It’s daunting to think that no matter how I review this exceptional collection of short stories by Billy O’Callaghan, I will never adequately express my full sentiments, for how to articulate that O’Callaghan is simply the best writer I’ve come across in ages? His short stories are a treatise on the human experience, the impressionable psyche, the vulnerable human heart. He crafts his stories with the fluidity of a wave that builds slowly, crests, then turns in on itself after enveloping sight and sight unseen. To read The Boatman and Other Stories is to read a master at his craft. You’ll be swept away by the rich detail and nuance of commonplace in the hands of this powerful storyteller. I cannot recommend this collection hardily enough. Read it, treasure it, then do as I did and put it in pride of place on your bookshelf.
Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of three short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), and The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), as well as the bestselling novel The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)).
His latest novel, My Coney Island Baby, was published by Jonathan Cape (and Harper in the U.S.) in January 2019 to much acclaim. Read more about it on the Books page.
Billy’s latest short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories was released in January 2020 and released in the U.S. on April 28.
Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honors, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, The Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.
I read O’Callaghans short story, A Death in the Family, which is included in The Boatman and Other Stories when the prestigious Ploughshares published it as a Kindle solo, here https://amzn.to/2xnqma2
I reviewed A Death in the Family by writing:
It is such a gift that Ploughshares avails this short story here on Amazon. I cannot recommend this story enough, for I consider Billy O’Callaghan the most important literary figure to arrive on the scene in ages. O’Callaghan can take any simple premise and infuse it with deep-seated, soul-stirring insight, and A Death in the Family is just such an example. His use of language is so personal that it shows us our own humanity, in this evocative, finely wrought story. Read this story and be lulled by O’Callaghan’s laser-sharp gift of Irish nuance, character, and place. And when you’ve finished, do yourself a favor and read his debut novel, The Dead House.
Here is my favorite quote on O’Callaghan’s writing:
“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan.”—Robert Olen Butler
You can read about this world-class author, here:
8 thoughts on “The Boatman and Other Stories by Billy O’Callaghan”
Thanks for introducing Billy and his books Claire will add The Boatman to my next Amazon run.. lovely promotion and review. xx
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I can’t even speak, I love this Irish author so much!
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Thanks for the recommendation Claire and have put on my list for the next Amazon run…hugsx
I like “The Boatman” title. Claire, thanks for this intro to Billy. Hugs to you both.
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I hope you read these short stories. Nobody captures Ireland, it’s language, setting, and cultural history quite like O’Callaghan, whether or not the story is set in Eire! It’s his use of language that’s second to none.
I listened to the audiobook of this one and really enjoyed it. A Death in the Family was one of my favourites. Someone sent me the link to this youtube video of Billy reading The Boatman in case you have not seen it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhH4GvKI_y0&feature=youtu.be&t=1
I did see the video and was enthralled by every syllable! I loved hearing the dog wander around as he read! I had the pleasure of interviewing Billy for The Wild Geese, which is an online Irish community. Billy knows I have a shameless author crush on him 🙂 A Death in the Family floors me! I find Billy incomparable! As a writer, he verges of the stream of consciousness, and yet he’s miraculously tight! Did you read The Dead House?
I have only read The Boatman and other Stories. That was my introduction to his work. I will have to find The Dead House.