OK, I know Kevin Barry is good but I am genuinely shocked that all 4 shows in Dublin sold out! That sounds silly, I know that I wouldn’t have guessed that they’d all go. His play, Autumn Royale is touring currently and it got a 5-star review in the Independent today. It is fabulous news for the Kevin but not so fabulous for me.
Please, tour again, Kevin and this time I promise I will get the tickets the SECOND they come out. I’ll queue really early or something and bring coffee and breakfast and be the first in the queue to get those golden tickets!
A new play by Kevin Barry (Beatlebone and City of Bohane) is a-coming! Here is the story below…..
May and Timothy are looking after the father – the father has long since taken to the bed. Their own lives are curtailed, closed down, and they’re not getting any younger. Should they stay or should they go?
A dark, dark comedy, set on the northside of Cork city, Autumn Royal is a play about life and death, love and hate, hysterical dependency, jealousy, rage, horror, and homicidal notions – or, in other words, it’s a play about a family.
In case you did not know, Kevin Barry is the multi-award winning writer of the novels Beatlebone and City Of Bohane and the story collections Dark Lies The Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. Autumn Royal is his first piece written originally for the stage.
On in the Everyman Theatre, Cork:
DATE AND TIME | MON 30 JAN – SAT 4 FEB, 8PM | PREVIEWS WED 25, THU 26 & SUN 29 JAN
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
07 February 2017-11 February 2017 7.45pm
The Dock, Carrick On Shannon
Thu 23 February, 8:30pm
I am hoping to get there if the M-boy can be cared for nicely by some kind girl or family member.
Gosh, I don’t even care about the whole New Year’s Even thing but I do like the tidiness that comes with a brand new day on the 1st of January and when the supermarkets take all of the nonsense away off their shelves and start preparing for Easter or Halloween or something.
Christmas is an excellent time for getting the reading done. The open fire. The glass of fizzy minerals to sip on. The chocolates. They all add to that reading feeling. This Christmas Day I received 2 books. It is a strange one, athough people prefer Custom LEGO Minifigures as gifts, surely my gifts should be 100% book related. Don’t all of you know I LOVE reading? My husband knew and my writing group homie knew. Therefore, I received a huge copy of the mustard-coloured Winter Papers Volume 2 annual. It is fab. It is made up of artwork, interviews, fiction and poetry. It is a true fest. Despite the fact that Kevin Barry is one of the editors(with Olivia Smith), there is no new fiction from him but it might be a bit egotistical if he did that, I guess and I think he is not that way.
The second gift I received was the Mslexia Writing Diary for 2017. Full of prompts, sections to write my personal details in(I love this!), interviews, recommended reading and prompts, it is a real writer’s gift. It is simply gorgeous and will be used and is being used already!
I treated myself to Donal Ryan’s new novel, All we shall know. I have a problem remembering the title always of this book. I keep thinking it is “All that we shall know” or “All that is left behind” or simple “All” The novel is narrated by a pregnant lady and it is broken up into weeks. I am at 20 weeks already and Donal, as per usual is compelling, full-on with his strong language and depressing all at once. It will catch you by the first paragraph. I am reading this for a book club I set up in work.
Plenty to keep me busy and out of trouble anyway. I also keep calling the Kevin Barry annual by its incorrect name of Winter Pages. It is Winter Papers!
The Festival of Writing and Ideas is in its 5th year and we have attended all five. We live about twenty minutes away by car so I really have no excuse. We also brought M-boy(the now 22-month old beauty boy) with us last year and this too. He was such a good boy although he did not attend any of the talks!
I went into the chapel to hear Danielle McLaughlin, Claire Kilroy and Ayelet Waldman(a writer I had never heard of) speaking about real life, having babies and how literature does not really show the whole having babies things well. It shows sex instead. The hour-long discussion was really good. All three read from their books. Danielle read the opening story from her debut story collection, Claire read an essay she wrote for the Winter Pages(the first she wrote after having a baby) and Ayelet read from her book, Bad Mum. They had a really cool talk about being a parent, being a hero, the toughness and brilliance of parenthood. Ayelet was very funny and handled audience questions or comments(Why do audience members feel the need to make a comment which usually involves the words I write myself when addressing a writer on a stage) and Danielle spoke eloquently and in her usual down to earth way about her stories and where the ideas come from and who does all the housework in her house. Everyone was very envious of her husband.
Claire was completely honest about the challenges of writing and being a mother but I think this is not just about women who write who are Mums. Any father who is properly involved and caring would have the same issues as a writer. So, it all depends who you are paired up with was the conclusion. The hour flew and I was released onto the lawn of Borris House with the sun shining and my two lovely boys waiting.
We sat and ate home fries and drank cider while the sun shone. M-boy slept. A bee went into his cover. I freaked out. I ate pulled pork on home fries. Kevin Barry and John Creedon were the top celebs to gaze at. I forced everyone I could to go see Beowulf, the one-man, emotional show by Brian Burroughs. Emrys scribbled circles on the Borris programme. I had a second glass of cider, got some book autographs and said goodbye to Borris till tomorrow.
Other great stuff that happened:
Simon got a speaker pass! I’m getting one tomorrow though I am only a lowly speaker’s wife. Kevin Barry had a cuddle with M-boy for 5 seconds. John Creedon had a pic with my friend who just loves him. The bee did not sting M-boy. Bumped into June Caldwell who I’ve never seen in Carlow. We get to go back tomorrow!
The Granta New Irish Writing was reviewed by Eileen Battersby a few weeks back and she seemed unimpressed with many of the stories and writing in the new issue of Granta New Irish Writing. I can see her point about the title being “New Irish Writing” but perhaps the editors meant new Irish writing by established and well-loved Irish authors!
In this issue, we have the lovely Kevin Barry( and an black and white photo of him.) writing about his time in and love of Cork city. Fascinating, as always I am hooked into his every written word! Also there are pieces from Colm Tóibín, Emma Donaghue, Sara Baume, Colin Barrett, Roddy Doyle, Siobhán Mannion, Belinda McKeon, Sally Rooney, Donal Ryan, and William Wall and more.
In fact, Eileen raved about William Wall so much that I broke my “No buying books” New Year’s resolution and ordered his new short story collection from Doire Press!
I am enjoying reading the free stories and writing on the Granta website and finished a nice short story by Nuala Ní Chonchúir called “Mayo, oh, Mayo” and have to admit the title drew me in being from Mayo myself. Enjoyed the scenes of Knock basilica and delighted with the ending!
I am originally from a small village in the West of Ireland. It takes us about 5-6 hours to get from my home in Carlow to my Mum’s house! so, Simon and I listen to New Yorker Fiction and Poetry Podcasts as there are hundreds of them available for free.
A well-known author reads a short story from another well-known author previously published in the New Yorker Magazine. For book lovers, each podcast is an hour of bliss. The New Yorker Fiction editor, Deborah Treisman is the Editor of the New Yorker Fiction magazine and is a brilliant interviewer. She always comes across as really serious and sometimes as if she doesn’t understand the short stories that are being read out! Obviously, being who she is, this is her way of getting to the nub of the story and pulling some good stuff out of the writer she is interviewing.
On the way down, we listened to David Means’ short story, the Spot being read by Jonathan Franzen. It is a most excellent story and we enjoyed the poetic rhythm and messed up characters and general naughtiness. On the way back, we listened to short story-hero of mine, Kevin Barry read Brian Friel’s, Saucer of Larks. Kevin is always very entertaining and his readings of stories are the best. He had Deborah giggling and laughing away.
You can hear Kevin read here at http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/kevin-barry-reads-brian-friel
and Jonathan read David Mean at http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/jonathan-franzen-reads-david-means
I use a free app called Podcast addict which downloads all the NY Fiction and poetry podcasts for me and has them ready for long, long, long roadtrips. Enjoy.
Looking back over the amount of books I read this year, I feel a bit disheartened. 13! Only 13 books. Recently, my excuse for every sort of failing is to blame it on the baby! I am going to blame my small reading list on the presence of our beautiful, sunny little boy who also naturally loves books too! If I think about it, the reason he is showing such interest in books, then it has to be down to the time Simon and I have put it that. That is for another post!
I want to briefly list the books I read this year and then expand on a few of my favourite stories from the whole host.
Tom Morris with his debut collection “We don’t know what we are doing”
Danielle Mc Laughlin “Dinosaurs on other planets”
“Tender” by Belinda McKeon
“The Green Road” by Anne Enright
“Walk the blue fields” by Claire Keegan
“Antartica” by Claire Keegan-a re-read
Chekhov-“Selected Stories”-this was a re-read
Donal Ryan and “A Slanting at the sun”
“Beatlebone” by the brilliant and much loved, lit-crush, Kevin Barry.
Madeleine D’arcy and her debut short story collection “Waiting for the bullet”
Paul O’ Reilly and his debut collection “Girl at the window”
Flannery O Connor and her complete stories-re-read of some of them and some are new to me-It is a large volume!
Selected Stories by David Constantine
“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver-a third re=read, I think. My all-time litcrush is the Carver.
Stories that have stuck with me over the whole year, stories that I recommend to friends to read and stories that I force the very poetry-obsessed husband to read are the ones I would like to push on you, like a sort of “Short story” drug overlord!
First one is Thomas Morris and his story “Castleview”. Thomas has a great talent for writing about nothing and everything, a relaxed storytelling style with his lovely Welsh accent coming up throughout the whole of his collection. I really enjoyed his collection but “Castleview” sticks with me. A young teacher with a sadness, a sad wife and a sad life gets even sadder at the end. It ends with him aggressively rubbing a stain on the carpet which ends in blood on his knuckles which ends in a looking out the window in wonder and disgust and looking back in on his sorry self. His stories are powerful and often very, funny and observed.
Second is Claire Keegan. I could choose many of her” stories but it has to be “The Ginger Rogers Sermon. An impulsive, dare I say “naughty” schoolgirl seduces one of her father’s workers and the twists and the tragedy keep on coming and ends with an almost evil family dance in their parlour. This story is proving to be in my top three most loved stories and one in which prompted me to attend a recent, superb workshop with the writer, Claire Keegan.
I have always enjoyed reading David Constantine’s short fiction and when Comma Press/Atlantic Books sent me on his new, Selected Stories to read, I savaged them!(the stories, not the publishing company) This collection opens with “In another country” which has inspired a Film 4 film called 45 years. I have not seen this film and again, I blame the M-boy baby! This short story is a fave and was when I read it years again before the film came out. David writes with little regard but full respect for puncuation, sentences and dialogue marks. If you have read him, you will understand and probably agree it totally works. “In another country” is about a married couple who are together for 45 years and getting quite old. News from the past arrives that threatens to wreck those 45 years. It is a tender, slow and quiet story that will make you want to re-read it again just for the awfully tragic ending. I love it.
Donal Ryan sickens us all in a good way. Seems like a lovely man whenever I see him read or hear him on the radio. He also can write novels and now he seems to easily write short stories. I know they weren’t easy but a sign of a good story is one which seems as if “I could do that” and his debut collection, “A Slanting at the sun” definitely does that! I loved most of his stories, some were not quite in the traditional short story genre and more of a musing on life and sadness. My favourite was the title of the collection, A Slanting at the sun. Donal will make you all teary, his writing is so emotionally strong that you would want to be made of steel to not cry or feel the pain of the characters. In this story, he layers the emotions on and on and up and up climaxing with a pensive reflection from the aggrieved character. I won’t give plot details away. If you want to see how it is done, go get the book.
I could go on an rave about each and every one of the books I read and how they moved me in different ways but you really should have been reading my blog and their individual reviews throughout 2015! Pay more attention next year! Actually, my next post will be a New Year promise to myself and you. Based on reading and stories and stuff.
We have little time to do everything so read the three stories above for different reasons, but mostly because you treasure the short story.
Happy Christmas! See you in my next post in the New Year or just before it!
People who read my blog know that Kevin Barry might just be my favourite writer ever. But, that doesn’t mean I let him away with everything and any sort of writing behaviour. Along with some other people. I have been waiting on his new novel, Beatlebone for a while now so when I heard him read the first few pages back at the Festival of Writing and Ideas, I felt a bit nervous.
It didn’t seem to grab me. It sounded odd to hear Kevin read about this Liverpudlian icon of John Lennon in the West of Ireland. But, I kept my faith. I knew Kevin would write something brilliant. He had too. We haven’t been seeing much from him for a year or two. After the City of Bohane and his two short story collections, he had gone away to his Garda Station or as Beatlebone reveals, Achill Island.
Keeping in mind that it is not every day we get something from Kevin to read. I also only primarily read short fiction. These facts must be kept in mind as I read the book and now give you my thoughts on it.
I received a copy of the book a month before it was officially published. I showed it off and I read it as quickly as a busy person can over a couple of weeks at bedtime. I have a young baby so my reading time is short and in bursts and the novel form is not suited to my life at all! I wanted to savour the novel, I didn’t know when I would be getting writing from Kevin so I enjoyed every word, piece of dialogue and quirks along the way.
I mostly loved the book. The bits I didn’t still work. sometimes the narrative and dialogue went on when I had got the point but again, because he is one of my favourite authors, I allowed myself the pleasure of the overkill!
Beatlebone is a novel about the imagined return of John Lennon to an island he owned off the West Coast of Ireland. He strikes up a brilliantly hilarious friendship with his chauffeur, Cornelius and we get some spot-on dialogue. Dialogue is and will always be Kevin’s strong point. I never tire of it, it can on for pages and I immerse myself in the way Kevin gets Ireland and the way we speak. Cornelius’s job is to keep John Lennon from the clutches of the press until he reaches the island. He brings him to an awfully, depressing and sad hotel in Mulranny. I hated the characters in this section. Yuck. I also hated the constant drug references and the scary “Primal Scream” therapy they undertake.
I have read a couple of reviews since and they all have varying opinions. Some are “shocked” by the turn in the novel. The turn I am speaking about is when after all the above drug taking and scream therapy, Kevin takes over the novel for one chapter. He tells us how he wrote the book, why and all about his research and how he even stays on the island. I don’t believe a word of it though I believed it all at the same time!
Kevin shows his ability to change tone and voice so easily it makes me feel sick and jealous. But, this probably was my favourite quirk of the novel. Other readers have not quite “got it” and claim it just doesn’t fit and that a novel can’t do this. Well, guess what? It does work and you can do anything you feel like and it is good to see a push in the writing, not only in this section but throughout. Kevin switches and plays with form and language throughout. Each section taking on a different atmosphere and style. Choose from a selection-a semi-Joycean monologue with no punctuation, a screenplay of the screen therapy session or an auto-biographical section in the feel of “On Writing” by Stephen King.
I felt that this book despite its moves and sways is more accessible than City of Bohane but accessible does not mean bad. A good book or story needs to be accessible, entertaining, witty and quirky. And Beatlebone hits all the notes perfectly for me. the only question I have left for Kevin is what happened on the island? Did he stay there, did he go at all? I’m from the West of Ireland certainly all that could have happened to him was a bit of cold, rain and wind. But that is the beauty of this novel. It may or may not have happened. Respect.
Beatlebone is published by Canongate and is really worth a go.
This is our fourth year attending the festival and 2015 was very much the same as every other year, which is lovely and pleasant, by the way!
I only booked for one show, the Kevin Barry and Tommy Tiernan interview. It was billed as a rambling of sorts and I do not enjoy the ramblings of Tommy Tiernan and I could not imagine Kevin rambling. I was afraid it would not work and make poor Kevin all embarrassed and stuff. I was afraid Tommy would “diss” Kevin and make the hour all about him and his “comedic” episodes.
It actually worked, although the first few minutes were tense as Tommy, indeed, did try to slag Kevin but Kevin did not allow himself to get involved in the stereotypical slagging of literary folk and events. Kevin was funnier than Tommy yet Tommy was very funny too. They had a natural chemistry and it left me thinking that perhaps Tommy Tiernan should be writing short stories too!
After this, Kevin read from his upcoming, new novel Beatlebone, due this Autumn. I am going to be honest. I was not hooked with what I heard but I will buy and read, of course and have no doubt it will be excellent and brilliant.
The book tent was full of many delectable books, I bought the new books by Anne Enright, The Green Road, and Belinda Mc Keon, Tender. Tender is, so far, very interesting and I will be posting my thoughts on it soon.
We brought a picnic with far too much food, we also enjoyed the excellent organic coffee there, with garlic and cheese home fries, which were most yum.
Things are different now, before we had Emrys, we would go all weekend and lounge about from morning to night, reading, writing, chatting and eating. This time, Borris was shorter but as lovely with our baby boy. He enjoyed crawling on the pebbles and trying to eat them. We will allow him to go again next year so.
It’s been amazing how busy my year has been. From hanging and learning at writing festivals and workshops to attending launches and lots and lots of reading and reviews in between.
I’m going to start right back at the start of 2013. Yes, you’ve guess it. I’m starting my rozz.ie review of 2013 in… January
My Christmas present from my husband was a holiday to the city of Bath from. I was looking forward to lots of reading! We stayed in a gorgeous country house hotel up in the hills above the city. During the day, we saw the Jane Austen Museum, the Roman Baths and spent too much money in Mrs B’s Reading Emporium-the most fabulous of fabulous bookshops. I got a great recommendation there for a three-part novella/short story collection by Italian author, Pietro Grossi. I devoured it and reviewed “Fists” on the blog. Back at home, The National Emerging Writers’ Programme released a set of DVDs in conjunction with writing.ie. February
A Rozzie became ill and Simon attended the Dalkey Book Festival by himself. He treated me to the anthology of very cool and diverse anthology “Best European Fiction 2012” and I promptly gave it a thumbs up and a glowing review on the blog. You have to be nice. March
There was an obsession on my blog with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize 2013. I downloaded the 5 short stories and loved, loved, loved Mark Hadden’s “The Gun”. I predicted it would win but Junot Diaz’s “Miss Lora” scooped the prize. I liked it but didn’t love it. Not to worry, Mark, there’s always next year. April
My favourite Lit Crush, Kevin Barry won the IMPAC Prize of €100,000. April was also a month for winning with the Hennessey Literary award for Best Emerging Fiction went to a short story, “Shelley” by John O’ Donnell. That story certainty stayed with me.
I also got out and about and attended Dave Lordan’s launch of his new book entitled “First Book of Frags” I really enjoyed the frags, a unique mix of full-sugar calorie, Dave-style and proud. His launch was open and fun, ending in an Open Mic where I read a short piece. May
We saw the beginnings of the festivals that cover Ireland for the summer months with the Dublin Writers’ Festival and I applied for a masterclass with Colum Mc Cann. He handled the packed class of students well and was a chilled out performer.
2013 really was Kevin Barry’s year(Every year is?) and in May, he edited the “Town and Country” short story anthology. I was torn with trying to get to my nephew’s communion in Mayo and going to the launch in Dublin. In the end, after a public vote, I got to both. In heels. June
It was a month of reviews for rozz.ie and I reviewed “The story of before” by Susan Stairs, “Bloodlines” by Joyce Russell and “Telemetale”, anthology put together by the Irish Writers’ Centre to commemorate Bloomsday.
June was also jam-packed with events. The Carlow Writers’ Cooperative published and launched their own anthology, “What Champagne Was Like” and I had two shorts featured within. The very lovely Jamie O’ Connell launched it for us. We raised over €1,100 and were pretty proud.
I also checked out the brilliant Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris House. We had Ben Okri, PJ Harvey, Anne Enright and Donal Ryan to name a few. Hugo Jellett, the organiser has created the top literary festival with a unique setting. A must for any reader or writer. Honestly. It finished off a pretty brilliant Carlow Arts Festival. We are lucky. You should be jealous of Carlow. July
This month is always the month of the West Cork Literary Festival and we headed off to Bantry again. I sat a week-long workshops with John McKenna and it involved lots of movement and chat and homework! The week flew. My highlight of the festival events was Deborah Levy, reading from her cute book “Things we don’t want to know” and “Black Vodka”, both of which I loved and reviewed on rozz.ie
A historian friend( you know who you are) dragged us to the surprisingly cool History Festival in Ireland in Duckett’s Grove, Carlow. We saw “The Great Hunger”, Patrick Kavanagh’s one-man play. It was excellent and we followed it up with an event with Nicky Byrne. He of former Westlife. Turtle Banbury, the host interviewed him well and Nicky told us everything he had found out about his family history in the archives.
I also volunteered for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and sat in on Ron Rash, Kevin Barry(whoop!), Paula Meehan and a evocative and moving performance of the river voice in Finnegan’s Wake in “Riverrun”
I also somehow got the chance to review David Constantine’s new short story collection, “Tea at the Midlands”. Loved. September
This month was the result of a summer holiday of reading with lots of reviews. I reviewed “Siege 13”, “Testament of Mary” and “The Herbalist”. Carlow Libraries gave us the annual Penfest Literary Festival and I caught up with Nuala Ni Chonchuir and she shared her wisdom on the short story. Kevin Barry arrived in Carlow and he read and chatted about his writing life. He revealed he was heading out of Ireland for a while but he will return. Phew! October
It was all about the literary magazine. Bohemyth announced its new editor, Michael Naughten-Shanks. Wordlegs magazine announced they wouldn’t be around forever and Dave Lordan et announced a new magazine, Colony. Coming soon!
I reviewed the very cool “Psychotic Episodes” by Alan Mc Gonagle and Simon reviewed the novel “Mount Merrion” purely because he loves Justin Quinn.
rozz.ie was longlisted for “Best Arts and Culture” blog and I attended the awards ceremony in style, dressed up as a flapper girl.
New Planet Cabaret anthology was launched by editor, Dave Lordan. Him again! We attended the launch which was recorded live on RTE radio 1 Arena show. December
It was festive with an entertaining night in Cafe Formenti, Carlow Town. John Mc Kenna and Angela Keogh hosted the event and we were treated to mince pies, turkey and cranberry balls and sweet potato and cinnamon fritters alongside readings and music. It inspired me to host my own Open Mic. Readers were asked to read, rant, sing for 5 minutes on the theme of Yuletide. Loosely. Madeline from the Tearooms gave us her new popup tea rooms as a venue and it was wonderfully festive and sweet!
The last month of 2013 was finished off with a review of Ron Rash’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and much anticipated “Young Skins” by modest man, Colin Barrett. Hyped up but fully deserved. I was sad when I finished it. Colin had one of his stories nominated for the Bord Gáis Short Story of the Year award but he lost out.
The last few days of my 2013 are being spent reading Carve Magazine and looking forward to writing some new reviews to come in the shape of “The thing about December” by Donal Ryan and “Baracuda” by Christos Tsiolkas.
Life is good and rozz.ie is a busy, little blog! I’ve hoped you enjoyed the year with me and it’s given you some inspiration to get reading, it really is the new black. Happy New Year!