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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Passage Assassin

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Diarmuid took me on a day trip through Connemara for my birthday in November 2006. Not bad for a disposable camera. And yes, this is a lake, not the sea, but you get the idea.


While my editor and I were working through Petty Magic revisions, a few times she said, ‘we have to cut this. I have a knack for cutting authors’ favorite passages; call me the passage assassin.’ She said this apologetically, as if it wasn’t her job to ferret out the precious bits that don’t really belong.

All writers know this sometimes: we’re so proud of having written that line or paragraph that we resist removing it even though it’s not really working in the story. In the case of this passage, it fit thematically but slowed the narrative momentum. You don’t have to read Petty Magic first; it’s quite self-contained.

Mick the drummer tells the last story, which is about what happens to Connemara fishermen when they die. There is a pub on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, he says, where everyone comes and goes by curragh. To get to the pub you walk up a small grassy hill in the moonlight, and on the way up you’ll pass an overturned curragh under a tarpaulin and resting on cinderblocks, and people say that was the very boat that brought St. Brendan the Navigator to the New World. The pub, which is not unlike the pub we’re in now–though of course Murty Coyne’s isn’t situated on its own island–always has enough seats at the bar, and the turf-fire’s always burning bright, and the whole place thrums with the lively conversations of old friends reunited. The night seems endless, but then again so’s the flow of Guinness, and the only other thing that passes between you and the bartender is a handshake. You can stay as long as you like, says Mick, though you do get a certain feeling when it’s time to be heading off. When it’s time, you say all your last goodbyes, walk down the hill, and untie your curragh, sailing away from the sunrise just as St. Brendan once did.

I really liked this part, but she was right to cut it.

1 Comment to The Passage Assassin

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    October 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Delightful passage, but I could see how it might have interrupted the flow of that section.
    P.S. The Book Notes article was really interesting!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.