The End Of The World
UQP, $23.95 pb, 240 pp
In 2005, Lisa Gorton, writing in ABR, named Paddy O’Reilly’s The Factory one of the best books of the year. It was O’Reilly’s first novel, but she was already well established as a prize-winning writer of short stories. The End of the World is a collection of those stories, and should secure her reputation as one of our most interesting, if not best-known, literary talents.
The book begins with an alien encounter. A woman finds a strange creature in her backyard. It has tentacles, skin like ‘raw chicken’, and seems to be blind. She decides to try teaching it Braille. As it happens, the local library’s Braille collection consists largely of Regency romances; when the creature finally speaks to her, it is in a pastiche of Regency clichés: ‘Sweet One. I am charged with a duty. A chance encounter with fate. Your green milieu. My own Estate indisposed. My Dear Lady …’ The narrator is taken aback: ‘I attempted to interpret his phrasing and syntax without prejudice,’ she explains, ‘but … he did appear to be flirting with me.’ This is one of the book’s more whimsical moments – most of O’Reilly’s stories describe a darker, more naturalistic world. It nevertheless captures two vital things about O’Reilly: she is very funny, and she has some surprising things to say about love, language and the stories we tell about ourselves.