It was wonderful to be able to travel to Paris last week for the WexFour event at Le Centre Culturel Irlandais, where, following a special staged reading of the four one-act plays, the WexFour eBook from 451 Editions was officially launched.
The crew from The Wexford Arts Centre did an amazing job to a full house, and for a full account of the event, please click here for the article in The Irish Times, or click on the image above. Below, you can see some photos from the trip. Click on the first pic to set the gallery rolling.
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David Bowie, 8 Jan 1947 – 10 Jan 2016 RIP. First posted April 2015, re-posted today.
Click on image to go straight to the interview – or blog post gives context.
So, at the request of friends, I’m uploading my one and only David Bowie interview for posterity, published in Hot Press – hard to believe – 20 years ago. (Click on the image to the left for immediate access). In 1995, I’d long been a Bowie freak and back again, having first seen him as a vision in white satin hot-pants screaming “Jean Jeanie”, but not catching him live for the first time in Paris during the Serious Moonlight tour.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was the first album I ever bought, followed by every Bowie album ever after that until a certain dodgy period from the early eighties to mid-nineties, but say no more.
There was a heat wave in New York when Hot Press Editor, Niall Stokes phoned me and said, “I’m calling you because I know you’d come home and shoot me if I didn’t … ”
It had been a strange year, kicking off with twelve people dead in a weird chemical warfare attack in the Tokyo subway; Timothy MacVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 Americans in Oklahoma City. While an historic peace accord was signed between Israel and the PLO, in Srebrenica, Bosnian Serbs massacred an estimated 7,000 Muslim men, raping thousands of women, in probably the worst European war crime since World War II.
In the art world, a sort of misguided, pre-millennial rococo was everywhere. Body modification through self mutilation and even plastic surgery was at its height. The previous year’s Nine Inch Nails’ album, The Downward Spiral, with its themes of self-harm, addiction and despair had spawned a follow-up album in June. Damien Hirst was suspending dead sheep and cows in formaldehyde and French performance artist Orlan was rearranging her face to resemble iconic works of Art.
It’s hard to believe that just two years previously, Bowie had produced the unspeakably bland Black Tie White Noise. As a massive contrast, Outside was dark in the extreme, offering a musical reflection that sought to capture the prevailing fin de siecle angst. Bowie had been graduating more towards fine art, and had begun to work with Brian Eno. They even visited the Psychiatric unit of a hospital in Vienna to interview artists who had gone to the extreme end of Outsider art. Based on a short story written by Bowie, which is in the sleeve notes, it was filled with deeply disturbing imagery. (more…)
In 1998, I was invited to contribute to an anthology of writings about mothers and daughters, edited by Caledonia Kearns and published by William Morrow, New York.
It was a stunning collection of reflections from a writers ranging from Margaret Sanger to Susan Minot and more, and I saw it as an amazing opportunity to interview my mother and ask her a lot of questions I’d always wanted to ask, and so when she visited New York that Spring, where I was living at the time, we sat over several hours and she talked about growing up in Ireland during the war, the fifties, having kids and being an artist.
In honour of Helen Quinn Mulkerns this mother’s day, I’d like to post it now – with illustrations. Click on the image or here to download the full PDF.
She has her own website at: www.helenmulkerns.com, if you’d like to see more of her art work.
Happy Mother’s day, Mam!
Today is not Father’s Day, but I always think of my father at Easter. He hated Father’s Day with a particularly venomous passion anyway, just like he hated any crap Hallmark holiday manufactured to make people buy stupid cards and pretend we’re all happy as Larry. My father was not Larry. He was an artist, and a flawed romantic. He could make really excellent case for being a witty, boozy, happy go lucky raconteur, and a lot of the time that’s what he was, too.
He was a deeply sentimental man at times as well, who loved dogs and cats and old movies – and he was madly and utterly in love with my mother all his life. But it was the spaces in between, sometimes pretty dark, that made him both interesting, heart breaking and a man who ended up that figure that Joni Mitchell described so well when she wrote, “all romantics meet the same fate … “
I think of him at Easter because potentially, it’s an opportunity to have one of those “Happy Family” occasions, although in our house certainly not much to do with Jesus, whom my father had interesting respect for, despite hating the Catholic church. Easter 2003 I was studying in NUIG, and instead of joining my parents for Sunday dinner, I chose to stay down in Galway and study. Whatever. Eight days later my father was dead, and so while we probably wouldn’t have had a Hallmark Easter holiday, we might have shared a drink for the road … (more…)
The Irish 1916 Rising, with its centenary coming up next year, is all over the place today, Easter Monday, anniversary of the rebellion in Easter, 1916 the consequences of which (to cut a long story short) resulted in the end of British Colonial rule in the majority of the country, and the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. I’ll be heading into the centre of town,where they have re-created Dublin in 1915 for the day – should prove interesting.
My own family’s Rebellion hero – although not a great national hero like many – is an interesting man by all accounts – one JJ or Jimmie Mulkerns. He was a strolling player and aspiring actor at the time of the rising, and who also worked on the Great Western Railway. Family lore has it that he stopped the train he was driving from the West in the middle of Athlone bridge in order to stop troops being transported to Dublin to quash the event, subsequently hopping in a vehicle that was going to Dublin so he could participate in the rebellion.
That may well be third-generation family legend, perhaps, so I’m standing by for various family members – or anybody else – to correct me on this, if you have facts. But there is one fantastic story you won’t read anywhere else, originally published in 1997 in “The Irish Echo” – around the time that Neil Jordan’s film, “Michael Collins” was released. Family lore or not, a lot of it seems to add up – it solves an old Hollywood mystery, and it certainly makes a great yarn.
To read, What Did you do in the War, Grandpa? which first appeared in New York’s Irish Echo newspaper, click on the image at the right, or here. A downloadable PDF of the piece’s full text, for easier reading, will be available later today.
Dennis Lehane interviewed by Jim Carroll at Listowel Writers’ Week
Going to Listowel Writers’ Week has been on the wish list for years. Like seeing Paris before you die, it’s a given that if you’re interested in literature or arts festivals, or both, at some point you’ve got to treat yourself to a trip into the green lushness of Kerry in early summer to one of the longest standing festivals in the country: Listowel.
Some people say once you go, you’ll be back every year: Irish Arts stalwart Seamus Hosey, for example, was celebrating his 40th Anniversary at the festival this 2105. My own reason mostly had to do with the fact that the festival had co-sponsored a week’s wonderful stay at the Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat Centre near Ballinskelligs – and it was at that retreat that I largely finalised the first draft of my short story collection, Waiting for the Rain. My ambition was to read a something from that collection somehow, somewhere – at Listowel Writers’ week this year.
Happily, friend and author Susan Lanigan had also decided to travel down, and so with Susan in the driver’s seat for the road trip, we braved busy Bank Holiday weekend traffic and I read through the event’s schedule.
The programme for 2015 was a broad-reaching offering that hosted not only readings and interviews, but live theatre and valuable writing workshops in almost every aspect of literature, given by top novelists , short story writers, poets and dramatists. There were also musican and drama performances.
To kick off the festival, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín presided over a launch evening that included the presentation of literary awards to the tune of a €35,000 prize fund.
This year, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of Year Award was won by Eoin MacNamee for Blue is the Night and The Pigott Poetry Prize was won by Paul Muldoon for One Thousand Things Worth Knowing.
Dennis Lehane provided a welcome, high-octane shot of Irish American wit and wisdom on Friday night during his interview with Jim Carroll, something I really miss from my New York days. What I really wanted to ask him was, “who gave Seán Penn the line about Barry’s Tea in Mystic River,” but I tackled him instead on a reference he had made to the stereotyped image of Ireland as a nation in the U.S. instead.
Recognising the refreshing influence of the “New Irish” that invaded in the late eighties in early nineties, and the fusion of old and new Irish American culture that resulted on both sides, Lehane succinctly let us in on the fact that for bog standard middle America, we are still living with the Leprechauns. Sigh …
Lehane’s new book, World Gone By, is set in Cuba during WW2 and sounds like classic Lehane: bloody, complex, with gang rivalries and personal conflicts at its heart.
No stranger to cutting edge television crime drama (e.g. The Wire), Lehane’s latest project is a very amazing sounding adaptation of Love Hate for the U.S. market: this time it’s set in Hawaii. Can you see Nidge with a tan and mirror shades?
The charm of Listowel as a festival quickly becomes evident: with everything very immediately available from the nucleus of the town square (theatre in the old church in the centre, events/hanging out at the Listowel Arms Hotel, etc) it’s got a very snug feel. You’ll see backpackers and old timers side by side in the street, as well as the writers and performers that are part of the programme. The range of events are attended by discerning audiences that provide the speakers with usually cogent and interesting questions.
There was so much going on, it was hard to get to see everything, but I really enjoyed the lecture by seasoned war journalist Patrick Cockburn. Originally from Cork and currently Middle East Correspondent with The Independent, he spoke of life under Islamic State, where currently citizens living under their regime are being controlled literally in all aspects of their lives, from women being forced to marry ISIS soldiers to even the very rules of children’s games.
Describing how the tightly-knit, highly organised power of ISIS overcame a dysfunctional State in Iraq and a weakened State in Syria, his first-hand accounts were bone chilling. More can be read in his many books, the latest of which being The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution from Verso Books
The Irish Writers’ Centre has been broadening its parameters of late, and one of the more interesting discussions was one called Mindshift: Introduction to the Business of Being a Writer event on Saturday, supported by WORDS Ireland. Moderated by Valerie Bistany (Director of the Irish Writers’ Centre), the panel, comprised of Noelle Campbell Sharpe (of Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat), Audrey Keane (of the Arts Council of Ireland), Kate Kennelly (Arts Officer, Kerry Co Council) and Noel O’Regan (former Kerry County Council Writer-in-Residence), discussed the more practical aspects of being a writer, with specific reference to funding and marketing.
So far, so good – but what about my quest to read at Listowel Writer’s Week, after all? As it turns out, on both Friday and Saturday night, The New Writers’ Salon, curated by Kerry Co Council’s former Writer in Residence, Noel O’Regan, provided the very opportunity.
Taking place at the excellent Scribes’ Café, owned and run by the very hospitable Mr Namir Karim from Iraq, the event presented readings from a line up of invited emerging writers: Sally Rooney, Michael Naghten Shanks, Hugh Fulham-McQuillan, Roisin Kelly followed an open mic session, which on Saturday night – among others – featured slam poetry from Stephen Murphy, a passionate reading from White Feathers by author Susan Lanigan, and yes – a brief section from Waiting for the Rain by yours truly. And that was a very long sentence. Time perhaps to wrap it up.
The New Writers’ Salon at Scribes’ Café, hosted by Noel O’Regan (second from left), and performance poet Stephen Murphy, Listowel Writers’ Week 2015
The festival had other charms, of course, some being the sheer fun of meeting up with old friends often long after the events of the day were done, in one of the town’s worthy watering holes, or in the beautiful and old-worldly elegance of the Listowel Arms Hotel. The seisúin on Saturday night is famous, and suffice to say that while you will have the honour of hearing some classic Sean Nós renditions, there is also a splendid tradition of rude ditties and sung or recited verses full of political satire and humour. For a gallery of photos of the event, click here and for more details at the festival’s own website, click to: www.writersweek.ie