The Silence Room
1905583176 | 978 1905583171
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“Sean O'Brien does for libraries what Ursula Andress did for bikinis. Read and rejoice!”
- Val McDermid
Chain-smoking alcoholics, warring academics, gothic stalkers and aspiring writers are just some of the visitors that browse the mysterious library at the heart of Sean O’Brien’s fiction debut. Idlers and idolisers alike can be referenced, in body or in text, among the crepuscular alcoves and dim staircases of this seemingly unassuming building. The secret to a family curse, a dog-eared first edition of Stevens’ Harmonium, the gruesome fate of a feminist literary theorist – all are available to simply take down from the shelf, as are the catalogue of genres and subject areas that O’Brien himself effortlessly deploys: from gothic horror to English pastoral, Critical Theory to Cold War noir.
Take a walk between these shelves. Crack the spine and the blow the dust off lives unlived because, so far, they’re unread. Become, if you dare, as trapped as them…
“Sean O'Brien, like Graham Greene, creates his own instantly recognisable fictional landscape, where crime, mystery and disillusion lurk by the waters of the Tyne or Humber. His stories glint with black comedy and touches of the macabre and surreal. In O'Brien country you may hear the hoot of a train pulling out of the city, but you'll never be on it, because your place is here in the kingdom of backstreet pubs, tired, desirable girls and drowned men. Nothing is ever as it seems: it is much more frightening than that… First-class stories from one of our finest writers.”
- Helen Dunmore
About the Author
Sean O’Brien was born in London in 1952 and grew up in Hull.
He has published seven collections of verse: The Indoor Park
winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Frighteners
(1991); Ghost Train
(2006), his verse version of Dante's Inferno
; and The Drowned Book
(2007). The latter won the 2007 T. S. Eliot Prize. Ghost Train
and The Drowned Book
have all won the Forward Poetry
Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year), making Sean O'Brien
the only poet to have won this prize more than once. His essays
have been collected in The Deregulated Muse: Essays on Contemporary
British and Irish Poetry
and he was editor of The Firebox: Poetry in
Britain and Ireland After 1945
. He has translated Aristophanes’ The
for the National Theatre, and dramatised novels for broadcast
as BBC Radio 4 Classic Serials, including Yevgeny Zamyatin's We
(2004) and Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear
(2006). His first collection of short fiction The Silence Room
was published with Comma in 2009, and his first novel, Afterlife
with Picador in 2010.
He currently lives in Newcastle.
'The prose, winging between stateliness and the coarsest urban patois, is fluent and flawless...'
- The Independent on Sunday, 30 Nov.
'Strange, creepy, often brilliant...'
- The Financial Times, 20 Dec.
'Often in the last scene, often in the last line, O'Brien... withdraws his offer of a pint of mild in the local piss-palace and nails your bottom lip to the bar instead...'
- M John Harrison in the TLS.
The collection is as satisfying as it is stimulating... deeply unsettlingly... darkly thrilling.'
- The Independent, 9 Jan.
Listen to Sean discuss the book with Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4's Open Book
Read two reviews of the previous launch in Manchester:
Suzie Stubbs' Blog
City Life review
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