There is something slightly odd about the cover of Waiting for the Bullet. Something vaguely unsettling. At last, you see it. The cover shows nine apartment windows, all translucently curtained, all allowing glimpses into the dinginess behind, all identical. Except one. The central window is different: tightly curtained, opaque, and oppositely orientated. That’s where the slight unsettled feeling comes from, and once the cover is turned that feeling increases.
If I were only allowed two words to review Madeleine D’Arcy’s debut collection, I would choose Bleak and Funny. If I were only allowed one, it would be Bleak. (And weird, but hey, that’s three, and that’s cheating.)
Madeleine D’Arcy has won or been shortlisted for a plethora of prestigious awards, including the Hennessy award, Fish short story, Bridport, O’Faoileann and others. The back cover and the fly leaf bear impressive testimonials from respected household names: Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry, Mary Morrissey and others.
The book lives up to its billing. Every story is taut and ready to unwind and hit you in the eye. The opening story is one for re-reading and for pondering about, but there is no story that is not worthy of its place.
In a review of a very, very different collection of stories recently (The Long and the Short of it, Anne Marie Miles) I noted that the old cliché states that ‘happiness writes white’, and it is a relief to catch occasional glimpses of white in D’Arcy’s collection, particularly in the beautifully titled “The Fox and the Placenta”. Its a well balanced collection, with enough light relief and “white” flashes to carry the reader through some of the more poignant and bleak moments.
For a collection which is permeated, cover to cover, in sex, it is a joy and relief to read beautiful prose completely lacking in the coarse, macho aesthetic which so many short stories writers seem to think necessary (I call this the three Cs syndrome, you can guess what the words are, and you won’t find any of them in D’Arcy’s stories.)
The book is well presented, cover art great, typo-free, the kind of presentation one would expect from Doire Press (a respected boutique press in Galway, Ireland which specialises in poetry and story collections).
Buy this book for……? Anyone who enjoys a good story, well told, unafraid to explore the dark underbelly of the ways humans destroy each other, and unashamed to acknowledge the redeeming power of love.
Review by Orla McAlinden,