A Couple of Things Before the End by Sean O'Beirne | Black Inc.

A Couple of Things Before the End: Stories

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Book club notes

Awards for A Couple of Things Before the End

  • Shortlisted, 2020 Queensland Literary Awards

About the author

Sean O'Beirne

Sean O’Beirne is a bookseller and critic. He grew up in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, and studied arts, law and acting. A Couple of Things Before the End is his first book. 

More about Sean O'Beirne



Praise for A Couple of Things Before the End

‘These voices, so superbly heard and rendered, threw me into fits of laughter and slyly broke my heart.’ —Helen Garner

‘Astonishing … an inventive collection of missives from the end of history. Complicated and savage and difficult and funny and melancholy, it’s both harsh and a caress. How do we speak and write into a future? I think Sean O’Beirne is showing us one way of doing it.’ —Christos Tsiolkas

‘The 18 separate gripping narratives of A Couple of Things Before the End could be seen as 18 stimulating ways to construct a story … From 1930 to some time in an ominous near future, the stories propel readers (gasping, laughing, weeping, wondering) into the minds, hearts, lives of the characters in a brilliant, confident, versatile range of styles and voices.’ —Sydney Morning Herald/The Age

‘Hailing “a promising new voice” is a useful cliché of criticism, and one which Sean O’Beirne’s debut collection earns as literally, and as variously, as possible … At every turn the writing is blessedly free of the strained lyricism and creative-writing-class polish of much contemporary short fiction. The book’s true art lies in O’Beirne’s ability to first summon these voices, and then to let them speak with such clarity and force.’ —The Monthly

‘Wicked sometimes, often caustic, occasionally savage: the guilty pleasure of Victorian-era poetry was the dramatic monologue. ­Robert Browning was a genius of the form … O’Beirne takes the dramatic monologue and dresses it in a contemporary, local wardrobe … The Victorians were superlative hypocrites, which is why Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues packed such punch. How unfortunate, then, that O’Beirne’s updated versions succeed so marvellously in this place at this moment.’ —Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘Wonderful satire … O’Beirne proves to be a canny re-creator of Australian voices – the cadence of the characters’ words and internal monologues is eerily true-to-life … Like George Saunders or Miranda July, O’Beirne captures the weirdness of inner-life ... This collection is shaded dark and light, by turns hilarious and a warning beacon.’ 5 stars out of 5 —Arts Hub

‘This is a fascinating collection, refreshingly experimental in form. A poised debut dealing with issues of vital importance, A Couple of Things Before the End shows how the short story can encapsulate a great deal in just a few pages.’ —Canberra Times

‘Brilliant … O’Beirne’s writing is precise, but also incredibly fluid and reflexive – folding itself around each of its subjects so effectively, that at times it feels like nonfiction. This is Australia as it was, as it is, and as it will be. Read A Couple of Things Before the End, and weep, but also laugh, at our collective ridiculousness.’ —Alison Huber, Readings Monthly

‘O’Beirne inflects his identifiably Australian characters with a darkly comic and empathetic voice … altogether, this collection invokes [our] questionable past, ironic present and disturbing future.’ —Books+Publishing

‘Every so often we’re reminded with a jolt that Australian realism doesn’t – to use Patrick White’s phrase – have to be dun-coloured ... This is an idiosyncratic debut full of grit and polish.’ —The Saturday Paper

‘[A]n astonishing collection. The sheer volume of character and spirit packed into its modest page count is a testament to the compelling and technically varied writing of author O’Beirne. FIVE STARS’  —The AU Review

‘O’Beirne has a keen ear for the vernacular, self-serving clichés, academic discourse, and the language of officialdom.’ —Australian Book Review

‘[A] strikingly original debut ... An auspicious book for our times, it speaks in a myriad of Australian voices ... O’Beirne conjures up these visions of Australia so clearly and tells the stories of his characters so intimately that reading it feels like a vivid dream and reality at the same time.’ —Happy Mag