A Couple of Things Before the End
This brilliant collection mixes the storytelling originality of George Saunders and Lydia Davis with a sensibility all its own, taking the reader on an extraordinary tour of an old and a new Australia.
A woman on a passenger ship in 1958 gets involved with a young, wild Barry Humphries. A man looks back to the 1970s and his time as a member of Australia’s least competent scout troop. In 1988, a teenage boy recalls his sexual initiation, out on the tanbark. In 2015, two sisters text in Kmart about how to manage their irascible, isolated mum.
Then, in the near future, a racist demagogue addresses the press the day after his electoral triumph. As the cities heat up and lose their water, a lady from one of the ‘better suburbs’ makes every effort to get her family into an exclusive gated community.
Outstandingly original, bitingly satirical and written in a remarkable range of voices, A Couple of Things Before the End is a powerful vision of where we are – and where we may be headed.
‘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
‘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