Book by RYAN O’NEILL
The Weight of the Human Heart, a short story collection by Ryan O’Neill, plays with language, cultural understandings, and misunderstandings. O’Neill, who was born in Glasgow and now lives in Australia, has traveled extensively, and this is reflected in the stories’ settings and in the characters, who seem to dwell on language as much as their author.
Language connects and disconnects in this collection. Married couples of different ethnicities struggle to translate their feelings; a woman paints phone messages on her naked body because her husband ignores her notes; even t-shirts with words are loaded. Two of the stories, “Understood, Understood, Understood,” and “The Chinese Lesson,” are about men, both language teachers, who use language to skirt their romantic relations. In “The Genocide,” one of the most poignant stories, a Rwandan woman, who had been severely injured during the massacres, will only speak in the present tense, “as if the past was too dangerous to touch, even with words.”