Comic writing is the real truth

A short blog to draw attention to an interview with Paul Murray in the Guardian last weekend, to mark the arrival of his third novel The Mark and the Void.

The book, which revolves around a fictional foreign bank in the IFSC in Dublin, a French banker, an Irish writer called Paul and the financial collapse, is published this week. Continue reading “Comic writing is the real truth”

The question of John Banville’s legacy

John Banville

Picture via

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?”

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”

Perfect three-minute literature: The rise and rise of Sara Baume

Sara Baume

Sara Baume (Pic: The Stinging Fly).

Choppy seas throw up a crop of bones in winter. I’m no good at anatomy. I can tell fish from birds but mammal skeletons are harder to differentiate once broken down and scoured clean by salt and sand and water

Thus begins Sara Baume’s compelling, intensely moving spoken word essay aired on RTE Radio 1’s Arena this week.

The concept of the perfect three-minute pop song is well-documented, but Baume’s reflection on life and art and legacy was perfect three-minute literature in aural form. Continue reading “Perfect three-minute literature: The rise and rise of Sara Baume”

The Laureate for Irish Fiction just gets better and better…

Anne Enright, one of 34 authors on the longlist for the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction (Image: The Guardian)

A longlist of 34 authors for the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction was announced this week.

Among the various (necessarily imprecise) criteria for the award are that the author has:

  • an internationally recognised body of work, and
  • demonstrated commitment to engaging with the public, the media and the literary sector

There are 21 men and 13 women on the list, including former Booker Prize winners John Banville, Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle and also William Trevor, who has made the shortlist for the Booker five times but has never won.

Other Irish literary veterans (if that’s not too harsh) are Sebastian Barry, Patrick McCabe, Dermot Bolger and Edna O’Brien, while among the relative newcomers on the list are Eimear McBride, whose debut novel A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing won the Baileys Prize earlier this year, and Jaki McCarrick, who published her debut collection of stories, The Scattering, in 2013.

There is no more notable omission than Colm Tóibín, although there may be valid reasons for this – certainly, Tóibín was pictured at the launch of the laureateship last December, so his absence from the list of 34 writers below must have a basis in something we aren’t being told about in the publicity material.

There’s no doubt that the judging panel in phenomenally strong, chaired by poet Paul Muldoon and including his fellow Irish poet Paula Meehan, author Blake Morrison, this year’s IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Deborah Triesman, the New Yorker‘s fiction editor and producer of the New Yorker short story podcast, one of the best shows you could ever hope to listen to.

The Laureate for Irish Fiction will have a three year term (initially 2015-18), carries a €150,000 bursary and will see the laureate teach creative writing at UCD and New York University.

The first Laureate for Irish Fiction will be announced in January, and more info can be found on the Arts Council website here.

The full longlist for the Irish Laureate for Fiction:

  • John Banville
  • Sebastian Barry
  • Dermot Bolger
  • John Boyne
  • Michael Coady
  • Evelyn Conlon
  • Peter Cunningham
  • Emma Donoghue
  • Roddy Doyle
  • Catherine Dunne
  • Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Anne Enright
  • Hugo Hamilton
  • Anne Haverty
  • Jennifer Johnston
  • Claire Keegan
  • Tom Kilroy
  • Ré O Laighleis
  • Eimear McBride
  • Patrick McCabe
  • Colum McCann
  • Jaki McCarrick
  • Liam Mac Cóil
  • John MacKenna
  • Belinda McKeon
  • Bernard MacLaverty
  • Eoin McNamee
  • Paul Murray
  • Nuala Ní Chonchuir
  • Edna O’Brien
  • Joseph O’Connor
  • Donal Ryan
  • William Trevor
  • Niall Williams

Bloomsbury to bring “Dublin’s Trainspotting” to the masses

here are the young menDebut novelist Rob Doyle is the latest young Irish writer to have made the independent-to-major-publishing-house route to success, with Bloomsbury securing rights for his Dublin-set Here Are The Young Men.

Originally published by Lilliput Press, Here Are The Young Men will now be given a Bloomsbury release in the UK and Ireland this September, followed by the US next year.

Alexa von Hirschberg, Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury, says, “Here Are the Young Men is a fierce, shocking, blackly comic wild ride of a novel – a powerful literary statement about the lives of disaffected and disillusioned young people.

“Rob Doyle does for Dublin what Irvine Welsh did for Edinburgh in Trainspotting. Brave, insightful, philosophical and heartbreaking, it introduces a talented writer at the beginning of what will be a long career.”

Seriously high praise, and fantastic news for Rob, who has written for journals including The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly and Gorse.

Describing his book in an interview in Gorse, Doyle says it is

…a novel set in Dublin in 2003 […] about a bunch of hard-drinking, drug-abusing, fairly disturbed youngsters, who have finished school, have finished their Leaving Cert, and fall under the malign sway of their psychopathic friend Joseph Kearney, who urges them on to begin committing transgressive acts, which become more extreme and more disturbing as their first summer of freedom goes on. And everything goes to hell, more or less.

Read the full Gorse interview here

Doyle joins Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press to Faber), Donal Ryan (Lilliput Press to Doubleday) and Colin Barrett (Stinging Fly Press to Jonathan Cape) as Irish writers treading a path from independent publisher to major powerhouse.

Those three predecessors saw their books claim several awards, and if von Hirschberg’s praise is anything to go by Doyle could be following in their footsteps in that regard too when the 2014 prize-giving season kicks off in earnest in the autumn.


Seven of the best pieces about new Baileys Prize winner Eimear McBride

Eimear McBride accepting the Baileys Prize

Eimear McBride accepting the Baileys Prize (Picture: The Guardian)

Eimear McBride achieved worldwide fame (who knows, hopefully fortune may soon follow…) after last week’s Baileys Prize ceremony, earning column inches in the New York Times, the Telegraph, a couple of pieces in the Guardian (one on the influence of Joyce, another on the novel’s unique style), the Sydney Morning Herald… and just about everywhere else. Here are seven excellent reads, most of them written before McBride’s red-letter day. Continue reading “Seven of the best pieces about new Baileys Prize winner Eimear McBride”