March 27, 2018
Ireland loves single-sentence fiction and that’s totally fine
by Michael Barron
It’s safe to say that if single-sentence fiction had a homeland, it might be Ireland. I was once in attendance of a Bloomsday contest in which challengers would attempt to recite, in as few breaths as possible, Molly Bloom’s unpunctuated soliloquy that draws Ulysses to a close. One contender almost passed out; another nearly barfed. I wouldn’t recommend trying a similar feat at home. But hey, raise a pint to the single sentence, or rather down a snifter of Hennessy, because, as Martin Doyle reports for the Irish Times, the panelists for the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year have announced their Irish Writer of the Year, and this year the distinction went to one prolix prosaist.
In one unbroken narration, Manus Boyle Tobin’s “Drizzle on the Windscreen” unspools the story of a homeless taxi driver finding a quiet, rain-soaked curbside to turn in for the night after an evening of fares. While the single-sentence narrative is not a new concept—Irish writer Mike McCormack’s award-winning 2016 novel Solar Bones being but one recent example—here the technique is deployed with astounding effect. Unrelieved by a breath, the story makes for an uncomfortable metaphor for a cab driver unable to exist outside of his vehicle.
The taxi driver has nowhere to return to when he finishes his shift and tonight as he drives his passengers from A to B his mind drifts back to his old bedroom, where he would pull the blinds and fall asleep with the telly on low, and wake late and bring his breakfast back to bed where the telly would still be on, so that when he sits at a set of traffic lights, not noticing that the lights have changed and the passengers or passenger in the backseat or next to him in the front says you’ve got a green light, he just takes off again…
“This story was inspired by glimpses and snapshots of Dublin and its people,” Tobin told Martin Doyle of the Irish Times. “By the housing crisis, homelessness and isolation. By the taxi driver who had nowhere to return to when he finished his shift.”As Doyle notes, though Tobin is now being recognized, “Drizzle on the Windscreen” was first published in the Irish Times over a year ago, in January 2017. Along with cinching the New Irish Writer of the Year, Tobin was also awarded with the Emerging Fiction prize.
You can read “Drizzle on the Windscreen” courtesy of the Irish Times, which hosts the Hennessy award.
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.