Hay Festival Kells, Part 1: Reflections on Michael Harding

Michael Harding

Michael Harding

Sometimes it feels as if Michael Harding was born at the age of 58, middle-aged and fully-formed. A performer, an actor, a novelist, a memoirist and a playwright, he has come to inhabit that great unfathomable of the popular consciousness only over the past few years.

Staring At Lakes, his first memoir, a chronicle of depression and love and the jagged line between the two, won the Irish Book of the Year award in 2013. It was followed by Hanging With The Elephant last year and a weekly Irish Times column about life in the Irish midlands. From Cavan, his prose has echoes of the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh from neighbouring Monaghan, recognising beauty “in the habitual, the banal”.

Continue reading “Hay Festival Kells, Part 1: Reflections on Michael Harding”

The question of John Banville’s legacy

John Banville

Picture via patrickbolger.com

With confirmation that John Banville will be part of the writing team for a major new crime series slated to screen next year, and the Booker Prize winner seemingly increasingly besotted by the lure of commercial crime (in both book and television form), it could be an opportune time to the evaluate whether this late career shift in focus will have any impact on his legacy – and if that is the case, should anyone care. Continue reading “The question of John Banville’s legacy”

So are we really in the middle of an Irish literary renaissance?

spill-simmer-falter-wither-book-jacket-fJason Arthur, the Publishing Director of a group of Penguin Random House imprints, has described the current Irish literary scene as “experiencing a renaissance”.

Arthur’s comments came amid the announcement that he has secured the UK and Commonwealth rights (apart from Canada) to two Sara Baume novels, including current hit Spill Simmer Falter Wither, published by new kid on the block Dublin independent publisher Tramp Press. Continue reading “So are we really in the middle of an Irish literary renaissance?”

Francis MacManus Short Story Competition details

The annual Francis MacManus Short Story Competition has been open to entries since February, and the closing date for the 2015 prize is the fast-approaching Friday, May 1st.

Unlike many prizes of the sort, which understandably seek a fee for entry (often without even covering costs), this one is free to enter.

Entry is open to anyone born or resident in Ireland and stories must be no shorter than 1800 words and no longer than 2000 – and no exceptions! (It is a prize designed for radio reading, so length is important.)

The judges this year are promoter-of-all-things-books Cormac Kinsella, novelist, short story writer and editor Evelyn Conlon and journalist, novelist, playwright and creative writing teacher Katy Hayes.

Download an application form here

The 2014 winner was “The Oyster Catchers” by Beth Tyrrell and you can hear that one, as well as all other short-listed entries, over on the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition page here.

The Classics Club (Irish edition…)

For all the dark sides and murky corners of the Internet, there’s something intangibly fantastic about its interconnectivity. While Twitter and Facebook, with their social weight and smartphone buzz notifications, undoubtedly lead the way, I’ve learned through the two and a bit years of this blog that there’s a huge and supportive community on WordPress too.

The Classics Club Blog is dedicated to inspiring us to read the classics which stare at so many of us, spine out, from our shelves but which often remain unread. Middlemarch, for one, greets me every time I walk into my kitchen – it’s not, gladly, a taunt; more a recurring invitation which I’ve yet to take up. I’ve tried Ulysses at least three times now, and have never made it more than a quarter of the way through. Maybe one day…

Continue reading “The Classics Club (Irish edition…)”

Book thoughts: Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín

Okay, so I’m six years late to this, but as I’ve grown older (I’m 38 this year) some self-awareness has slowly dawned: it takes me time to do things.

I didn’t leave home or learn to drive until my mid-20s, despite those two things being almost sacrosanct for any coming-of-age Irish provincial-dweller with even a passing interest in the wider world. I first experienced the great cities of Europe at 26 (Madrid, Barcelona, Paris), later in life and for a much shorter stay than many contemporaries who made interrailing their summer at a time when I was scared of what the future held and thought that a holiday job, with the short-term, transient but undeniable security it offered, was the better course of action.

Continue reading “Book thoughts: Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín”