell proves himself a master of the opening line - how's this for a cracking intro: 'Packy Bannon's silhouette rode the silhouette of his bicycle along the horizon,' ('The Rift Valley') or what about: 'My name is Olaf, a quiet man to whom not much happens' ('The Friendship Portfolio')? Thankfully, Farrell manages to sustain the momentum from beginning to end in these fine, funny and frequently absurd tales set in a rural Ireland which is somehow both recognizably contemporary yet tempered by age-old parochialism."
- Daragh Reddin, Metro, 'Book of the week', 5-star review