Guest Post by Kevin Brown
So Late in the Day, Claire Keegan’s latest collection of stories is subtitled “stories of women and men.” That could just as well read, “stories of women who are trying to live their lives and men who attempt to thwart them.” The middle of three stories, “The Long and Painful Death,” originally published in 2007, tells of a writer who just wants to use her two weeks at a retreat to produce new work, but one man intrudes upon her solitude. She reverts to societal expectations of what a woman should do to entertain a guest, ruining her day. The final story, “Antarctica,” first published in 1999, is more extreme in the complications that ensue. It’s the title story, though, that is the gem of this strong collection. Keegan published it last year, and it is a story that speaks to the gender dynamics of our time. The premise is simple, as it follows a man who meets a woman, then proposes to her. However, their relationship doesn’t go as planned, and he has the opportunity to learn about the world and women, but he learns exactly the wrong lesson. Keegan’s style, as always, is sparse and powerful, much like Chekhov, her favorite writer (who makes an appearance in the middle story). Keegan creates women who want to craft meaningful lives in the world, but the men who interact with them do their best to prevent those lives from coming to fruition.
So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan. Grove Press, 2023
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.