The end of the holiday season may leave many with happy memories, but for others, it can be dark indeed. A new anthology of short Irish fiction is hoping to address the spectre of suicide, and help suicide charity Console at the same time.
Called Silver Threads Of Hope and published by New Island Books, the work features twenty-eight short works by a variety of Irish authors, including award-winning authors Colum McCann and Roddy Doyle, writer/broadcaster John Kelly, arts writer Peter Murphy, and novelist Pat McCabe.
Silver Threads Of Hope was organized to aid Console, a suicide prevention, intervention and postvention service, established in Ireland in 2002. The site has numerous resources and offers counselling, outreach, support groups, and training programs. In the decade since its formation, the organization has assisted many people in crisis, as well as individuals and families bereaved by suicide and its devastating after-effects.
Based on reports from the National Office For Suicide Prevention (Nosp), men in their early twenties as well as women in their early fifties are both at highest risk of suicide in Ireland. Rates of male suicide rose to alarming levels between 1980 and 2009. Nosp's funding was increased to respond to the crisis; the organization already funds programs through 27 different organizations, Console included.
Sales of the book will assist in setting up a twenty-four hour hotline, intended for both possible victims as well as survivors -families and friends of suicide victims who are, in the words of Silver Threads' editor Sinead Gleeson, “left behind (and) trying to pick up the pieces and explain what happened.”
While the stories are all top-notch, Silver Threads Of Hope is notable for being made up entirely of previously unpublished works. “The one thing that people don't realize is that a lot of these authors could've sold these stories to The New Yorker or other literary magazines,” Gleeson explains, “but they handed them over.”
Gleeson, a prominent arts journalist and broadcaster, found herself surprised at the level of positive response when she started putting the project together in May 2011.
“There was no arm wrestling,” she recalls, “it was simply, “When do you want it? How many words?” Some people were harder to get hold of, but there was no bargaining going on. I was blown away by the standard.”
New Island Books
Silver Threads Of Hope is a short story collection featuring twenty-eight of Ireland's best and brightest writers. The work is in aid of Irish suicide charity Console.
The book is a great read, not only for those of Irish descent, but for avid readers and culture vultures, particularly those interested in Irish culture and its creative expression over the last decade. It purposely turns against the cliches of rural Irish life, offering a refreshingly modern take on life in 21st century post-Celtic-Tiger Ireland.
“This book is a bit of a time capsule of modern Ireland, about what's going on right now,” Gleeson explains. “There’s a perception around the Irish short story: they’re set in small towns or farms, they’re rural stories, and there’s horrible weather. We're all familiar with those stories, but… I’m so glad the Kevin Barry is the first one, it’s in alphabetical order to be fair, but his story ("The Supper Club") is so funny, it is a rib-tickler. It's important that's there.”
Indeed, people may have apprehensions around the content of Silver Threads Of Hope. “They think, “Oh, suicide book! Depressing!”” she notes. But the humor in the book "diffuses that. It’s (a work) about anything and everything.”
As Gleeson notes in the forward, There are writers who live here, some who don't, many who are not known for short stories, and others who revel in its brevity. These pages host many writers with a multitude of styles, but there is nothing unifying about the collection, other than its commitment to the short story, and an articulacy within it.
Though it may seem as if the book might be thematically weighted toward the spectre of suicide -especially with author Anne Enright’s honest, forthright introduction in which she movingly addresses her own struggles -in actuality, only a few stories deal with the subject directly.
“It creates awareness of a difficult subject, yes,” Gleeson admits, “but it’s something you can sit down with, be distracted by, and know you’re supporting something important.”