After my début novel, The Blocks, was published in 2016, and did relatively well–lots of great reviews, all that comes with a book, festivals, readings, articles, launches and so on–I thought I’d sit down to write another novel. Six years later I have my first collection of short stories published instead of novel number two. How did this come about I hear you ask?
Well, the book began as a novel set in the same place or places as The Blocks, inner-city Dublin, where I’m from and grew-up. After telling mostly my story in The Blocks, with the now typical alter-ego-of the writer-protagonist seen in much literary fiction these days, I wanted to have ago at telling a story all about others, in the classic third person POV. I had my characters, who seemed to be waiting on me to discover them and write their story. I had a title, The Grind, I had a long winding intertwined plot, I spoke to agents, and editors and chopped and changed, and wrote and re wrote and worked on and off, writing two poetry collections along the way. But something just kept bothering me about this novel, something didn’t feel right?
Finally one day it became clear to me, when reading Tolstoy’s short fiction. This ‘novel’ of mine, was full of all these characters stories that were stitched together with the lightest threads, yes they existed in the same world, lived in the same areas, even knew each other, and sometimes walked into or crashed into each other’s lives. But the stories were individual pieces, individual works of art that made up a whole work, that shared a spatial and temporal togetherness and shared thematic inquiries but didn’t have one overarching plot that led to a final resolution for everyone in the book. Essentially a book of short stories.
The book came together then, its real shape, its real form had been revealed. I had the people, I had the setting, I had the themes… I must confess that the short story was the form I had giving the least attention to, preferring poetry and novels, so I dived into Flannery O’ Conner, Tolstoy’s short stories, and more, but this book is not a typical short story collection, it doesn’t seek to have perfect examples of the form, but it tells stories in the way that I wanted to, the form finds itself, the right form for the work of art the writer intends. Writing the book I was influenced by cinema and TV as much as I was by books: The Wire, The Sopranos, Francis Ford Coppola, Scorsese, the Rocky movies. I was influenced by the visual artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. By Martial arts and boxing. By Buddhism. By the people I live and grew-up with.
The Grind is set in a part of Dublin, that doesn’t seem to exist in the literature of modern Ireland, with the exception of some crime-fiction novels, and is peopled with personalities rarely seen in short story collections in Ireland except for anomalies such as Colin Barret’s short stories. But the characters in The Grind will be in your news feed and the headlines of the newspapers. Gangsters, drug dealers, violent young men, MMA fighters, single mothers, addicts. I wanted to write a work of literary fiction that had the people, the stories I knew, the people I grew up with and live with, not in a semimetal way, not in a romantic way but in a way that authentically portrayed the raw and real lives of the lumpen proles, as aul Marx would have muttered from under his comically oversized beard, in the way that Hubert Selby jr. did in the 1960’s with the stories in his classic working class literary masterpiece, Last Exit To Brooklyn.
I feel that after the six year journey of writing The Grind, which was the hardest book of all my books to write, covid, lockdowns, deaths, the form of the book having a long gestation period, I learned a great deal more about writing. About having the patience to let the book become what it is not what you want to force it to be, to listen to the voice that is deep within that writes the book, forget about fame, money, status, fans, sales, awards, and make the best work of art you can. I’m still learning, with each book, with each page, with each sentence that I write, still perfecting my art, still trying to write the best book I can, I hope this book, The Grind, is good enough for now, and whoever reads it, gets all they can from it, that they too might learn something from it.
(c) Karl Parkinson
About The Grind:
The Grind is set in Dublin’s inner-city, where, drug dealers, gangsters, MMA fighters, & drug addicts are caught up in the violent underworld of northside Dublin, and artists and lovers try to break free from suffering. Stories from the frontlines, stories like no other in modern Irish literature.
A voice for, and of, the voiceless. Parkinson’s work packs a punch, both literary and political. ~The Irish Examiner.
At least in Irish Literature, a true original… Whose antecedents are not the usual suspects but Bukowski, Hubert Selby jr and Nelson Algren. ~Books Ireland Magazine.
Order your copy online here.