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Quickly, While They Still Have Horses




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About The Book

A surreal and darkly comic collection of stories that offer a fresh and irreverent look at life in contemporary Northern Ireland from “one of the most exciting and original Northern Irish writers of her generation” (The Sunday Times, London).

Humorous and horrifying, tender and absurd, the stories in Quickly, While They Still Have Horses offer a fresh, irreverent look at life in post-conflict Northern Ireland. From first loves to strained relationships, the thrills and terrors of growing up to the dangers and challenges of parenthood, Carson infuses all her stories with empathy, dark wit, and a surreal edge.

In “A Certain Degree of Ownership,” a distracted couple on a beach fail to notice their baby crawl perilously toward the sea. In “Grand So,” the ghost of a car’s previous owner haunts the backseat. In “Troubling the Water,” a rumor of miraculous healing creates chaos at a public swimming pool. Carson never fails to shock and delight as kids go missing in jungle gyms, a baby washes up on a riverbank in a biscuit tin, and a bloody hand appears (and reappears) in a refrigerator. Every so often, these stories travel into alternate versions of our world where pillars of fire are a new treatment for mental illness and animals deemed nonessential are going extinct by legislative orders.

While the legacy of the Troubles is never far from Carson’s mind, it is only a backdrop to the worlds she’s woven in these stories, driven by characters who feel real enough to touch. This stunning collection marks the arrival of a “bracingly fresh, darkly funny, [and] unwaveringly compassionate” (The Irish News) writer to North American readers.

About The Author

Photograph by Jonathan Ryder

Jan Carson is a writer and community arts facilitator based in Belfast. She is the author of several short story collections and novels including Malcolm Orange Disappears, The Raptures, The Last Resort, and The Fire Starters, winner of the EU Prize for Literature. She has won the Harper’s Bazaar short story competition and been shortlisted for many awards, including the BBC National Short Story Award, the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize, and the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year. Jan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and her writing has been translated into over a dozen languages, appeared in numerous journals, and been frequently broadcast on BBC Radio. Quickly, While They Still Have Horses is her first book to be published in North America.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (July 9, 2024)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668056615

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Raves and Reviews

"Original, hard-won, properly inspired . . . [Carson is] deeply talented." —Kevin Barry, New York Times Book Review

“An admirable collection of stories, saturated with acerbic wit and startling empathy.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“A collection of 16 darkly comic short stories that move fluidly between decades and genres. . . . Carson's blend of dark humor and unwavering compassion for her characters will appeal to fans of Louise Kennedy and Rebecca Miller.” —Booklist (starred review)

"These stories are pure magic, funny, sharp, heartbreaking, the short form at its absolute best. Jan Carson is a unique and very special writer, one of the greatest of the modern fabulists." —Donal Ryan, author of The Queen of Dirt Island

“Oh, the imagination! Oh, the inventiveness! In every zany story. Apparently, there’s a branch on the language tree that belongs entirely to Jan Carson.” —Sidik Fofana, author of Stories From the Tenants Downstairs

"These sixteen stories, set in post-Troubles Northern Ireland, plumb questions of conflict and morality through mysterious bloody hands, a backseat ghost, and more." —New York Times Book Review

"[Jan Carson] is most definitely a free-thinking, trailblazing writer of well-observed, quirkily humorous fiction. . . . This book is a wild but somehow, totally grounded read. Superb." —Sunday Independent

"Vivid, original, and moving. . . . Carson excels in offering an accumulation of detail, deftly painting portraits that convince even as they alarm. . . . Long after the reader has closed the book, these tales linger in the mind." —Irish Times

"Dry-witted and appealing . . . Carson holds the reader’s attention with her singular observations and turns of phrase." —Publishers Weekly

"Effortlessly compelling. . . . Carson's details are so vivid, it's too easy to imagine a place in her world." —IMAGE Magazine

"Blending down-to-earth Ulster realism with surreal and fantastical elements, [Carson brings] a fresh and unexpected atmosphere to what at first appear to be familiar settings and characters." —Ballymena Guardian

"A staggeringly brilliant new collection full of wonderful magical realism and utter, crushing everyday life." —Irish Independent

"Surprising, otherworldly, funny, and heartfelt." —My Weekly

"A voice to cherish; one which continues to weave a bright and colourful thread through the patchwork quilt of modern Irish writing." —RTÉ, Book of the Week

"A sparkling collection from one of the best writers on this island." —Business Post

"Jan Carson is one of the most original voices I’ve read in years. Her stories are fleet-footed and cunning and funny. They dare to look closely at what lurks beneath the quotidian surface of things, even if what is revealed will make you gasp. I am truly in awe of this collection." —Tania James, National Book Award–longlisted author of Loot

"Jan Carson's stories are by turns hilarious, heartbreaking, heartwarming—but always surprising. Quickly, While They Still Have Horses is a delight to read!" —Eric Nguyen, author of Things We Lost in the Water

"Jan Carson is a born storyteller: her work is so imaginative, whimsical, mischievous and brave, but tender and curious too—you never know where she's going to take you next, so reading her is always an adventure. Exactly how it should be." —Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies

"What an enormous pleasure it is to read Jan Carson. Each short story is masterful, brilliantly inventive, and moving. Every page reveals the mark of an extraordinary, original, and gifted writer." —Karl Geary, author of Juno Loves Legs

"Story after story glints with the strange, hard magic of the North. . . . This is a Northern Ireland at once uncanny and familiar, ancient and modern, and a set of stories only Jan could have written. I adored them." —Lucy Caldwell, author of These Days

"Jan Carson is an essential voice from the island of Ireland—an island that holds a wider variety of stories than can be accommodated within strict realism or naturalism. With great skill, assurance, and a tentacular imagination, and by getting the details right, Carson conveys highly complex subjectivities with powerful simplicity. There's something of the fable about each of these stories—troubling, timeless, wistful and wise." —Caoilinn Hughes, author of The Alternatives

"Utterly captivating . . . [Jan Carson's] gift for language sings on every page . . . Fiercely beautiful writing laced with tenderness and wit, that at its heart speaks to the complexity and emotional temperature of a modern Northern Ireland, real and imagined, without losing sight of the past. Carson is a tremendously gifted writer and a master of the short story . . . Everyone should read it." —Olivia Fitzsimons, author of The Quiet Whispers Never Stop

Praise for Jan Carson

“A born storyteller, [Carson’s] narratives are uncontainable, fizzing up out of her pages like soda and vinegar in a bottle.” —The Guardian

“Carson proves herself adept at making the familiar marvellously uncanny … Carson's writing—bracingly fresh, darkly funny, unwaveringly compassionate—represents such a direction in Northern Irish fiction.” —Irish News

“Her stories move effortlessly from reality to dystopia to surreal vignettes in a style that recalls the up-and-coming American authors Laura van den Berg and Diane Cook.” —Irish Times

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