Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Friday, May 31, 2013

Olivia Rana Question and Answer Session with the author of Elastic Girl





Olivia Rana
Biography


Having worked as a Technical Project Manager for several large corporations, Olivia Rana has now embarked on a writing career.  She has achieved a Masters of Arts with distinction in Creative Writing from Queens University, Belfast, and has achieved success in several short story competitions, including being shortlisted for the Mitchelstown International Short Story Competition, the Fish International Short Story Prize, and winning the Leaf Books Micro-Fiction Competition in 2009.  She has also recently been commended for the Bristol short story award and has had some success with a number of poetry submissions.  She has had several short stories published both online and in magazine publications, and a section from Elastic Girl has recently been published on the Authonomy website, with very favourable reviews from the authonomy community.
Olivia was born in Northern Ireland, and lives in Belfast with her husband and two young children.  Her first novel, Elastic Girl, is set in India, and has been enhanced through Olivia’s extensive travels in India, and her exposure to Indian culture within her Indian family-in-law.  She has now embarked on her second novel, Black Beach, which is set in Iceland and is the story of a medium who communicates with Icelandic huldufolk (hidden people).  Black Beach has recently been selected for an award through the Arts Council for Northern Ireland under their SIAP (Support for Individual Artists Programme), and is due to be completed in early 2013.


As this is Irish Short Story Month year III, please tell us who some short story writers you find yourself often returning to are?  Do you have anything like a favourite short story?  Who are some contemporary short story writers you admire?
It’s great practice as a writer to read and study short stories as it helps with improving all aspects of the writing craft.  Richard Bauch and Jhumpa Lahiri are amongst my favourite short story writers and also the great Irish short story writer Frank O’Connor.  Most recently I have read short story collections by the Irish born Sheridan Le Fanu who has produced some fantastic stories in the horror and mystery genres.

2.  I recently read Strumpet City by James Plunkett (the 2013 Dublin One City One Book Selection).  It presents a culture whose very life blood seems to be whiskey.   Drinking seems much more a factor in Irish literature than Indian, Japanese or even American.    What do you think are some of the causes of this or is it just a myth?.   It seems to me from my reading of Irish short stories that few important conversations or events happen without drinking.   Do you think, based on your travels and times spent living outside of Ireland, that there are unique pathologies to the role of alcohol in Irish society.  Can you offer some comparisons or contrasts to Indian society?
The drinking culture is prevalent in Ireland, probably more so in recent times due to relaxed licensing laws.  The history of drinking is most likely associated with climate, depression and poverty in Ireland and we can see it reflected in other Northern European counties as well.  In India there isn’t the same culture of pubs and generally drinking alcohol is frowned upon, but also economically most people can’t afford to drink commercial alcohol.  Some of the displaced of Indian society do brew their own home made hooch, and in Northern India there is a fondness for whiskey, so I suppose there lies some parallel with Ireland!

3. Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing father?   Do you think he is right?  Is this a factor at all in your work? It seems very much a part of 
Elastic Girl.
I think Declan Kiberd was onto something, and the theme of themissing father is probably associated with the history of Irish migrant workers, and the lack of work driving many men to the pub, so men were largely absent whether at home or away.  The Irish ‘mammy’ was very much (and still is) the homemaker and matriarch of the family and in this respect the father was seen as the weaker of the two.  The missing father may also be a case of ‘distant’ i.e. emotionally detached.  Things have changed in recent years as Irish women are out working and the father has become more involved in family life, but the traditional stereotype will always prevail in our literature!
Within my first novel, Elastic Girl, which is set in India, the father’s affection for his family is very much evident, but due to circumstances he is portrayed as weak and hapless compared to the ‘Mataji’.  


5.   Your bio indicates you worked for a number of years as Technical Project Manager.  Can you clarify what this means for those of without experience and can you tell us how this work might have impacted your writing.
My primary degree was in Linguistics, and following that I went on to study a Masters in Computing, which took me into IT and a career in project management.  I always worked within large corporations and on a day to day basis my work involved planning projects, tracking financials, managing resources and customer interaction.  I was used to be around people every day, so the contrast to writing in isolation is quite stark and took a little getting used to.  I’m not sure that my work has impacted or influenced my writing in any particular way, but perhaps it has given me the ability to be self-driven and focused in a way that helps me to treat writing as a job.

6.   A while ago i read and posted on a long biography of Hart
Crane, author of the Bridge-few read it but many know of his life style as one of the first Gay poets living out a life of rough trade and wealthy older benefactors-he lived a very chaotic life and died young from suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. His father invented Life Saver Candy and wanted Hart to go in the Candy business with him-so if he Hart had done this and died at 75 rich living in ohio fat bald and married would he still be even much thought about let alone read?  One of the most referenced poets is Arthur Rimbaud who likewise had a short and chaotic life.   Does a poet need or naturally tend to a chaotic life?      (I know this is long, please just respond to it as you will.)
I don’t believe this to be true.  Perhaps poets are more thoughtful, insular or eccentric, but I don’t think ‘chaotic’ is the right word.


7.    Tell us about your educational background?  Please tells us who were some of the writers studied at Queens College Belfast in the MA in creative writing program?  
When I had my first child I decided to return to college (QueensUniversity, Belfast) to undertake a Masters in Creative Writing.  This was intended initially as a year out from my career, but has since turned out to be mnew career! We were very lucky at Queens to have some fantastic writers as lecturers, including Ian Sansom, Glenn Patterson and Carlo Gebler.  As part of the masters we had the opportunity to study life writing, short story, poetry and prose, and though this I found that my strength lay in prose writing.  The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s is a vibrant hub in Belfast for writing, criticism and appreciation of modern literature and it was there that I gained the confidence and encouragement to continue as a writer.

8.
What are some of your favorite movies?  What was the last movie you saw, the last novel you read?  Do you watch much TV or have favorite programs?  
I don’t watch soaps or much TV in general, sometimes a good drama or documentary, and of course plenty of children’s TV! We try to go out when possible to watch films, but if that fails we will catch a DVD at home.  My most favourite recent film was Argo.

9. Why have the Irish produced such a disproportional to their population number of great writers?  Or is this a myth?
I don’t think it’s a myth.  Growing up in rural Ireland there was always a great tradition of story-telling, where people called at each other’s homes for a ‘céilí’ and there was music, stories and of course a drink or two.  I think that this tradition of story telling encouraged some great writers out of Ireland and being a writer or poet has always been seen as a viable career in Ireland.  Also, there is a great support network in Ireland/Northern Ireland for writers and artists including financial support from the arts councils and also residential centres, such as the Tyrone Gutherie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.  

10. (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:

" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."
In Ireland there have always been superstitions and folk stories associated with fairies.  I remember being told that a particular tree in a field near my parent’s house could never be cut down because it was a fairy tree and I recall many stories being told about ghosts and the Irish Banshee (Woman of the fairy mounds).  Interestinglymy most recent novel is about a similar phenomena in Iceland, where many of the population believe in the existence of ‘Hidden People’ (huldufolk), who live inside the rocks, and they believe that to disturb their homes would bring bad luck.  On a recent trip to Iceland I interviewed a fascinating lady called Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, who is a psychic to the huldufolk and has been in communication with them every since she was a child.  I will admit that I was sceptical before meeting her, but she was very grounded and convincing in her beliefs.  I can’t say that I have ever had any paranormal experience involving fairies or such like, but I would never say that they don’t exist just because it hasn’t been proven.  Anything is possible.

11.   Your novel Elastic girl sounds fascinating and I hope to read it soon.  Please give us some insight into what it is about, what inspired it etc-thanks.
Elastic Girl was inspired by a couple of things, firstly a documentary I listened to on BBC Radio Four about a charity who rescues children from circuses in India, secondly the photographic collection ‘Indian Circus’ by American photographer Maryellen Mark, and thirdly by a story I came across of a young girl called Pinky, who was sold to the circus in India as an acrobat.  All of these strands came together to form the basis for my story, which is about a girl called Muthu Tikaram.
When Muthu is sold as a contortionist to The Great Raman Circus of Chennai she believes that she will become a star, but is cruelly transported into a world of tragedy and abuse and at the height of her despair returns home to uncover the stark truth about her past.  The key question within my story is whether Muthu’s life was ill-fated before she was even born and throughout the novel Muthu is looking back into her past searching for an answer to this question.

12.  Your bio indicates your husband is from India-do you feel any sense of cultural conflicts?  how do you feel the two cultural mesh in creating a family?  Where in India is your husband’s family from?  On a related question, do you read much Indian fiction?  
My In-laws are from the Punjab region of India, and came to Ireland in the 1960’s, so my husband was born in Belfast and considers himself very much Northern Irish.  Personally I have never experienced any sense of cultural conflict, but on the contrary have enjoyed the opportunity to learn about another culture and their traditions and I’m thankful that my access to this has helped to enhance Elastic Girl.  I read quite a lot of Indian authors when I was writing my first novel as it helped to 
remind my senses of all the vibrancy of India and to encapsulate the feeling of the place.  Some of my favourites are Arundhati Roy, Anita Nair, Kishwar Desai, Manju Kapur and Rohinton Mistry.

13.  what are the last five books you read?  
Currently I’m reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, which is a wonderful book.   Before that I read The Devil I Know by a great Irish writer, Claire Kilroy, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The One-Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and Alentejo Blue, an interwoven collection of stories by Monica Ali.
14.   What is your reaction to these lines from Susan Cahill about the beauty of Ireland-”There is a hopelessness that a glut of natural beauty can create when there is a cultural and intellectual morass”.  Is the beauty of Ireland is two edged comes from nowhere and changes everything be over because of this?  

 All I have read about Ireland and all the images I have seen on the net present a country of amazing beauty.  How much does this saturation in natural beauty impact the writing of the country   Does it inspire and defeat at the same time?  
If I’m honest I’m not a big fan of Irish novels that dwell on the Irishness of the place, over emphasising the weather, the landscape etc, but then its perhaps just that I’m too close to it to appreciate this in an Irish novel, as I know I have brought in these factors in my own novels, albeit in a different country.  It’s probably very difficult for an Irish writer to escape from the ‘beauty’ of the place in their writing, but when done in a subtle way it can work beautifully to capture the essence of the place and the people, such as in the writing of Bernard Mac Laverty or Anne Enright.



16.  What, besides friends and family, do you most like about living
in Ireland?   what could you frankly live without?
Obviously I could live without the weather!  I like that we are grounded in culture here, but are still outward looking, and I’m partial to my mammy’s wheaten bread!

19.  Does Belfast get the literary respect it deserves?  when you are outside of Ireland and people find you are Northern Irish, do they go “Oh” kind of like you are not really Irish?   OK this is a rude question, but are Northern Irish as Irish as those from the Republic?  
Northern Irish people are different because of other influences on our culture, but this is not necessarily a negative thing.  Belfast and the North or Ireland was traditionally more industrial than the south and so it hasn’t the same rich heritage of writing in the past as we can see from the south.  At present there are some great writers coming out of Northern Ireland, including recent contemporary fiction writers Lucy Caldwell, Colin Bateman, Tony McCauley and Eoin McNamee, and as I have already said, the support network for writers in Northern Ireland is very good, so hopefully this will encourage the emergence of many more new writers here.
20.  In his book “The Snapper” Roddy Doyle has the father of the family say, as if it were something commonly seen as true, “The Irish are the niggers of Europe and Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland”.  There is a lot of self loathing expressed in Irish literary works from Joyce on down to Doyle.  Is this just a family fight where one might say something terrible about a father, mother or brother or wife and kill an outsider who says the same thing or is it really how people feel?  I do not see this level of self hate in other literatures.   There is nothing like it, for example, in the literature of the Philippines.  Talk a bit about how you feel or think about this.  
I think this harks back to the depression in Ireland and when people here were oppressed; history has a powerful way of seeping into our psyche and being passed down through the generations.  Growing up I was aware of an inferiority complex, particularly towards our English counterparts, but I do think that the younger generation of Irish are more confident and self-assured and that this self-loathing is thankfully becoming less of a reality.

21.   Tell us a bit about your the in India-was it a tremendous cultural shock?
The first time I went to India was with my husband, but I still remember being ambushed by the overpowering smells, sounds and general hub-bub of the place.  We travelled to several parts of India that first time, visiting my in-laws ancestral village in thePunjab which was a wonderful experience.  The beautiful white-washed houses, narrow streets and market squares reminded me a lot of Italy.  India is so varied and rich in culture that it has inspired me tremendously in my writing and I don’t think Elastic Girl would be so effective if I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit India on a number of occasions.

22.     Tell us about your second novel set in Iceland please.    Are the hidden folk of Iceland culturally similar to similar seeming figures in Irish culture?   
There are some cross-over’s between the hidden folk in Iceland the fairy beings we talk about in Ireland.
My Icelandic Novel, Black Beach is about a woman called Frida Jónsdóttir, who is the most famous huldufólk psychic in all of Iceland.  When her father drowns at sea Frida is convinced by her huldufólk friend Pálína that he will be returned to her if she pledges her life to assisting them and avenging anyone who threatens their survival.  Her subsequent promise to the huldufólk lands her in a psychiatric hospital, implicates her in crimes and destroys Frida’s relationship with her sister Katrin.  However Frida continues to believe that one day her father will be returned.  Now she is old and dying and beginning to question her own sanity, so when her father pays her a visit we are left to wonder if this is this the work of a fragile mind or proof of Frida’s wondrous life.

Black Beach is still a work in progress, but I hope to complete this year.

24.
What was your MA thesis about?
My Thesis was actually the first few chapters of my novel, Elastic Girl.  I was delighted to receive a distinction from my Masters, which encouraged me to continue working on Elastic Girl, and a few years and several redrafts later it is finally completed and I have an agent!  

26.   Do you have any particular work habits regarding your writing?
Ideally I like to go for a walk in the morning to clear my head.  I always start with reading over the previous days work, reading out loud as this helps me to identify mistakes.  I usually work solidly for most of the day (as I only have a couple of hours in which to write), trying to write one thousand words per day if I can.  At the end of the day I update a chapter by chapter breakdown as this serves as a quick overview of where I am and how the story is developing.  I’m not a great one for planning a story/novel in fine detail before I start, instead I tend to have a rough idea of my plot and characters and then I let the story develop naturally…sometimes this can work against me when I realise I’m up against a brick wall, but I usually find some way around it!


29. Quick Pick Questions
a.  tablets or laptops? Laptops
b. dogs or cats Neither.  I prefer spiders.
c.  best way for you personally to relax when stressed? Back massage followed by a glass (or two) of wine!
d.  favorite meal to eat out-breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinner
e. RTE or BBC RTE as it reminds me of my childhood.
f. Yeats or Whitman Yeats
g.  Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC-great for a quick break or American corruption? Both
h. night or day Day.  With two small children staying up past midnight is a challenge!
i  Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre
j-best way to experience a new poem-hear the author read it or read it in a quiet undisturbed place?
I prefer to hear it from the author.
k.  favorite singer?  
l.   favorite music, country, rock, traditional Irish, slow love songs, opera or it just depends on the mood your are in
Depends on where I am and my mood, but usually I prefersomething upbeat.
m.  eating out with somebody else paying-best place in Belfast for dinner?
Belfast has a huge range of fantastic restaurants, but Shu on the Lisburn Road in Belfast is favourite.
I give my great thanks to Olivia Rana for her very insightful and interesting answers.

I am very much looking forward to reading Elastic Girl.  A synopis is below.


Elastic Girl – Blurb
Before Muthu Tikaram is born her grandfather murders the family’s landlord, an act of violence which shapes Muthu’s ill-fated life from the very beginning.  When the government evict the family from their home, they find themselves destitute and Muthu’s parents have no choice but to sell their youngest daughter as a contortionist to The Great Raman Circus of Chennai.  As a dreamer, Muthu believes that in the circus she will become a star, but instead she is forced to perform under a gruelling schedule and becomes an innocent victim at the hands of the Ring Master, Mr. Prem.  Finally escaping back to her family, Muthu learns some harsh truths about her beginnings, but it is that truth that finally allows her to fight back and make some sense of her existence.

Mel u

Songdogs by Colum McCann (1995, 212 pages)

Songdogs
is the first novel of Colum McCann (Dublin, 1965) and the fifth of his six novels I have so far read and posted about.  Here is my order of preference for his works:

1.  TransAtlantic - I love this book - if you only one 2013 novel this year, consider this one.  

2.  Let the Great World Go On Spinning. Huge international best seller. 

3.  Dancer- a powerful book centered on Rudolph Nureyev.   Parts of it are at perfect but not quite as good as the first two selections.

4.  Zoli -   Good look at post WWII Roma culture. 

5.  Songdogs - his first novel, parts are really good, parts a bit shaky but very much worth reading.

Songdogs has several of the elements of your standard Irish novel; a weak rascal of a father, whiskey soaked story line, an obsession about what it means to be Irish and a sense in which the central character does not really become Irish until he travels outside the country.  The father in the story wants above all else to take photographs and sell them.  He was born under dubious circumstances and ended up with a small inheritance which allowed him to leave Ireland with a Leica.  

I do not feel inclined toward retelling the plot.  Here is what I liked about it.   The level of prose is wonderful, the scenes set in the dust of Mexico make a perfect contrast to Ireland.  I liked the relationship of the father and his Mexican wife and that of the son to both of them.   I enjoyed seeing his love for photography and how it shaped his life.  I thought the ending was brilliant.  I found some of the minor characters a little underdeveloped.    All in all I would say read my first two picks then if you want just read the ones that sound most interesting to you.  I still have one McCann novel to go and hope to read it one day.

Mel u

  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Guide by R. K. Narayan (1958)

N
R. K. Narayan (1906 to 2004) is one of my favorite writers.  I love his short stories and novels, most of them set in the imaginary South Indian community of Malgudi.  I find his prose style an addictive delight, his characterizations brilliant and the plot action of his work always keeps me wanting to see what will happen next. 

The Guide is his consensus best novel.  Of the eight I have so far read, I agree with this.   The Guide is the longest of his novels and really is a rich wonderful work.  David Gorda has provided a very interesting introduction to the Penguin edition in which he points out a very marked difference in the work of Narayan to most other well known Indian novelists.  Most modern Indian novels focus on the dark turmoil, the teeming slums, the terrible corruption found in the Indian mega-cities.  They are eager to show us the ugly side of Indian life.    Narayan instead focuses on simple family issues, daily life, food, making a living, being Hindi, married life (Narayan in just a few lines can bring the dynamics of a marriage to life), and relationships between people.  One if the common elements found in much of his work is how differing perceptions of the same thing can greatly impact relationships.   As one reads more in his work we come to see how the community of Malguidi works. 

 The central character is a shop keeper in a rail road station who doubles as a guide for tourists.  He knows all the various points of interest and is an expert on sizing people up in terms of how much money they will spend.   There are lots of twists and turns in the plot.  He somehow gets a reputation as a wise swami and begins to cultivate the appearance and manner of a guru who can solve all problems.   Then one fatal day a man interested in cave paintings and his classical dancer wife hire him as their guide.  He soon becomes indispensable to the man while starting an affair with his wife.  The novel goes deeply into the culture of dancing women, on the one hand a highly respected profession but many, especially house wives, regard them almost on the level of "public women".  I do not want to tell too much of the plot but we see the guide go from poverty, to riches and back again.   

The Guide truly is a great novel.  I am currently reading the author's 1938 work The Dark Room and hope to post on it soon.   

Mel u

Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (1992, 215 pages)


Butcher Boy is the second novel my Patrick McCabe I have so far read.   The first was Call Me the Breeze.  Butcher Boy is by far his best known work.   It has received praise from many sources and won or as shortlisted for several awards.

It is a kind of coming of age story of a psychotic killer set in a small Irish town.  In a way it is just another Irish story of a weak vicious drunken father who takes out his frustrations in life on his wife and son but it is so skillfully enters the mind of the central character that it transcend this category of novel.  Much of the story revolves around a family that looks down on the family
of Francis and his terrible hatred for them.   The story is narrated by Francis and his perspective on life is psychotic, violent and very cramped.  I would not describe this as a pleasant read but it compelling and you will be forced ever onward as things get worse and worse until a terrible senseless conclusion is reached.

Butcher Boy is, I think, a modern a Irish must read.  There is extreme violence in this novel.  There is a lot of material about pigs and their slaughter as Francis works as a pig killer.

I will, I hope, read more of the work of McCabe.

Mel u

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Paper and Ashes" by William Wall (from Town and Country: New IrishShort Stories, edited by Kevin Barry, 2013)

Yesterday when I got my copy of Kevin Barry's anthology Town and Country:  New Irish Short Stories I was very happy to see that William Wall had a story included.  Among the twenty writers included in the collection are writers ranging from Desmond Hogan and Patrick McCabe to authors just starting their career.  Of the authors, 13 are by writers whose work I have not yet read.  I was glad to see that I have done Q and A sessions with three of the writers.   It is my plan to read and post on each of the stories.

"Paper and Ashes" is told in the first person by a thirty five year old woman, recently widowed.  She is carrying her husband's ashes in an urn and has just left the public records office with five copies of his death certificate in her purse.  The marriage was not a good one and he left her penniless.  She is wondering if she should leave the urn in the grocery store or dump them in the river when she is hit from behind by a man who steals her purse.  A tramp witnesses what happens.  She loses her mobile phone and her credit cards as well as the death certificates.  The woman then begins a conversation with the tramp, who turns out to be quite interesting.  I will leave the rest of the plot untold other than to say I really enjoyed the ending.

I expected based on my prior reading of the work of Wall that I would love this story and I did.

My Q and A with William Wall


My post on No Paradiso - A superb collection of short stories by Wall

You can read an excellent short story by Wall here

Author Bio.


Born in Cork 1955 | Grew up in the coastal village of Whitegate | Educated at University College Cork | Degree in Philosophy & English | Married | Two sons




William Wall has won the Virginia Faulkner Award, The Sean O’Faoláin Prize, several Writer’s Week prizes and The Patrick Kavanagh Award.

He was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award, the Irish Book Awards, the Raymond Carver Award, the Hennessy Award and numerous others. He has received Irish Arts Council Bursaries, travel grants from Culture Ireland and translations of his books have been funded by Ireland Literature Exchange.

He is not a member of Aosdána – if you’re wondering why, please read Riding Against The Lizard.pdf. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Latvian, Serbian and Catalan. He has a particular interest in Italy and has read at several festivals there including the Tratti Festival at Faenza, the Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Genova and at the Pordenone Legge festival near Venice. He has translated from Italian. William Wall was an Irish delegate to the European Writers’ Parliament in Istanbul 2010. In March 2010 he was Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco. He was a 2009 Fellow of The Liguria Centre for the Arts & Humanities .




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"The Governor's Gin" by Danielle McLaughlin

I as very happy to see that one of my favorite literary journals Long Story Short, which focuses on short stories longer than 4000 words, published as their latest offering a short story by Danielle McLaughlin.  I first became familiar with her work during Irish Short Story Month II last year when Ethel Rohan did a guest post on one of McLaughlin's stories.   This year during ISSM Year III I posted on an excellent story by McLaughlin "Midnight at Ali King's Kebab Take Away" and she also participated in a very interesting Q and A session.

"The Governor's Gin" is set in India  on the estate of a member of the British Raj. There are two very contrasting sets of characters in this story.  We have the personal servants of the governor, a family of a woman and her sons and on the other hand we have the governor and his eighteen year old wife.  The male servants speak among themselves of the longed for day on which they will make a drinking cup from the skull of the governor, while practicing complete servility.  The governor's wife, little more than a spoiled child speaks contemptuously of the servants as "little dark Hindus".   The governor is angry because they are out of his favorite gin and a ship is do to arrive.

This is a really well done story that lets us see how the British and their Indian servants viewed each other.   There is some exciting plot action regarding the young wife, who you will come to hate.

You can read the story Here.



Danielle McLaughlin lives in County Cork. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Stinging Fly, The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, Willesden Herald New Short Stories 7, The Irish Times, The Burning Bush 2, Inktears, Southword, Boyne Berries, Crannóg, Hollybough, on the RTE TEN website, on RTE Radio and in various anthologies. She has won a number of prizes for short fiction, including the Writing Spirit Award for Fiction 2010, The From the Well Short Story Competition 2012, The William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Competition 2012, the Willesden Herald Short Story Competition 2012-2013 and the Merriman Short Story Competition in memory of Maeve Binchy. Visit Southword Journal to read another story by Danielle McLaughlin.
 

Mel u

  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Amongst Women (by John McGahern (1991, 184 pages)

"Now it was as if each of them in their different ways had become Daddy".


Not to long ago I was speaking to the owner of a B and B in Dingle about what drew me to make a trip to Ireland.  I told her it was in part my love of Irish literature.   She at once went to her book shelves picked up a copy of Amongst Women by John McGahern and said she was deeply moved by this book and its depiction of an Irish family. She urged me to read it soon.   Many of my Irish Q and A subjects also strongly endorsed his work.  

I do see this as a modern masterpiece of Irish literature.   The depiction of the Irish family are so subtle and so brilliantly done with the smallest of touches that I do not see how anyone can approach or talk about this book with out a great sense of reference.  There are seven core characters in the story.  Moran, the father who we meet as a widower, his second wife Rose, his three daughters and his two 
Sons.   I have spoken a lot, maybe too much, about the role of the weak or missing Irish father as a dominant theme of modern Irish literature.  Moran is as unmissing a father as one could find, he is if anything too present in his children's lives.   His character is very complex under simplicity.  He can be brutal, especially on his sons.  One of them, Luke, was driven forever never to return or seek contact to London by the father''s brutal beatings.  I was repulsed when I learned he forced his sons to strip naked before he beat them.   It is hard to see why his daughters love him so much -is it guilt or gratitude?  The setting is rural Ireland on a farm and the bonding through shared labor is intertwined with the family love.  I came to feel something strong for everyone in the story.  I do not admire how Moran beat his boys but I know he was treated in the same way and I know he would have given his life for his family.  

The prose style, which I am pressed to describe, fits the story perfectly.  The story line was somehow very gripping as I wanted at all times to know what would happen next.  The close is deeply moving.   

This is not a long or complexly plotted work but because of the amazing emotional depth of the work and how it makes us ponder our own roles in our families, it is a difficult book.  I think it might make an excellent book for an honors English high school class.  

I have a copy of his collected short stories and I am slowly working my way through it. 

The next Irish novel I will post on will be Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe.

Please share your thoughts on the work of McGahern with us.

Mel u

Sunday, May 26, 2013

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (2013)

2013 is not half over yet but if TransAnlantic  by Colum McCann is not the Irish book of the year then be prepared to be amazed by  what could beat it.  I have read four of McCann's six novels and some of his short stories.   The Great World Keeps On Spinning is his best selling and, I think, highest regarded book.  I am almost ready to say that, over all, TransAtlantic, is the best of his work.   I say overall as each of works has amazing segments and there  is significant stylistic variations within the novels and each are told through multiple points of view and contain dazzling segments.  

TransAtlantic tells three interconnected stories, some through four generations.  The way McCann makes the stories connect is just terribly clever and creative without being at all contrived.   All of the stories are very much Irish centered.  McCann makes use, as he did in Dancer, of historical figures in his narrative.  In Transatlantic Frederick Douglas (1812 to 1878), born into slavery in the American south and who in time became a central figure in the fight for the abolition of slavery through his speeches and writings, plays a very central role.  

Even though the book is not yet officially released (I thank the publisher for offering me a review copy) the different narrative segments of the book have been outlined already in several places.   One thing McCann is just great at, painfully so in the opening of Dancer, is bringing the  horrors of war to life.  The book opens with a marvelous segment about two ex-WW I aviators and their attempt to make the first Transatlantic  flight (1919)   Both men suffered terribly in the war.  They bonded over their love of flight and the mechanics of planes.  Their plane was an old bomber.  The flight had to be done in under  72 hours to win a sunstatial cash prize. Their  route was to be Newfoundland, Canada to Ireland.  The flight across is horrifying but some how exhilarating.   They lose heat shortly after taking off, parts of the plane begin to separate, they have no way to communicate with each other but through gestures, and hardly enough food for the very long trip.   Before they leave, they meet a mother daughter team of journalist and photographer that will play a big part in the narrative.  If you have every agonized or complained your way through a very long flight, you might not after reading of their experiences.  I admit I loved it when the plane landed in a bog in Ireland.   It was all so exciting.  

 The second segment of the book, you do not realize the connection between the first and second segment for sometime on, focuses on the visit of Frederick Douglass (1818 to 1895) to Dublin in 1845 to raise support and money for the movement to abolish slavery in the United States.   Douglas was a brilliant speaker and there is also an underlying fascination with his background and life story.   He is the guest of a wealthy very liberal anti-slavery family and is first shown only the parts of Dublin they want him to see and is given access only to the elite.   Douglass soon begins too see the horrible poverty in which most  Dubliners live, he begins to directly relate to the Catholic poor of Dublin.  During his extended and financially successful visit he comes to see the start of the first famine when the potato crop fails.  This has been described before but it needs to be redone regularly least it be forgotten and McCann predictably does a great job.  Douglass leaves Ireland knowing the country even during the worst of the plague produces three to four times enough food needed to feed the population.   Much of the narrative turns on an Irish maid who got the courage to leave for America from Douglass.  We will follow her family through generations, her experiences as a civil war nurse in America are just amazing well done.  

The final narrative segment centers on a very powerful American senator who President Bill Clinton has asked to try to bring peace to the warring sections in Northern Ireland.  It is a good look into the power brokers of the time.   If forced to, I would say this might be the weakest segment but maybe I just need to read it better.

Each of the segments and the people in them are connected in ways I did not see in advance.  There are terribly sad things in this book and equally wonderful events.  

One of the things the book could be said to be about is how random connections can shape generations of people.   It is very much a historical work about what it means to be Irish, about the diaspora, about class distinctions, about the changing face of modern Ireland, and it even deals with issues related to the fall of The Celtic Tiger.  

My prediction is that this book will be an international best seller and will rightly win numerous awards.  
I cannot really visualize anyone into quality literature not liking this book and devotees of Irish fiction should treat it as a must read.

I have a copy of McCann's Songdogs and hope to read it soon.

Please share your experience with McCann with us.

Mel u

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Wifey Redux" by Kevin Barry (2012, 20 pages, from Dark Lies the Island)

"Wifey Redux" is the second story in Kevin Barry's collection of short stories, Dark Lies the Island.  It is a painfully realistic account of the twenty year course of a marriage as well as a very darkly funny account of life during the years of the Celtic Tiger.  We meet the husband and narrator of the story at age 17.   He and his wife seem the perfect couple in the ideal marriage.  They buy a townhouse and it goes up eight times in value as he rises in the Irish civil service.  Three years into the marriage there only child, a daughter, is born.  Of course the child changes the marriage.   Barry quickly takes us forward 17 years.   Their daughter is now incredibly sexy with a boy friend he father very  much dislikes.  His wife seems pretty much a zoned out alcoholic by now oblivious to what is going on in the life of her daughter.  Reading this story makes me eager to read the rest of the collection.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Across The Rooftops" by Kevin Barry (2012, from Dark Lies the Island)

I am very happy to have recently acquired a copy of Kevin Barry's latest collection of short stories, Dark Lies The Island.   In the 80 Q and A sessions I recently did with Irish writers I asked everyone who their favorite short story writers were and a lot of people mentioned Kevin Barry (1969, Limerick)  as among the most talented contemporary with authors.   There are 13 stories in the collection and I have already posted on two of them.  The collection is under 200 pages.  I will shortly read all of them and post on some, briefly.

"Across the Rooftops" centers in the thoughts of a young man who sometimes sits on a rooftop with a young woman he likes.  He has been mulling over for a long time how he should make his first move.  Barry does an excellent job with his mental vacillations. The last few lines of this story are masterful.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the collection.

Dancer by Colum McCann (2003, 374 pages)


Dancer by Colum McCann (Dublin, 1965) was a very intense read, almost painfully so in the opening sections set among Russian soldiers in WWII being evacuated in railroad cars, novel based on the life of the great Russian ballet dancer, Rudolph Nureyev.   This is the third novel by McCann which I have read.  Prior to this I have read his Let the Great World Go On Spinning dealing largely with post 9/11 attack New York City life and his wonderful book about a post WWII European Roma, Zoli.  



Normally if one says, "the book was 337 pages long but it felt longer", it is not a complement but somehow in this case it is as there is just so much in this incredible novel.   We begin with Nureyev as a very young boy dancing for the people in his home town in Russia.  We see the tortuous process that took him into training to be a dancer in Russia.  We come to understand his family.  We are with him when he defects in Paris and for his great triumphs in New York City, London, and elsewhere.  We get to know others in his life as the novels varies both the narrator and narrative modes.  In one very powerful section we enter the drug  fueled world of rich artistic gay New York as personified by a Venezuelan street hustler raised to the status of superstar by his affiliations.   McCann frankly depicts the extreme sexual promiscuity of Nureyev, in one scene he and the Venezuelan stage a contest to see who can perform oral sex on the most men in a row without tiring.  Nureyev wins with nine.    There are some wonderful  characters like his shoe maker,  Margot Fonteyn with whom he danced over 500 times, his housekeeper, Andy Warhol makes an appearance as does Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.    

We see how Nureyev spends the fortune he makes.  in one crazy scene he buys a painting for $50,000.00 and then takes it home in a cab to avoid the $100.00 delivery fee.  There are lots of things we never understand about Nureyev.  His ego was massive and he never really rose above his Tarter roots.  He could be cruelly capricious, and very generous almost simultaneously.   Somehow one is deeply drawn to Nureyev, his flaws make him real, his art transcends our normalcy.,

Dancer is a great novel.  I endorse it to all but the homophobic who I suspect probably do not read a lot of books based on ballet dancers anyway.  There is much to be learnt from in this novel.  

I have his Songdogs and hope to read it and his forthcoming Transatlantic soon. 

Mel u

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O'Casey (1923)

The Shadow of a Gunman  by Sean O'Casey (1880 to 1964, Dublin) seems to me one of the most important dramas of the modern Irish stage.  Declan Kiberd in Inventing Ireland:  The Literature of the Modern Nation devotes over fifty pages to this work and Juno and the Paycock. 

The Shadow of a Gunman  is set in the tenements  of Dublin during the 1916 uprising against British rule.   People live crammed together in very close quarters in which people know the business of their neighbors.   It is a very dangerous time in which a mistaken impression of a person's political loyalty could get you shot, the shadow of the gunman is everywhere and all live in fear.   The language of this play has great lyrical beauty, even the stage directions are a pleasure to read.   One of the characters is a poet and I greatly enjoyed his verse.  We see the power of landlords and the constant fear of eviction.  A rumor begins to spread in the close quarters of the tenement that one of the residents is a gunman for the revolutionaries.  If government informers here this, it might mean that soldiers or local auxiliaries will bye sent in to find him which could produce violence that would be dangerous to all in the area.  

One of the central characters in the play, Minnie, is a prostitute.   Minnie has no fear of speaking her mind about Irish men, a topic she knows quite a lot about.  In a way, she is the bravest most noble person in the play.  I think most people seriously into Irish literature have already read this core drama.  

There is a lot of discussion about the nature of Irish society and what it means to be Irish in the play.  One line after another is just perfectly done.  This is a very important play, the language is a joy to read, the characters are very well done and the plot action brings some very dark and dangerous times to life for us.

I have also on my read soon list O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock  and The Plough and the Stars.  I hope to read them both year and I would love to see them preformed in Ireland.      

Please share your experiences with Sean O'Casey with us. 

Mel u

Monday, May 20, 2013

Martin A. Egan A Question and Answer Session- Poet, Painter, andMulti-Platinum Song Writer


A question and answer session with Martin A. Egan

Biography Martin A.  Egan

Martin A. Egan is an Irish Singer Songwriter who had until March 5th 2010 never released an Album but despite this reached Multi Platinum Status in Ireland and Europe in 1997 and also 2006 writing "Casey" a Song about the adventures and misadventures of the profligate Bishop of Kerry for Christy Moore, 1997 also saw Egan working in Collaboration with the Hothouse Flowers, resulting in  “The Making of Us All” featuring on "Your Love Goes On" the first Single from their 2005 "Into Your Heart" Album. While working with the Flowers a number of Songs were written and recorded in Peter OToole's Home Studio in Lacken Co Wicklow. One of these Songs "The Tune"  featuring Peter on Bass, Bouzouki and Guitar became the Title Track of his Current Album. Another Co-write "Talking to the Wildman" also ended up on the Album.
The Black Romantics Collective featuring members of Jack's Band, In Tua Nua, The West Seventies and other seminal Dublin Bands recorded Egan's  Spoken Word Piece: “The Shepherd and his Maiden” on their Album  “Nine Parts Devil" Martin also worked with Poppy Gonzalez (ex Mojave 3 piano player) and her Band Hush Collector for whom he co-wrote the Title Track “Flowby” for their Debut E.P. on Candy Cone Records and the Late Woody Sagoo whom he also managed.
Martin has also worked with Eamon Carr of Horslips and written a number of Songs with Will Merriman of the Harvest Ministers one of which "Ruined Shoes" currently features as part of his Live Set.
He was Nominated along with Mary O'Regan of Draoicht for the German Music Award in 1997 for Mary's Solo Album "Every Punch needs the Kiss" for which Martin wrote the Title Track along with 3 other tracks.
Martin Egan is also a recognised Irish Neo-Expressionist Artist and although he has not produced any new work since 1997 is about to begin a New Multi-Media Project involving Experimental Music, Painting, Spoken Word, and has also completed a Book of Sonnets on the Theme of Grief and Loss which will also be incorporated into the New Project.
Martin Egan returned to the Studio on March 22nd 2010 to complete Recordings begun in Ashtown Studio's in late 2009.  having finally released "The Tune" along with a Video of the Title Track on March 5th 2010 on his own Slinky Vibe Label Martin feels that he has at last put his past to rest. The New Album fondly known by the Working Title Part I includes work written with the participation of Brian Conniffe the Sound Sculpture Artist who has worked with a number of highly respected Musicians. Part I features Paul "Binzer" Brennan and Tommy O'Sullivan on Drums and Dara "Dip" Higgins on Electric and Double Bass. Tommy O'Sullivan also  contributed Guitar on a number of Tracks. Martin begins work on Part II on January 6th 2011 and Part I will be released in 2012Creating work in many disciplines is a way of Life Martin and Other Projects which for the moment remain secret are in train and will be brought to fruition over the next few years.
"The Tune"recorded between 1992 and 1997 with a great many Irish Musical Luminaries of that and the current time is now available in a Signed Limited Edition C.D. Format or by Download or at www.slinkyvibe.com and is Distributed Nationwide by Mail Order from Claddagh Records http://claddaghrecords.com/WWW/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=Martin+A.+Egan&x=14&y=14 is available by Download from www.itunes.com or on C.D. from City Discs in Eustace Street Temple Bar Dublin, Freebird at the Secret Book and Record Store in Wicklow Street, the Sound Cellar in Nassau Street and also on all the usual Online Outlets. A slide Show of Martins Paintings is available in the Photo Gallery and will also be available to buy with a Price List included.




1.  One of your songs, “Casey” is about the “misadventures of the profligate  Bishop of Kerry”-I have no idea what that involved and I am guessing outside of Ireland not many people understand what that means.  My first thought was that it might be related to the scandals in the Church in Ireland-can you explain this a bit and let us know why this inspired you to write a song about the Bishop, please?


Bishop Casey was the local Bishop in Kerry when I moved there from Galway in 1980. He had been Bishop of Galway while I was there also. He was notorious for his very erratic and high speed Driving. I was told the Core of the Story when I was working cutting turf with the local villagers and added my own idea's after that. Bishop Casey was arrested in London for drunken driving and I compared the British approach of "We don't give a damn who you are" to the Irish Gardai at the time which was very subservient to the Church. Later on the Song was recorded by Christy Moore and when Casey was exposed
along with Michael Cleary as having in Casey's case a Child by Annie Murphy Christy added the current last verse. It was written initially as a bit of fun but turned into something more serious after the Niall O'Brien Affair and all the Polticis of those times which we are only seeing the very nasty results of now,

2.  How did you get involved with writing a song for Mary O’Reagan?

I didn;t actually. I was a Busker for many years in in Dingle and Tralee in Co. Kerry, playing Music and having Exhibitions in the Summer and Writing and Painting through the Winters. Mary was in a Band called Draoicht with the Mulcahy brothers Frank and Tom (a very fine Songwriter himself). They heard me singing when they were starting off and then included "Every Punch Needs a Kiss" in their Live Set . Mary left the Band after a Tour of the German Speaking Countries in Europe, Austria, Germany Switzerland etc and was offered a Solo Deal by Magnetic Music in Germany. She recorded the Album and honoured me by using the Song "Every Punch Needs a Kiss" as the Title Track and recording 3 more Tracks as well. To everyone's surprise it was Nominated for the German Music Award (Folk Category) which helped with Radio Play and Sales very nicely

3.  Your bio says you are recognized as a Neo-Expressionist artist-can you please explicate this in non technical terms.

I was actually called a Neo-Expressionist by people within the Arts but never really saw myself as that. I began Painting as a means of getting beyond word based writing a medium in which I found myself having increasing difficulty expressing myself. I was suffering Writer's Block more and more and became a Painter quite by accident beginning by painting with cheap Chinese Acrylics I saw in a shop window in Dingle and progressing to Large Canvas Paintings. I was driven mostly by a need to express what was occurring internally that words
could not convey. The Primary drive was a search for a sense of Identity as a man and as an Artist after the loss of 3 children and the resultant collapse of my marriage, Music and Wors while still present were increasingly unable to express the non-verbal aspects of Loss. A lot of this had to do with my Upbringing, it also had to do with a stubborn streak in me as an Artist, a refusal to let any experience of my life pass by without documenting it and I suppose a refusal to experience all that Grief and Loss without getting anything Creative or for want of a better word Eternal out of it.

4.  Regarding your poety, I hope this is not to personal a question but it is brought up on your webpage.  What is the personal background to the 89 sonnets you lost  in the summer of 2010, which were sonnets to your deceased children?  

I have been writing since I could talk. Not just Poetry but Monologues, Spoken Word with Poetry, Songs, Short Stories, Plays and 3 Feature Film Scripts Poetry is how I initially began Performing live. I am from a very Musical Family and I think writing gave me a sense of separateness from the Family, in terms of identity especially musically. I wrote and had published my first Poems in the U.K. at the age of 13 after an
English Teacher told me I would never be a Poet. It is only recently that I have started to publish Poetry again. I was born in the same Hospital as Michael Hartett, grew up in the same street and then New Housing Complex Assumpta Park in Newcastle West and have only recently put the Writing pattern that has emerged into context from reading extensively about Michael and his methods of writing which parallel my oww methods in an uncanny fashion without any planning on my part.. The loss of the 89 Sonnets was a big deal but I had Working versions of about 40 transferred to my Computer so in fact really only lost 49 but once the heat of writing goes off things it is very difficult to reheat them so to speak. The loss of my Children has taken me into far deeper losses a lot of which were hidden within the Family History and have led to a lot of thinking about Cultural Identity and the reduction of the Irish to a second class Race in many ways and I do not
mean in the sense of how to look good or earn a living or any of that social nonsense. This as you might imagine is open to a lot of misunderstanding but being misunderstood is the Poets lot in my experience.

5.  “Green Water” seems almost like an elegy to lost youth, to memories of a passion once felt.  Is there a sense in which a long for the past, better times before time and sadness deeply intrudes in all of your work?

"Green Water" is an Elegy to the 3 Women I have loved most in my life, none of whom I am going to name here. It is also related to the place of Water in the great Mysteries of Nature, Reproduction and Love. Its Symbolism of a connection to Flow, Eternal Life and the original Irish Muse.

6.  Over the last year I have listened to a lot of traditional Irish music through the internet on my IPAD.  Much like “Green Water”, a lot of it is a longing for the past and an attempt to accept that your best and maybe Ireland’s best days are over?   What is your reaction to this?

My Parents love of Music and their playing of it was evenly divided into 2 Camps. My Mother loved Irish Traditional Music and played with a lot of the greats in Sessions in London in the 50's and 60's. My Father loved Jazz and played the Tenor Saxophone so Home Rehearsals were always a Comedy Routine and a Battle of Wills over what would be played in the Live Sets, my Father cursing
the Irish Content and my Mother my Father's attempts to Jazz up Irish Music. They were both Trained Reader's and had played with Show-bands before the Economic conditions of 50's Ireland forced them to emigrate. I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said of the Irish that "All their Wars were Merry, and all their
Songs were Sad". "Green Water" is
more about my own capacity to feel love deeply after being frozen by loss for a very long time than it is actually about sadness. It is also a paean to the loss of deeply experienced love for my exes and my children.

I
7.  What were the last three books you read?

I suppose to be honest I can't say I've read any of the last number of Books I've been reading as they are all Poetry
and in my experience Poetry changes every time I read it so there is no actual "Read" involved. On the other hand I read a vast amount of Genre Fiction particularly John Connolly the Irish Supernatural Author whose books I found really beneficial right from the first one in that they dealt with the same issues (apart from all the violence) as those that preoccupy  me. John lives locally and we run into each other locally all the time so he knows the impact books like the "Killing Kind" ~"Bad Men" etc have had on my own process. I have the kind of mind that cannot learn much by rote but can learn volumes from someone else's description of a state or experience and John's Books are so well researched that the conditions described (while in a fictional situation) are in fact real experiences related to the Author by people who actually experienced those events.

8.  Why did you stop painting for eleven years-what has given you the motivation to start again.  How has the business side of art, selling and buying pictures changed in the laat decade?


I felt that I was continually repeating myself. I was commanding larger and larger Prices fro my Work but felt that I was conning people. That I had reached the limits of whatever skills I had and I needed more. Circumstance dictated things as well. I moved and had nowhere to paint and couldn't afford a Studio. I wanted to work big and the Computer Generation has meant that Studio Space is measured by the Square Foot rather than the needs of the particular Artist. The Movement toward Animation etc and all the things which can be done Online has impacted on Space and Proce of Space enormously. I personally hate small Paintings unless they are a use for waste Paint from another Picture. I painted anything up to 25 Medium to Large Paintings at a time when I lived in Kerry. So I stopped. My Songwriting was vastly
improved by Painting as I wasn't trying to squeeze the inexpressible into a mode of expression any more.



9.  You have written a long poem entitled “Falling for A Dolphin”, about the arrival of Funghi the Dingle Dolphin.
  Can you talk a bit about how swimming with Funghi impacted you?  How can swimming with dolphins have a healing impact on people with psychological issues?  Did you sense a higher level of intelligence in dolphins than in say, dogs?  Did you feel a sense of bonding from the dolphin to you?   

I was involved with the whole Funghi explosion in Kerry and met Dr Horace Dobbs, one of the Pioneer's of the Research into Dolphins healing capabilities but never swam with Funghi myself. I also DID NOT write "Falling for a Dolphin", this was written by the English Actor and Polymath Heathcote Williams whom I had known in the early to mid 70's in London where he was involved in the Anti Jubilee Festivities and also acting in Derek Jarman's Films of the time. I saw the obsession with Dolphins and Healing in a lot of people as a form of transference or substitution in much the same way animals substitute for children with some people. While I understood the principle of "innate healing" within certain creatures I certainly didn't partake of it myself. I think I was too involved with working out how
to deal with my problems internally that I didn't want to invest emotional energy in an outside Agency animal, vegetable or mineral. The "Dolphin Song" was inspired more by the Ancient Greek ideal that Dolphins are harbingers of good luck, good health and a boon from the Gods than swimming doctors. I think the presence of absolute innocence in the animal sense is also a contributing factor

10. Please talk a bit about government funding of the arts in Ireland.


I think the main problem with Arts Funding is one you have already pointed out and is one that troubles me a lot. Control. True Creativity is beyond all social control and merely reflects the Society it manifests within. The Artist or the Organisation becoming the Art is nonsense of the highest order. It results in a political landscape of people scrabbling for position, grants and titles, visibility at all costs. Art will happen whether there is money or not. It is not a thing to be trifled with or boxed off into Categories or into dry Semantic platitudes and concepts as is currently happening with the Graduate and Post Grad Class. They have developed a language and a sense of being apart which is neither good for Art nor for emerging Practitioners. What needs
to be remembered is that Art must be separated from the Establishment for it to develop properly. The collusion between the Establishment, Trinity, D.I.T. The Abbey and the Gate to make Art in all its forms a safe preserve for the cultured few is what is killing creativity. This applies across the Board from incomprehensible (to me) Academic Texts to equally incomprehensible to me Arts Criticism. The Irish are particularly prone to this horrible habit of applying a Snobbery Quotient. a Music for Middlebrows attitude to Art which would reveal infinitely more were it left to be a mystery and thus outside all the intellectual juggling and mind games that go on.  Not that I wouldn't mind being inducted into Aosdana because some very fine (and uncontrollable Artists) whom I know personally are numbered among its Fellows.


11.  Who are some of your favorite authors?  what writers do you find yourself returning to over and over again?
Charles Bukowski, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Michael
Hartnett, Brendan Kennelly, Michel Vassal, Kate O'Shea, Kit Fryatt, Oran Ryan

12.  People say Shakespeare killed the English theater -did Yeats do something similar to Irish poetry?

Shakespeare didn't kill English Theater, he created it to a certain extent and certainly expanded it out of its then shape of rabble-rousing Pro-Government Policy. Post-Modernism killed English Theater. A lot of the Playwrights of the last 100 years have run out of Idea's and certainly in the last 50 started to emulate current Film-making as in dumping nods and references to other Writers/ Director's/ D.I.P.'s all over their Work to the detriment not only of the Work but to the forward motion of Film and Theater. The extremes in Irish
Playwrighting are exactly the same, the present mixing of multi discipline themes together in the hope of getting a bit of originality via contrast and juxtaposition or Homage is a prime offender. It has made Theater a pain for me and Film an irritation. I don't go to see things that have been done or Pastiches of things that have been done. I go to see what hasn't been done. Yeats for all his faults viz a viz Celtic Twilight and proper Therapy for Mother Issues not being available in his youth was incredibly honest emotionally. His use of Noh Concepts was revolutionary and his calling of the emerging Bigots and advocates of Violence equally valid. I know a number of Yeats Poems by heart and can see why he would be so misunderstood by peop-le that have never learnt how to use their minds properly. Hartnett had a very valid point also in his condemnation of Yeats and his very clear understanding of Yeats as being and belonging behind the Pale Ramparts and
poaching on native Irish Cultural territory from there and other questioners of Cultural Identity in Ireland such as Hartmett and Brendan Kennelly. That by no means cheapens or demeans Yeats' contribution to the visibility of Ireland as a serious contender in the framework of World Arts. A  lot of the Native Irish Writers and Poets saw Yeats' metaphysical concerns as a sort of inverted snobbery, an "Us and "Them" mentality applied to the entire Country but that has more to do with the "Plain People of Ireland" being sat on as a subject race and very little to do with Yeats's search for the core Identity of the Irish. What people tend to forget is that all of Yeats' work was Poetry, not just the Love Poetry but all the Dramatic Work as well. I always advise people that Yeats continually changed his work as he said himself  A Paraphrase) "I do not simply remake the Poem, I remake myself".

13.  An experiment-please make up your own question and answer it?

Q: "Whats the best way to see over the horizon?

A: "Get off your knees"  


14.  How did you first get involved in writing, song and poetry?

I wrote a Book based on the Adventures of Spartacus after seeing the Kubrick version of it when I was 6. I wrote my first Song when I was 7 when I was given a Harmonica to help with asthma

15.  What is your latest project?

My latest Projects are a Book of Poetry
and a Triple Album Part 1 of which I am hoping to release in September 2013



16.  Quick Pick Questions
a.  Samuel Beckett of John Synge:  Beckett
b.  Dogs or Cats? Neither
c.  Day or Night:   Night
d.  last movie seen? Djago Unchained
e.  RTE or BBC?  Both useless

17.  Tell us a bit about your educational background, please.

Attended Convent School St Ita's in Newcastle West, also National School in Newcastle West. Secondary Modern St Gregory's in Kenton Middlesex U.K.  Left St Gregory's at 15. Hated every minute I spent at School.

18.  What jobs have you had outside of artistic/literary musical work?

Printer, Greengrocer, Council Worker, Laborer, Organic Farmer

End. I offer my great thanks to Martin A. Egan for taking the time to provide us with such interesting responses.

Mel u