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, 2021 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
  • Shortlisted, 2020 Queensland Literary Awards
  • Readings Best Australian Fiction, 2020

About the author

Sean O'Beirne

Sean O’Beirne grew up in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, and studied arts, law and acting. His first book, the satirical short-story collection A Couple of Things Before the End, was shortlisted for the QLD Literary Awards and the NSW Premier’s …

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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

‘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.’ —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.’ —Readings Monthly

‘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

‘[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

‘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.’ —Penelope Cottier, Weekend Advertiser

‘Darkly comedic ... the narrative voice is invariably spot-on ...’—West Australian

‘Splendid ... hilarious ... Funny as O’Beirne can be — and clever, too, in his manipulation of unliterary forms to literary ends — he has a deadly serious point to make.’ —The Australian

‘A brilliant, confident, versatile range of styles and voices ...’ —Sydney Morning Herald / The Age

‘The use of humour ... throughout the collection, is both hugely entertaining and ethically instructive.’—Australian Book Review

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