Modern Times, Cathy Sweeney's inventive debut collection, offers snapshots of an unsettling, dislocated world. Surprising and uncanny, funny and transgressive, these stories only look like distortions of reality.
In its sparseness, astonishments, and cyclical twists, the fairy tale has something in common with the 20th-century European absurd, which follows funny, appalling patterns of repetition. Cathy Sweeney brings together these two traditions in her brilliant debut short story collection, Modern Times.
Cathy Sweeney's work is jaw-droppingly good: inventive, funny, lush. One of the best short story writers working today.
Sweeney's stories are wacky, bold, form-bending ... Reading Modern Times is a bit like being in a strange dream ... Powerful ... Daring
Bite-size and bittersweet, Cathy Sweeney writes miniscule short stories that are reminiscent of Beckett and Blindboy... The stories are rarely longer than two pages, and Sweeney writes fleeting, distanced snapshots, detailing absurdist impressions of modern life... Sweeney's stories come across like strange dreams and there is an element of magic realism at play
In Modern Times, Cathy Sweeney gives us fables of the present that are funny, vertiginous and melancholy.
Cathy Sweeney's debut collection of short stories comes after more than a decade of publishing slick short fiction... Sweeney is a master of brevity... ['The Cheerleader' and 'A Love Story'] balance absurdist humour with profundity and are highlights of the book. Sweeney's stories stage battles of attrition... there is more than just comic relief to be found in these slantwise tales of modern times. Depression is isolating, but Sweeney's compendium of isolated voices remind us that we are not alone.
Cathy Sweeney's stories have already attracted a band of fanatical devotees, and this first collection is as marvellous as we could have hoped for. A unique imagination, a brilliant debut.
A shocking take on modern life and love... throughout there are distant echoes of writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marques, Angela Carter, Flannery O'Connor and Jonathan Swift, alongside echoes of contemporary writers such as Kristen Roupenian, Anakana Schofield and June Caldwell
Terrific, eerie short stories that linger in your mind long after you have closed the book.
Taut, surreal tales that take your breath away... As the first lines of short story collections go, it's pretty hard to beat the one that opens Modern Times: "There once was a woman who loved her husband's cock so much she began taking it to work in her lunchbox." This, and the darkly funny page-and-a-half (A Love Story) it kicks off, are representative of Sweeney's off-kilter sensibility. Her writing is direct, no-holds-barred; her sentences are as taut as bow strings... [it's] a breathtakingly weird book, jammed full of peculiar characters and strange scenarios. But Sweeney brings a genuine depth to her writing too, and so the collection is peppered with aphorisms ("No one ever really hears a story until they need to", "There was a subplot, but isn't there always") and probing questions: "How do you overlay words on experience and get anywhere near the feeling of the thing?" There are shades here of Angela Carter, Lydia Davis and Miranda July, but Sweeney's style is all her own. Reading this book in a single sitting feels a bit like getting giddy from eating too many Easter eggs, so moreish is each one of these stories. Modern Times announces the arrival of an unforgettable new voice in Irish fiction.
Startling... Very short, very unconventional and very strange... It opens with a shockingly unforgettable line which sets the tone for an off-kilter collection that is economical with words, but full of hard-to-define emotion.
A collection of 21 dreamlike stories of varying length and form. Her offbeat rhythm scoops you up from the first word, with effortless humour and moments of palpable poignancy while ordinary people go about their daily business, relationships, break-ups, affairs, compromises, disappointments and regrets. To the naked eye, one might say the author is a surrealist, but her fable-like images only contribute to a biting truth. One of the most appealing aspects of her storytelling is that she doesn't wrap her endings up in neat little bows. They are what they are, much like life - the seams can hang loose without need of a conventional conclusion.
With a crispness and clarity and weirdness unlike any other fiction being published now ... Sometimes chilling, eerily accessible - and as wickedly droll as they are horrifying ... The voice running through is lucid and bright and highly readable, each sentence stripped clean and polished ... The stories themselves, long-sweeping, succinctly told anatomies of spectral lives lived in sad rented places or loveless middle-class homes, are absolutely for this moment.
I loved this collection. It vibrates with a glorious strangeness! Magnificently weird, hugely entertaining, deeply profound.