My next edit for “Claddagh Pool” will be a screenplay. The movie rights will be available.
Anne: Claire Danes.
Conor: Colin Farrell.
What do you think?
Denis.Add a Comment
My next edit for “Claddagh Pool” will be a screenplay. The movie rights will be available.
Anne: Claire Danes.
Conor: Colin Farrell.
What do you think?
Denis.Add a Comment
I almost missed reading this book. Published in 2009 it has only just been releases here. I was reluctant to pick it up because “debut thriller of the year” gets thrown around a far bit and I am very skeptical. However in the case of THE TWELVE it is not marketing or publicity that has come up with the statement because it is more than true. This is not just one of the best thriller debuts of the last ten years; it is one of the best thrillers of the last ten years full stop.
THE TWELVE blends together seamlessly some of my favourite elements of crime fiction. It is political (without choosing sides), it is violent, it has heart and it is wickedly funny in places. It also reminds me of some of my favourite authors while being completely original. While reading the book Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen and the DEXTER series all came to mind as well as the film THE DEPARTED and the TV series RESCUE ME.
The main character of the book is Gerry Fegan, an ex-IRA hit man who has just done a 9 and a half year stretch in Maze prison. Prison has changed him but not like you would think. Gerry is haunted by the crimes he has committed, literally. He is followed by twelve ghosts of people he has killed. He can see, hear and feel the ghosts all the time and they will not let him sleep. Even whiskey doesn’t help and Gerry is seen as a crazy drunk who talk to himself all day.
Gerry tries confessing to one of his victim’s relatives in an effort to free himself from these unwanted spirits but that only get him into trouble with his old bosses. But that’s when he finds out what his ghost want him to do, they want revenge. As Gerry counts down his ghosts, his actions threaten to tear apart Northern Ireland’s new found peace. This means he must be stopped, making this one hell of an explosive thriller.
OK so I thought THE TWELVE was freakin’ awesome but COLLUSION takes it up another notch. The now ghost-less (but still haunted) Gerry Fegan has escaped Northern Ireland to New York but his trail of destruction and its consequences still reverberates around Belfast. Interestingly Gerry takes a backseat in this book. We’re introduced to Detective Inspector Jack Lennon (who happens to be the briefly mentioned ex-girlfriend of one of THE TWELVE’s main characters) and we meet an even more twisted hitman known as The Traveller.
I love when a series follows a non- linear path and at first you think COLLUSION is a Jack Lennon novel. But one of Lennon’s cases has links to what happened in THE TWELVE and when he learns his ex-girlfriend and estranged daughter were somehow involved he is determined to find out what happened. When those that survived THE TWELVE start turning up dead Lennon is put on a collision course with The Traveller who has been cleaning up loose ends.
The action is again incredible and the twists are devilish. With a title like COLLUSION you have no idea which side anyone is really on. All the elements that made THE TWELVE great are still here and I am still trying to catch my breath after the ending. Seriously if you love action/thrillers you HAVE to read Stuart Neville.
Jack Lennon again features and he is trying to balance the pieces if his life that are left in the aftermath of the last book. But the central character is Galya, an illegal immigrant from The Ukraine who has been deceived into coming to Ireland for work but the job she has been ‘sold’ into is not what she signed up for.
STOLEN SOULS is in essence a chase novel. The book opens with Galya having just killed a ‘client’. Unfortunately the ‘client’ is the brother of a very important and ruthless man. She must now out run his revenge but ends up jumping out of the fry pan into a very vicious fire.
Meanwhile Jack is left to clean up the trail of destruction and try and figure out what is going on. Neville again mixes up unpredictable action with both flawed and despicable characters. Get on the Stuart Neville bandwagon now because this guy is going to be huge.
and don’t miss the new book in the series, The Final Silence out July 17Add a Comment
Irish filmmaker Alan Holly's "Coda"was the grand prize winner at Fest Anča, which wrapped up last Sunday in Žilina, Slovakia.Add a Comment
Finally there is a new Pope who seems to want to take responsibility for the clerical abuses over the last few years. This is a huge step toward healing the horrific wounds inflicted by some members of the clergy on the innocents . He totally gets my vote.
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A great RTE production about rivers in Ireland.
My river: The Slaney.
Watch it here. http://www.rte.ie/player/us/show/10286116/
Denis.Add a Comment
Summer morning dawns softly with a low salty fog. A quietly rolling sea feels the misty clouds floating above its spirited waves.
Kilmore Quay, a small fishing village tucked away on the southeast corner of Ireland begins another day of sea life. Early risen fishermen move slowly down the pier, their mumbled words mixing melancholy in the morning air. They climb on board the sturdy trawler. Its decks still wet with drops of Irish dew.
Exhaust stacks billow thick clouds of unburnt fuel as Deidre’s big diesels cough to life and the day begins. Nets are readied on deck with orange buoys lined up like runners preparing for a race. The radios crackles into the still air and words break free, understood only by a chosen few native speakers. Yes, the southeast of Ireland still has some Irish left. The language of old, used to hinder competitive fishermen from France or Britain in their search for herring in European waters.
One by one the salty steeds glide slowly past the end of the breakwater out into the open sea. Looking southeast, the Great Saltee Island rears its rocky shape and below it the Little Saltee, with its tribes of puffins and avian divers preparing for another day of fishing.
Skipper Blake’s Deidre, steers northeast with diesels pounding in her belly. There are miles to go before the huge net will be dropped into the deep. A gas stove swinging in its gimbals springs to life as rashers hit a hot pan and eggs crack and sizzle, sending wafts of bacon scent throughout the boat. The crew settles down for an early meal together, as voices discuss the day stretching on before them.
Morning sun has burned away the fog as great sea birds wheel and squeal above the slowly moving swells. It is time to set the net. Blake charts the course, checks the depth and gives the order, “Let her go.”
Giant mounds of orange mesh roll like waves over the rounded transom and are sucked below the waves. Orange buoys line up on left and right. Well-worn otter boards fall out and take the strain. The creaking steel cables tighten and the net is set. Nothing to do now, but wait.
The twin diesels take the load and plough ahead. Deidre points northward up the Irish Sea, her well-worn props push towards fish and bigger seas. The waiting crew stands ready to man the winches and prepare the icy hold below. Some gaze north in anticipation of weather and wealth, while others go below to finish up some goey eggs with a piece of toasted soda bread.
Blake watches the sonar as he guides his big Norwegian vessel towards a blue cloud on his blurry screen. Twisted cables groan; black smoke pours out of the two blue stacks. The herring have hit. The orange net strains, capturing a shivering school and makes Deidre’s diesels earn their keep. Seagulls swarm aloft in the salty air crying for the haul to come aboard. The radio crackles. Other skippers have seen the bird-cloud. The chase begins. Keep the Frenchmen and the British out.
Deidre’s crew grabs the winch controls and the cables begin to turn. Otter boards are stowed, and the orange net crawls back over the stern. Orange buoys now form a circle on the heaving sea, as churning fish cut the surface with their sharp fins. Knotted net is hoisted high, dripping with silver wriggling shapes and black shiny eyes. The release is pulled and herring pour onto the deck to slither below into their icy tomb. The catch is huge. Skipper Blake shouts to his crew, “Let’s do it again lads!” Salty green water splashes on the scaly deck as the hustling crew sets the net back into the deep. The scope on the bridge reveals more clouds of herring and Deidre’s net hits the mother lode again. Her winches pull another load of wriggling life towards the surface and the waiting crew.
The late evening swells push Deidre, now laden with her load, southward past Tuskar Rock. Its lighthouse white and sentry-like, flashing twice to warn of rocky reefs below. The setting sun sinks over the great back of Ireland and lights snap on below deck. Blake steers his prize homeward, with tired crew and holds bursting with the silver haul.
White and red markers appear to starboard. The heading is set. Deidre makes her run over ancient reefs, past kelp weeds swinging languidly in the evening tide. The muffled sound of her diesels echoes between the walls as she rounds the tightly stacked stones to tie up at the waiting bollards. Blake snugs her next to the wall as guiding hands make fast the mooring lines.
Her crew pumps the herring from her hold through a large tube, sending it down the pier to the holding tanks at the fish plant. The great hoard disappears as the hold is emptied and washed out ready for the next occupants.
In the dying light tired legs walk slowly down the pier and toward the lights of Sutton’s pub. Another Deidre’s day at sea makes for stories at the bar where salty hands wrap their day around some well-earned pints.
© Denis Hearn. 2010
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What next? Another Catholic Church scandal with government involvement.
RTE Report Link: http://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0610/622730-cabinet-meet-babies/
I don’t think its possible to have an independent inquiry in Ireland. The government and the church are one and the same.Add a Comment
Girlfriend's admirable yet futile attempt to re-enact the moment where she loses her keys, for one of my endless and futile attempts at making a short animated film.Add a Comment
So here are the top superheroes behind one of the best book festivals I've ever been to! Meet Tom Donegan and Sarah Webb, Ireland's ultimate dream team:
The sun was shining bright and Dun Laoghaire (pronounced 'dun LEER-y'), just next to Dublin, felt like being on the Mediterranean riviera. And I got to hang out with one of my best friends, writer Philip Reeve! We strolled along the promenade with Irish filmmaker Frank Kelly, who kindly agreed to take this author photo for the book I'm working on with Philip right now, Oliver and the Seawigs. My studio mate, Gary, just looked over my shoulder and said I look like a mermaid, so that's perfect.
On the first evening, Tom and Sarah took me for dinner with Philip, writer Marcus Sedgwick and top librarian Dr Marian Thérèse Keyes, who took the photo.
After dinner, Marcus, Philip and I went along to hear Sarah Webb talk about her book and writing, along with lots of other writers for adults and young adults, including Cathy Kelly, Katie Fforde, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, Sinéad Moriarty and Marita Conlon-McKenna. Our dinner had run overtime a bit, so we were sitting way, way in the back and couldn't see all that much. The panel gave a great talk, but the three of us were quite jolly from dinner and I made stupid drawings of us.
The next morning, Philip and I did a big MONSTERS & GOBLINS stage event, in front of something like 300 kids. It was loads of fun! Here's Philip with a miniature version of a bratapult, a weapon of war which plays quite a key part in his Goblins book. In fact, his main character spends something like two chapters falling after being hurtled from such a device. We fired goblins into the audience to make some merry chaos.
At two different events, we introduced ourselves while the other person drew an attractive portrait. We weren't allowed to look at our portrait until it was finished. You can get a glimpse over my shoulder here of Philip's drawing of me, which set the kids in the audience absolutely howling.
I grossed out the kids with a reading from Morris the Mankiest Monster and then the kids helped us invent new monsters, and Philip and I took turns drawing how we thought some of the characters in Goblins might look, including Trolls and Boglins. Here's Philip's Boglin.
Then we turned the kids into a tribe of goblins by having them each design a goblin face.
It was fun seeing the kids' work when they came up to get their books signed.
As ever, I can't post photos of the schoolchildren's faces, which is a shame, but they look quite nice with books for heads.
After the show, we recorded an interview for national television, RTE2's Elev8 programme (the same show Gary Northfield and I took part in a couple years ago, which you can see here). It'll go live in the show's next season, probably some time in October. Here are camera crew Elaine Buckley, Julian Hills and Orla Morris-Toolen.
Orla (in the polka-dot dress) was an amazing interviewer; the camera crew would ask her to do something a bit different, and she'd quickly think about it and come up with a good way to ask us a question that fitted in well with the flow of the programme. Not many kids can think on their feet as calmly as that, I was really impressed.
Later on in the festival, I ran into Moldovan Elev8 presenter Diana Bunici, who'd interviewed Gary and me last time. You can follow her on Twitter as @DeeBTweets and read her blog here.
And here's the fabulous illustration exhibition Tom Donegan put together in the County Hall! Scholastic UK let the festival have sneak peeks at two spreads in my new book, Superkid with Claire Freedman, coming out next spring. Here they are, printed up large:
Both times Philip and I had some time off, we took the chance to stroll along the beautiful Dun Laoghaire harbour. Philip took a photo of me in front of this big sea urchin sculpture and said I looked like something painted on the front of a B-52, the thought of which pleases me to no end.
You can just about see the James Joyce Tower in the background. I really should know what this is. *Makes note to self to try to get into Ulysses again, despite several failed attempts*
And here's some of the jolly gang from Children's Books Ireland! Mags Walsh, Jenny Murray (and Aoife (pronounced 'EEF-ah') Murray arrived a bit later); bookseller and blogger Kim Harte, can someone remind me who that nice gentleman is?, and Tom.
The next day, Philip and I led a Comics Jam workshop in the lovely posh yacht club, with about 20 kids.
We started out by talking about character design. Here's one Philip drew:
And a kid's drawing. Isn't it fabulous?
Then we took our characters and put them into a comics story. Here's one Philip and I bashed out at great speed, taking turns with each panel, with story material based on suggestions from the kids.
Then we set the kids off on their Comics Jam!
They had five minutes to draw a panel, then everyone passed their papers to the next person and for the next five minutes in the second panel, took up the new story where their neighbour had left off.
And so on, passing every five minutes until the four panels were filled.
At the end of 20 minutes, they had some great results. Here's one that made us laugh.
One of the cool things about doing events is meeting kids who are really stuck into comics already. Here's Finn, who brought along his notebook to show us and will obviously be an awesome comics artist if he keeps working as hard as he's doing now.
I was thrilled to see he'd been studying my favourite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. Copying is a great way to learn in detail how another artist works, and I remember copying pages and pages of Archie comics when I was his age.
And he's coming up with great stuff of his own! Philip laughed and pointed out this Will-You-Need-a-Gas-Mask-o-Meter.
You can definitely see the influence of other comics on Finn's work, and it's great to see how he's exploring them and starting to add his own creative elements. Look out for this guy, he made be making appearances at small press comics fairs in the next few years.
After our comics jam, we met up with lots of other writers on the yacht club deck to go for the Monster Book Lunch. I didn't get to talk with them as much as I would have liked to, but that's Claire Hennessey on the left (whom I hardly got to meet), someone (can anyone tell me who?) in the middle who I didn't really get to meet at all, and Judi Curtin, with whom I chatted briefly and is really lovely. Apparently her books are as popular in Ireland as Jacqueline Wilson's books are in England, so look out, English people, you might be seeing more of this lady.
When I walked into the lovely banquet room, I was kind of expecting the table I was sharing with Philip Reeve to be packed with girls in tea party dresses. And most of the tables were like this, except ours, which was entirely seated with ROWDY BOYS. Ha ha! They were gentlemen enough to warn me not to drink the squash, which had salt and pepper added to it.
At most tables, the esteemed writers were having gracious conversations with their table mates, but that wasn't going to happen at ours. Instead we played a Monster Consequences game, and made some pretty awesome creatures.
It was loads of fun meeting kids who already knew my work, including Shauna here, who was a huge fan and sent me a lovely e-mail which I read on my phone at the airport on the way home.
Here's our marvellous bookseller for the festival, the ever-energetic Bob Jonstone, who runs The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin's Temple Bar area. His shop's been getting lots of publicity and winning loads of awards recently, and he and his team ran the whole book sales side of things completely smoothly. Thanks, Bob!
I left the Monster Book Lunch a bit early to do another Comics Jam workshop for older kids than the first one I'd done with Philip. Finn was there, but the rest were teenagers and a couple adults. They'd come to hear Steve Simpson give a talk on Superhero Illustration, but he had a family emergency, and the people at the workshop were great about letting me step in. Here are a couple of the Comics Jam results:
Meanwhile Philip Reeve was getting ready to go on a panel with writer Michelle Harrison, and I managed to dash in to listen, just as they were getting going.
The panel was a project for the three girls interviewing Michelle and Philip. They'd had the chance to choose writers they'd like to interview, get them invited to the festival, and spend quite a lot of time preparing for the interview. They knew the writers' books well, and were able to ask some great questions.
I was interested to find out that, like Philip, Michelle also does some illustration (as does Marcus Sedgwick, whom I mentioned earlier). And both she and Philip were very influenced by the early work of Brian Froud, who designed the looks for The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth films. Michelle writes a lot of horror stuff, and read from her recent book, Unrest, inspired by the sleep disorders she's encountered in people she knows. Here's the trailer video, and you can find out more over on her website.
Here's the fab panel, being VERY SCARED.
Or is that speakers being VERY SCARY?
One of the great things about Mountains to Sea is that the festival's all within walking distance and everyone stays at the same place. So we were always bumping into people, including the writer Eoin Colfer (creator of Artemis Fowl), who wasn't even taking part in the festival this year!
Here's the Royal Marine Hotel, a lovely Victorian candybox of a place:
I got to sit across from Michelle at dinner, and meet writer Robert Muchamore. I didn't really know Robert's work, but he's the writer of the Cherub graphic novels, which my friend John Aggs illustrates, so it was great to meet him. Michelle (@MHarrison13) tweeted: Sat next to @RobertMuchamore at dinner earlier. He threw olives at me and pulled my hair. ...I think I will say nothing about that.
The next day, writer-illustrator Chris Judge and I went to the People's Park to take part in the Picture Book Picnic. I'd met Chris once before, at the festival at Tales on Moon Lane, but I'd been so busy keeping my group of kids from dumping paint on the bookshop floor that I didn't have much time to see him in action.
Here I am, reading from You Can't Scare a Princess.
Chris did a great job reading from The Lonely Beast and The Great Explorer and getting the kids to respond.
It was so obvious that all the kids, parents, festival volunteers, everyone, really love him. That's something so nice I'm noticing about Ireland. They don't have a huge home-grown publishing scene, but those they do have, they really get to know and cherish them. I really like that.
We both did some drawing with the kids. Here's Chris showing us how to draw the walrus from his book.
So many kids showed up that some of them had to share clip boards. I love this photo.
And this one, too. The team of volunteers was brilliant. And can I just say that if I was making an epic action film, I would want to cast this awesome-looking one in the lead role? This is designer-illustrator Simone Crowley and I spent some of the picnic admiring her and her tattoos from afar.
And one more photo with Chris. The weeping willow in the Secret Garden section of the park made for a wonderfully atmospheric storybook kind of place.
After the picnic, Tom and a lovely volunteer named Jenny hustled me off to County Hall for The Big Picture Panel Discussion with Chris, Inis magazine editor David Maybury and David Mackintosh.
No event involving the whirlwind that is David Maybury can be anything other than terribly exciting, and this panel was no exception. The best part for me was finding out about David Mackintosh's work. I'd never even heard of him, but his books are SO beautiful.
David's now London-based, but he was born in Belfast and grew up in Australia. And he worked as a graphic designer before moving into making his own picture books. And you can really tell: his understanding of typography, colour, how to use space on the page is exceptional.
I'm already such a fangirl. Here's the dedication in one of the books I bought:
Aren't these pictures the best thing ever?
I talked a bit about self-publishing during the panel, and at the end, two members of the audience came up and gave me copies of their self-published books, The Enlightened Light Bulb Boy by Dublin-based Brazilian illustrator Tarsila Krüse and the Yum! Yum! Recipe Booklet by Tarsila and her friend Paula McGloin.
Googling their names, I saw their blog post about the annual Dublin Zine Fair, which looks like something worth visiting or taking part in if you're in town.
After the panel, CBI's Jenny Murray set me up for my interview for Inis magazine with Cethan Leahy, and we had a good chat.
Then it was time to go home. Jenny whisked me off for a late lunch at the bagel place, then I got a festival taxi to the airport with Philip's agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith, and Sara Wingate Gray, who runs The Itinerant Poetry Library. Philippa and I listened, enthralled, to all the stuff Sara's been getting up to with her suitcase of poetry books, providing her 'guerilla public library service'. She was one of the first librarians to know about Twitter, which you can guess from her succinct Twitter name, @Librarian. I mentioned Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile and short story Moths of the New World, and we decided that Sara had probably crawled out of the pages of one of those books before they were even written.
Oh, and this is my lovely new companion, a 'zonk' which I have named Webbster Donegan. She loves flying, even though her wings aren't terribly aerodynamic.
I was sad to leave. Someone tweeted a Dr Seuss quotation during the Paralympic Closing Ceremony that evening - 'Don't be sad it's over. Be glad it happened.' - and I thought that was a good way to look at it.
Goodbye, Ireland! An enormous thanks to Tom, Sarah, Marian, David, Jenny, Philip, CBI, Bob, Orla, the team of volunteers, and loads more people who made this festival such a wonderful experience.
I feel like sleeping for a week now, and I'm sure the festival team do, too, but wow. That was amazing.
For many people the terms Ulster, Northern Ireland, and ‘the North’ conjure up images of communal conflict, sectarianism, and peace processes of indefinite duration. More than 3,500 people were killed in the national, communal and sectarian conflict that engulfed Northern Ireland between 1969 and Easter 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Tens of thousands were injured or maimed, while sporadic acts of political violence persist to this day.
The near-present is a powerful influence on how we view the past. Yet, in many respects, these blood-spattered years serve to distort our understanding of the lived experience of people in Ulster from 1700 onwards. True enough, this was an ethnically-divided society, but one characterised by complexities, ambiguities, contrariness and the unexpected. Above all, it is necessary to appreciate that violence was not the dominant motif in most time periods in recent centuries.
In 1600, Ulster was a thinly populated, economically backward region. By 1900, without the benefit of local coal or iron, the Belfast region had emerged as a significant industrial and commercial centre in western Europe. This social and economic dynamism was based, first, on linen textiles and later on shipbuilding and engineering. Elsewhere in Ulster, more traditional but vigorous small-farming enterprises predominated.
The story of Ulster since 1600 is one of dramatic transformation, in which immigrant entrepreneurs and workers played a vital role. Moreover, in terms of economic geography and social networks, east Ulster was well placed to benefit from the English and Scottish industrial revolutions. In fact, the north east of Ireland was the only part of the island of Ireland to experience modern industrialisation and urbanisation on a major scale. By the time of political independence in ‘southern’ Ireland, Belfast stood out as Ireland’s only industrial city.
But here is one of the many paradoxes. Despite these modernising tendencies, Belfast and the lesser towns of Ulster incubated and perpetuated forms of politico-religious conflict that have outlived similar tendencies that were once characteristic of many parts of western Europe.
There are other paradoxes. The economic trajectory of Ulster in the eighteenth century, though marred by periodic crises, was generally upwards. Yet the province of Ulster experienced higher levels of emigration, particularly to North America, than any of the other Irish provinces. These emigrants, Presbyterians in the main, went on to forge other lives in the New World. A disproportionate number were involved on the insurgents’ side in the American war of independence. At home, a minority of Presbyterians were active in the radical United Irishmen, seeking reform of the Anglican and landlord-dominated Irish political system.
Presbyterian radicalism took a new turn in the following century, focusing on reform of the landlord and tenant system and local government, but within the framework of the Union of Britain and Ireland. The industrial success of east Ulster in turn served to solidify support for the Union, among Protestant workers as well as captains of industry, aided by a resurgent Orange Order. The comparative underdevelopment of the south and west of Ireland provided ideological justification for emerging Irish nationalist and Catholic opposition to the Union. It is significant, though, that members of the Catholic working class in Belfast, Derry and Newry were not swayed by economic arguments. In conjunction with their co-religionists, they sought Home Rule and later political independence for all of Ireland.
The partition of the island in 1920-21, with six of the original nine Ulster counties forming the new statelet of Northern Ireland, was a major source of grievance to Irish nationalists, North and South. Yet much of social and cultural life proceeded as before – arguably the continuities were as important as the discontinuities – though the heat and invective of political partisanship was sometimes imported into activities as diverse as sport, schooling and language revival.
The formative phase in the making of modern Ulster was undoubtedly during the Plantation of Ulster. But maybe Ulster was a place apart, even before then, as Estyn Evans has suggested? Indeed has the distinctiveness of Ulster in recent centuries been overstated, as some others have suggested? These, and many other questions, find at least partial answers within the pages of Ulster Since 1600.
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Philip Ollerenshaw is Reader in History at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He is the author or editor of several books on economic, financial, and urban history, including Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy, and Society (co-edited with Liam Kennedy; OUP, 2012) .
There had been rumours for months. When Dublin’s Abbey Theatre announced that John Millington Synge’s new play The Playboy of the Western World would be produced on Saturday, 26 January 1907, all were on alert. Controversy had followed Synge since the production of his first Wicklow play, The Shadow of the Glen, in which a bold, young, and lonely woman leaves a loveless May/December marriage to go off with a fine-talking Tramp who rhapsodizes over the freedom of the roads. Irish women wouldn’t do that!
In The Playboy the action takes place in a public house on the wild coast of Mayo, when a travel-stained stranger enters and is persuaded to tell his story. Impressed, the admiring on-stage audience thinks he must be very brave indeed to have killed his father, and in turn the young tramp blossoms into the daring rollicking hero they believe him to be – winning all the prizes at the races and the love of the publican’s daughter. But then his father, with a bandaged head, turns up seeking his worthless son who is not the courageous father-slayer after all. Disillusioned and angry at the loss of their hero, the onstage crowd turns brutally on Christy, who tries to prove that he is indeed capable of savage deeds, even attempting unsuccessfully to kill his father a third time. The play ends with father and son leaving together, dismissing the onstage audience with the words “Shut yer yelling for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth”.The offstage audience, thrown off guard by the comedy of the opening scenes, erupted at the word “shifts” (a woman’s chemise) in the third act. Some were outraged by the intimation that not all Irish girls were pure or holy, others were shocked by the strong (and strange) language. All were doubtless bewildered by finding themselves laughing as church and the law are banished from a world eager for a hero, charmed by the language and the love story, then challenged again when the tale threatens to invade reality. Synge and his colleagues were in turn accused of “playing” with a nation’s ideals. The riots continued for almost a week. Yeats, eager to champion the rights of the artist, exacerbated matters by calling in the local police, and Dublin and beyond were agog with press reports of the playacting on stage at night and in the courts by day. The actors loyally performed in dumb show until the play at last had a full hearing. But even they were not always comfortable with the control exerted by the playwright through language and gesture, sometimes in their confusion making matters worse by causing their actions and speeches to be more realistic. And who could blame them?
Yet the playwright does not seem to have been aware of the response his play would cause, insisting that it was merely a comedy, an “extravaganza”, meant to entertain, and that “the story — in its ESSENCE — is probable, given the psychic state of the locality.” Not to this audience, who charged him with immorality, obscenity and blasphemy, “a sordid, squalid and repulsive picture of Irish life and character”, making a hero of “a foul-mouthed scoundrel and parricide”.
For three years Synge had painstakingly developed his original idea, producing more than a thousand typescript pages, drafts and scenarios, all the way to draft “K” before he finally hit on the brilliantly ambiguous final form. For a “playboy” may be an athlete, performer, seducer, trickster, manipulator, creator, hero, or all of the above; while “the western world” might refer to County Mayo, to the United States, or to this world as contrasted with that “eastern world” of folk and fairy tales — or to all. “What a blessing you did not go to version L, if Version K had such a disastrous effect!” a friend commented in the turbulent months that followed.
Like Christy’s own tale of slaying his Da, the story of his injuries to Ireland’s good name continued to grow with the years. When the Abbey theatre took the play on tour to the United States, the clash between the idea of a pure nationhood cherished by Irish immigrants and what they saw on stage was even more pronounced. In New York missiles were thrown on the stage, and a hundred police attempted to keep order. Lady Gregory, who led the tour, received death threats; Theodore Roosevelt’s presence at the second performance ensured a more sedate reception. But when the company arrived in Philadelphia all hell broke loose, and the players were hauled into court by an Irish-American patriot who accused the company and the play of indecency. The case was dismissed when the judge learned that the accusers had not read the text.
In the theatre individual response to what is clearly not real can quickly become an excuse for objecting to what is perceived to be real. Audiences have always felt justified in expressing their disapproval of what is staged, or attempted to be staged. In 18th century London theatre managers petitioned the King for a guard of soldiers; one manager engaged thirty prize-fighters as well. Destruction of scenery, benches and even musical instruments was all too common when the audience felt cheated; often foreign performers were pelted with rotten fruit and other missiles (and told to go home).
Patriotism was perhaps the most frequent cause, especially in Ireland where the stage Irishman, created by English dramatists, was a subject of mockery and ridicule, and where class, nationalism, and religion were inextricably entwined. In 1907 however the disturbance was premeditated, with members of the audience carrying in stink bombs, rotten vegetables, trumpets, whistles, and other paraphernalia. There was clearly an organized cabal determined to silence a work which is now considered a masterpiece of comedy, performed throughout the world and recently the centrepiece of a world tour.
Would such events happen today? We are much more accustomed to onstage violence; but censorship is still very much with us. Synge suggests that to hold a dream is better than to live with caution; the outsider serves to perpetuate the myth-making process while at the same time challenging it, introducing a heightened self-awareness which embraces community on both sides of the footlights. Thus the audience is caught off-guard, encouraged to enter the world of fantasy, then betrayed by a reality of a different sort — the dream itself can threaten if fulfilled; we are briefly dangled above two worlds at once.
Ann Saddlemyer has published extensively on Irish and Canadian theatre and edited the plays of Lady Gregory and the letters between the founding Directors of the Abbey Theatre. Her book Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography. She has most recently edited W.B. Yeats and George Yeats: The Letters. She is the editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World and Other Plays.
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter and Facebook.
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Image credit: From the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Archive, Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Joyce was obsessed with birthdays. Today, February 2nd, is his. An emerging secular saint’s day, it will be remembered and alluded to round the world – especially in Dublin — in the corners of newspapers and pubs, in blogs (like this one), tweets and the odd talk. Born in 1882, Joyce’s cake — if he could have one, let alone eat it — would have a hundred and thirty one candles; a hundred years ago, therefore, he would have been celebrating his 31st birthday. The image of candles is suitable, since Joyce’s birthday fell on ‘Candlemas’, a holy day which commemorates Christ’s first appearance in a synagogue with his mother, forty days after his birth, in part by the lighting of candles. Mary was following the Mosaic law which says that, after giving birth, a mother is not clean for forty days, at which point she is to be purified through sacrifice.
‘Celebrating’, however, might be too strong a word: in 1913, Joyce was, artistically, in something of a lull, and life might well have been frustrating. He was teaching English in Trieste, with two small children, aged 5 and 7. He was struggling to get Dubliners past timid publishers and printers; A Portrait…, begun some nine years before, was unfinished; Ulysses was not yet begun. He was writing the odd bit of journalism, but the high artistic ambitions he had cherished as a young man had taken a battering. He’d spent his twenty-first in Paris, receiving a letter written by his father John Joyce, which he would carefully keep wherever he went:
My dear Jim, May I be permitted to offer you my best wishes for your future which I, at one time, fancied may have been more rosey on your attaining your majority [i.e becoming 21]… I hope you will beleive [sic] me that I am only now, under I may tell you, very trying times, endeavouring to do my little best, but Jim you are my eldest Son I have always looked up to your being a fitting representative of our family one that my father would be proud of. I now only hope that you may carry out his ideas through your life and if you do, you may be sure you will not do anything unbecoming a gentleman.
John Joyce, here and in general, was, like Simon Dedalus in Ulysses, strong and open in his expression of emotion. He is not the stereotypical cold and detached Victorian father. On the other hand, the complexity of his warmth borders on ambiguity, and its intensity must have brought some pressure to the young and, by all accounts, lonely Joyce: the father feels responsible for failing his son, but implies that his son was failing, or in danger of doing so; he seeks forgiveness while sending his son on a guilt trip; he says he looks up to him, while also establishing a role model in his own father, thus reaffirming the patriarchal hierarchy of genealogy. Self-pityingly unable to help materially, he adopts the role of civic mentor — urging him to behave like a gentleman, as Polonius did to Laertes when the latter was about to go to Paris (and its fleshpots). Larkin’s term for such ambivalence was ‘sloppy-stern’.
Birthdays may be a universal convention, but they are not universally liked. One pressure that birthdays bring is the inevitability, almost the duty, of self-reflection — a pressure which the Joyces, father and son, must have been aware of in 1903. The attention of others — fathers, mothers, friends, colleagues, wishing us well, presenting a gift, raising a glass — may exacerbate processes of self-examination and even pernicious comparison. Relative to where we were, or where we hoped to be, relative to our peers, or where our role models once were — where have we got to, or to what have we sunk? Birthdays are ciphers that multiply whatever condition we’re in. The potential trauma of birthdays repeats, perhaps compulsively, the trauma of the day of birth. The twitching nervous checking during labour of the condition of mother and child – how are they doing, what are their heart rates? — becomes a twitching nervous checking on birthdays of whether one has yet become oneself.
For an ambitious person, for someone intent on establishing a mythology of themselves, for someone superstitious, birthdays, especially their own, and other anniversaries are crucial. And so they were for Joyce, for these very reasons. He habitually made awkward deadlines for himself and his publishers, by wanting his books to appear on his birthday or, failing that, his father’s. The day on which Ulysses is set (itself the day of the troubled birth, though fictional, of Mortimer Edward Purefoy), is supposed to be the day of Joyce’s first date with Nora Barnacle, though their encounter is not in fact recorded in the fiction.
Through the cyclical repetition of dates, days become haunted, charged with the meaning of the events of the past, implicit in their dates: Armistice Day, Guy Fawkes, the Battle of the Boyne. The different calendars of the global village, now shared in multi-cultural societies, show the space of the year as an environment that is densely built up with official anniversaries which are the signs and the foundations of institutions, of nations, states, religions, organisations, movements.
Anniversaries seem inevitable because of the cycle of the year, but they are not guaranteed: different anniversaries can coincide on the same day, so that one feast day ousts another; secular festivals push out saints’ days. Joyce cheekily engineered such a coincidence in the birthday of Molly Bloom, which was September the 8th, the same day as the Virgin Mary’s birthday. Joyce’s love of birthdays is in part a wish to appropriate this map, a symptom of an eternal struggle he identified between the individual and society: ‘the state is concentric; man is concentric. Thence arise an eternal struggle.’
We have a Bloomsday, on which the institution of Joyce studies (and Joycolatry) are built. But there is no Wake-day: Finnegans Wake does not seem to happen on a single day, though for one critic it is a dream dreamt on 28 March 1938. For others the events of the Wake happen everyday and anyday. Unlike Ulysses, it has not been so easily institutionalised. Either way, it is certainly worth celebrating and lighting candles for: and Joyce’s birthday is as good as any to do so.
Dr Finn Fordham is Reader in 20th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. Along with Robbert-Jan Henkes and Erik Bindervoet, he has edited the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Finnegans Wake is a book that reinvents the novel and plays fantastic games with the language to tell the story of one man’s fall and resurrection; in the intimate drama of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and his wife Anna Livia, the character of Ireland itself takes form. Joyce called time and the river and the mountains the real heroes of his book, and its organic structure and extraordinary musicality embody his vision. It is both an outrageous epic and a wildly inventive comedy that rewards its readers with never-ending layers of meaning.
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics onTwitter and Facebook.
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Image credit: By Paweł Cieśla Staszek_Szybki_Jest (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Hey look, I have an interview in Ireland's Inis (pronounced 'IN-ish') magazine with Cethan Leahy, including a piece of brand-new picture book artwork no one's seen before! Click here to read...
Thanks to the Irish book community for being so supportive of my work! I'm looking forward to a week in Ireland this May, where Children's Laureate Niamh Sharkey, French picture book man and sculptor extraordinaire Hervé Tullet and I will be running gloriously amok. More news about that later!
Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films released its 2011 short 23 Degrees 5 Minutes online today. Based on a story by Austin Kenny, the CG short is directed by Darragh O’Connell, who has been twice nominated for the animated short Oscar for co-directing the films Give Up Yer Aul Sins and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty.Add a Comment
Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue readingAdd a Comment
After many years of extraordinary success the dramatic collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 was unprecedented in the history of post-war industrial countries. Who and what was responsible for the demise of the poster boy “Celtic Tiger?” What lessons can be learned form the Irish debacle and can the Tiger come roaring back?
(1) Until around five years ago, the Irish economy was the envy of the world.
During the nineties, the rise of the Celtic Tiger was one of the most remarkable post-war industrial country phenomena. A relatively poor country on the periphery succeeded in transforming itself into one of the richest countries in Europe. The key was the massive inflow of foreign direct investment, as US and other multinationals sought to take advantage of Ireland’s location and young, well-educated labour force – the only English-speaking country in the common currency euro area. To be sure, sound financial and macroeconomic policies also helped inspire confidence. Ireland experienced annual growth rates of almost 10% at times, living standards soared, and emigration — the hallmark of the Irish – turned into net immigration. Foreigners, especially from Eastern Europe, flocked to take advantage of the booming economy.
(2) Things then started to go horribly wrong, although it was not recognized at the time.
Starting around 2002, the technology based export led growth began to turn into a property bubble. Fuelled by special tax incentives and unlimited funding at low euro area interest rates, the Irish banks went on a splurge of reckless lending to property purchasers and developers. Government budget expenditures soared, financed by revenues from the artificially booming property sector. House and land prices soared to levels among the highest in the world and the population engaged in a frenzy of borrowing to acquire property before it was too late…
(3) The economy started to collapse around 2008.
In 2008, following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the United States, the property bubble burst in a spectacular fashion. Almost overnight, prices began to plummet, eventually losing between 60-80% of their value. All the Irish banks became hopelessly insolvent, the budget deficit soared to almost unimaginable heights as the earlier surge in expenditures could not be reversed, and unemployment tripled. The fall in output was probably the largest ever experienced by an industrial country since the Second World War. Ireland quickly found itself unable to borrow on international markets and in November 2010, had to follow Greece and seek ignominious recourse to an emergency bail out from the IMF and the EU.
(4) Much progress has since been made but there is still a tough road ahead.
Under the strict insistence of the IMF/EU, much — albeit painful — progress has been achieved in righting the financial ship of state in the last four years. The enormous budget deficit has been slowly but steadily reduced, and the massive financial problems of the banks have been addressed. But Ireland’s debt has unavoidably continued to soar, and while the economic decline appears to have bottomed out, unemployment remains stubbornly high at around 14% and large scale emigration has resumed. Moreover, it is not clear that steps are being taken to tackle decisively the major failings in political and economic governance that caused the debacle in the first place
(5) Can the Celtic Tiger rise again?
It is very difficult to imagine a return to anything near the heady heights of the Celtic Tiger. Ireland’s economy is very heavily dependent on exports and the EU growth outlook remains very clouded. Increasingly, there are questions as to whether Ireland’s preferential corporate tax regime – key to attracting foreign investment over the years — can be sustained in the face of pressures from other countries. Still, even if real incomes in Ireland return to around their 2000 levels, this would still be an enormous improvement compared to the seventies when Ireland joined the EU as its then poorest member.
Dr. Donal Donovan is a Member of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, Adjunct Professor at the University of Limerick, and Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. He is a former deputy director at the International Monetary Fund with considerable experience in the area of financial crises. He is co-author, with Antoin E. Murphy, of The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland and the Euro Debt Crisis.
A short review today. I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week. I was right.
Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.
Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.
Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,
At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion. The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy. This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body.
As the co-organizer of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month blog, I've been very busy formatting, posting, and reading all of the great guest posts this month. (If you haven't checked it out, you're missing some great essays and reviews.) As a consequence, I've been neglecting to post often this month, but today I have a quick rundown of three titles that grabbed my attention this past week:
Readers, please welcome, as part of our Summer Teen Reading Party, Natalie Wright: author of Emily's House for YA readers. Thank you to Rebecca for having me as a guest on her blog today. The Summer Teen Reading Party is in full swing! How many contests have you entered so far? Have you snagged any fun summer reads for your e-reader? In my novel, Emily’s House, Emily must learn how to focus her magical abilities. One of my goals when writing Emily’s House was to embed a primer for “real magic” into the story. Here is my favorite story of real magic and how I used it to win a trip to Ireland! Continue readingAdd a Comment
A little of this and a little of that, as I'm ahead in reading and behind in writing!
(short stories, novel, audiobook)
I've started on the castle itself, after lingering over the sky.