Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

"Why should an academic face insults?" he moans. "Is this what you call freedom?"

Professor Ahmadinejad, as he dubbed himself as soon as he started to speak twenty minutes ago, is speaking outside my window. Literally. I can see the big screen and the (suprisingly quiet and attentive) crowd from where I sit. And I have ten papers to mark in the next hour. So you won't be getting anything in the way of reportage here. But I thought I'd post to say that you can get it here; it's a live blog, updated every couple of minutes at the moment.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Still laughing... the comments on this Gawker item on the Jenna Bush pregnancy rumours...

DICKTHESNAKE: Well, has she been drinking in the last few months? Best way to check may be tracking the value of liquor stocks.

24-7: I bet the baby will be seven months premature. It will be a miracle, but that's because God loves Republicans.

HARBLS: Too bad that some sort of device doesn't exist that can prevent unwanted pregnancies -- some latex device that prevents semen from reaching the ovary, say, or perhaps a medicine that prevents ovulation -- that can protect privileged single young women with a good health plan from bringing up an unwanted child in a cold, cruel world. I've searched all the government-issued literature and simply cannot find a thing that could've prevented this


Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove is Resigning

August 31.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Sort It Out, Aer Lingus

A fiver says this and the plane from Monday evening are the same one. At least it's to be hoped they are, because if not, then there are two dodgy planes on the transatlantic route.

Are they sure they can even get up to Belfast to run their Heathrow service from there? Where are they going to find a plane capable of flying that distance?


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

James Wood Rocks

He's the most intelligent critic working today. His collection of essays and reviews, The Broken Estate, completely changed my way of reading, and thinking about - and also writing - fiction. Unlike many critics, he doesn't see narrative realism as a dirty word, but as a complex, mysterious accomplishment - as a kind of magic, almost. He writes brilliantly on Austen, Gogol, Flaubert and Sebald in particular in that collection, and the introductory essay, "The Limits of Not Quite" is one of the most memorable and jolting pieces about literature I've ever read. And this week it has been announced that Wood is leaving the New Republic to become a staff writer at the New Yorker, which means (hopefully) he'll be writing much longer essays on literature, more frequently. This is good news.



Wow, I really am jetlagged. Apparently there was a frickin' tornado here in Brooklyn this morning. I heard the thunder, but pretty much slept through the whole thing. Thankfully I don't have to leave the house today, because all the trains are down, by the look of things.

No wonder the cat seems slightly subdued today.


"You Can't Be Too Thin. Or Too Powerful"

So trumpets the e-mail announcing the new iMac, which comes out today and which is sort of ugly, as it happens. Presumably you switch it on by sticking your fingers down your throat...

I was going to say "Only in New York", but presumably this circular went to Apple customers all over America, meaning to dozens of states where having a protruding collarbone isn't the norm. Or do those states get an email concentrating on the enormity of the monitor, and of its creamy curves?

Also, Apple don't mention the downside of being too thin, which seems to be hitting my own relatively scrawny iBook with a vengeance these days: it means you're too weak to do anything efficiently for very long without collapsing in an exhausted heap. I'm guessing that Angelina Jolie, at the moment, is taking an impossibly long time to run anything over 2000 photos and freezing up every other application into the bargain. Rumour has it Brad Pitt has been looking longingly at a Dell.


Monday, August 06, 2007

To the Batmobile!

I've become a little obsessed with my statcounter over the past couple of days. It may be something to do with having been holed up with my family for so long - I need to know there are other people out there, people who are not knee-deep in the same gene pool, people who are not going to follow me out of the kitchen and into the front room and down to the bedroom again because that's what families do to each other, we torment each other with constant refrains of "what are you doing?" or "where's [insert name of other family member]?" or "do you want a cup of tea?"...and so on.

Anyway, word to the three people who actually read this blog: I'm stalking you. Or at least I'm stalking your IP address. And I have an urgent message for one of you, IP address 3243498504385034 (ok, I just made that up) in Brooklyn, New York. The message being, please feed my cat. I'm stuck in damn Dublin airport, rain teeming down outside and the Aer Lingus plane I was meant to fly on standing disconsolate in a shed somewhere while mechanics fix (hopefully) its sinister-sounding "operational fault". What qualifies as an operational fault,anyway? Does it mean that one of the wings is hanging off, or just that one of the three hundred and twenty dials in the cockpit isn't whirring and flickering quite as it should? I don't know. All I know is that this plane can no longer take off, and that some other plane, run by a company I'm not sure I've ever heard of, is coming in here at two in the morning (only nine hours late, folks, don't get stroppy) to take us to New York instead. And, yes, that means that over a hundred people are tired and hungry and inconvenienced, but screw them, because so is my cat. So, please, Mr/Ms IP address 34543058038503485, break into my apartment and feed him.

PS I am now officially a sad woman who blogs about her cat.
PPS Don't all panic at once, some kind Brooklyn residents are actually going to feed the cat.
PPPS I'm off back to my pile of tacky magazines and my meal vouchers. It's kind of fun.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Why, Dan, is your nose growing?

Yeah, I'm overdoing the posting today. But part of my blogging block over the last couple of months involved ignoring not just my statcounter, but the email account attached to this blog, which I've also opened up for the first time in ages today. It's mainly full of offers to "shoot 13ft across the room", which I must admit I've always wanted to do, but I'm kind of broke at the moment and can't afford the $10.99 plus postage, even taking into account the free gift of a herbal supplement which will drive my woman crazy like never before.

I did like the email from Justin of Justinspace, however, which alerted me - vis-a-vis of a post I'd written about Dash Snow and his set a few months back - to a post of his questioning the originality of one of Colen's pieces. It's a damn good read. Have a look.


Lonely Hearts Club

I had a look at my stats for the first time in months today (suffice to say, after nearly five months' absence, I deserve to be so thoroughly abandoned) and the keyword analysis looked something like this:

2 Aug 20:38:16 ryan tubridy reason for divorce

2 Aug 17:51:08 conor mcpherson girlfriend alcohol

2 Aug 11:41:41 damien rice and grinning

2 Aug 07:32:54 peter crawley irish times

1 Aug 21:51:45 bonos new york city house

You're all a bunch of stalkers!! Anyway, everyone knows the real reason for Ryan Tubridy's divorce was that his missus ran off with Damien Rice, having been dazzled by his grin as he read a scathing Peter Crawley review of a Conor McPherson play, and that the two are now holed up in Bono's apartment overlooking Central Park.

But back to my eg0-bruising stats. Of all the keyword searches, my personal favourite is the googler who just can't forget his experience of North Leitrim statutory rape...

1 Aug 17:29:42 irish girl in ballinamore was
a great school teacher and lover

Answers on a postcard please: who is that Ballinamore maths teacher who shows her students the truth about square roots?


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy April Fools' Day

...from gmail.

It goes like this: gmail now offers a service whereby you can order paper copies (gasp!) of all your emails, and they'll deliver them to you for free. Check out the FAQs:

Are attachments included?

All part of the deal. Photo attachments are printed on high-quality, glossy photo paper, and secured to your Gmail Paper with a paper clip. MP3 and WAV files will not be printed. We recommend maintaining copies of your non-paper Gmail in these cases.

Is there a limit?

You can make us print one, one thousand, or one hundred thousand of your emails. It’s whatever seems reasonable to you.

But what about the environment?

Not a problem. Gmail Paper is made out of 96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum, and thus, actually helps the environment. For every Gmail Paper we produce, the environment gets incrementally healthier.

Post-consumer organic soybean sputum. Yum.


Friday, March 30, 2007

The Tuning Fork

I asked Ronan Gallagher to send on the letter he wrote to RTE Radio after John McGahern died last year, and he did, and I'm delighted to be able to post it here on John's first anniversary. The talk last night went well enough, and afterwards people were buying McGahern books like there was no tomorrow, a good sign, many of them readers new to him. I couldn't believe the size of the crowd; I had thought that maybe there was not a lot of interest in McGahern here, given that so few people had heard of him when I mentioned him last year. But there was standing room only in the venue, both upstairs where the talk was and downstairs where they'd put some television screens. All evening I meant to read the passage in Amongst Women which McGahern described as his "tuning fork" - the passage which made him realise, once he'd written it, that he had a novel, and the passage against which he measured all the rest of that novel's sentences and passages to come. I never got around to it, so I'm going to post it here as a marker of today. It's significant in that it is a piece of his own prose with which McGahern was satisfied, or half-satisfied in any case; a very rare thing for him, as he was an acute perfectionist. And the idea of writing until that sure passage or sentence comes, and of having it there as the tuning fork, as the measure, for the writer, of everything before and after it, is probably the best writing advice I've ever come upon. That, and just getting the words right. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Moran went out to the road and closed the iron gates under the yew after returning with the car from the station. He listened for the noise of the diesel train crossing the Plains behind the house but it had already passed. The light was beginning to fail but he did not want to go into the house. In a methodical way he set out to walk his land, field by blind field. He had not grown up on these fields but they felt to him as if he had. He had bought them with the money he had been given on leaving the army. The small pension wasn't enough to live on but with working the fields he had turned it into a living. He'd be his own man here, he had thought, and for the first time in his life he'd be away from people. Now he went from field to filed, no longer kept as well as they once were, the hedges ragged, stones fallen from the walls, but he hardly needed the fields any more. It did not take much to keep Rose and himself.

It was like grasping water to think how quickly the years had passed here. They were nearly gone. It was in the nature of things and yet it brought a sense of betrayal and anger, of never having understood anything much. Instead of using the fields, he sometimes felt as if the fields had used him. Soon they would be using someone else in his place. It was unlikely to be either of his sons. He tried to imagine someone running the place after he was gone and could not. He continued walking the fields like a man trying to see.

That line about grasping water hits me like a physical blow every time I read it.

Ronan's letter is below.

Dear Pat,

John McGahern is dead. The RTE man announced it with a slight hesitation, as if he didn't believe his own news. It stopped me in my tracks as I am sure it did many in this county and beyond in a much wider world. I have to confess that my introduction to McGahern's writings at the tender age of fifteen, had more to do with teenage hormones than literary knowledge. It all started when a very large padded envelope addressed to my father, 'Pat (the Vet) Gallagher' Mohill, arrived, carried with great reverence into our house by our postman as it was too large to fit in the letterbox. Printed on the envelope was the very prominent and glamorous mastiff of 'The New Yorker Magazine' which clearly impressed the Postman. 'Be God Pat, that's a very important looking package' he quipped as he passed the envelope to my father with the care and precision of a man handling a priceless Faberge egg. 'And a heavy one too' retorted my father as he placed the package on a shelf and thanking the postman, continued his work, crushing all my hopes and the Postman's, that its contents might be revealed. Disappointed, I soon forgot about the package until, a few days later I came across it, opened, and unattended on my fathers office desk. Having thought about it for all of a nano-second, I opened the envelope to discover inside, a hardback book by a man called John McGahern with the delicious title 'The Pornographer'. A hand written note attached on headed New Yorker note paper read something like 'I thought a brown envelope might attract too much attention.Ha Ha! Hope you enjoy. Say hello to all back home. John.'

Having a good idea that this might not be on my fathers approved list of literary classics for fifteen year olds, and drooling at the promise of the title, I immediately dived into page one. Well I was bitterly disappointed to find that as Trainspotting has no trains neither did 'The Pornographer' have much pornography. However I was absolutely thrilled to discover that it did have the wonderful writing that this mans pen could yield up. Here was a book about people and places that I recognised and could relate to. John McGahern drew a huge amount of his inspiration from his native Leitrim where he lived among the people. He was one of them, and could be seen out and about, often more concerned about having enough fodder for the cattle than winning the next literary award or reading the latest accolade. I cannot claim to have known Mr McGahern save to meet him the odd time at my fathers house or in Luke Early's bar cum Undertakers in Mohill where McGahern the 'Antennae' would sit in a corner listening to stories and banter from my father and his friends Tom Reynolds and Tom Murphy among others. McGahern would soak up the atmosphere, but always with the ability to be a part of it. He was of the people. He saw our history and our past through eyes that did not lie and refused to embellish, a history that many of a certain generation could relate to, but never speak of. Though his work contained beautiful romance, he never romanticised, and he recognised that as there is great beauty in everyday life there is also cruelty and harshness. His were the eyes of truth, a truth we refused to face for many years, that repression and dogma are no substitutes for freedom of expression and creative thinking.

Nearly twenty five years after the padded envelope arrived to our house, it's author John McGahern, was the first person to walk forward and shake my hand as I stepped out of Luke Early's hearse to bury my father. I'll never forget his words to me then, 'There will never be another Pat Gallagher. May God bless him' and they are the words which come to me now on hearing the sad news of his departure from us.

'There will never be another John McGahern. May God bless him.'

Yours in sadness,

Ronan Gallagher
Lough Rinn
Co Leitrim


Thursday, March 29, 2007

McGahern on Film, online

It's all McGahern today, all day; surrounded by notes and trying to put some order on them, to do justice to the man, to get the words right, as he'd say. I've been trying to think about realism and parochialism, the difference between them, about the difference, too, between goodwill and genuine engagement. About the ways in which McGahern will be remembered, about the ways in which he is read, and how they square up to the way he wrote, his intense craft and rigor, the brilliance and clarity of his work which was in no way accidental or quaint.

I got an email this morning from Ronan Gallagher, the Mohill-based filmmaker and writer. I recognised Gallagher's name because he wrote the most beautiful and vivid letter to RTE Radio after McGahern's death last year. I can almost remember the words of it even a year on.

Gallagher has made a short film about the opening of the John McGahern library at the Lough Rynn Hotel in Leitrim last November(the photo of McGahern above, by John Keaney from Carrick-on-Shannon, hangs in the library). The film is called Amongst Friends and you can watch it by going to the Lough Rynn website here. Lough Rynn is a gorgeous place, very peaceful, and they've worked a really understated and lovely restoration and conversion of the old castle, which I used to visit when I was a child.
Have a look at the film. It does start out a bit like a promo for the hotel, and the presence of Bertie Ahern and his cronies becomes quickly cloying (he's barely able to pronounce McGahern's surname, and his comment about the "smashing houses" in the locality rings grimly for anyone who's seen how the blight of new houses is ruining that county, as commented on here). But it gives an interesting glimpse of how deeply-felt the connection to McGahern was in the county where he lived. Which is a more complicated relationship than all of the good will and genuine affection can suggest, I think; again, it feeds into the question of how McGahern will go down in local memory; for his artistry or in terms of his personality and the pride his name came, in later years, to inspire locally. The things are certainly not mutually exclusive. But if the former is brushed over or merely paid lipservice to, in favour of the latter, I think it runs the risk of being a less lasting memory. I'm not saying this of this short clip; it's something I've been thinking about more generally since McGahern's passing.

And the film is worth seeing for the moving moment when Madeline, John's widow, speaks about how, when first she saw the room, she could see John's "wry smile" and his pleasure at the idea and the remembrance.

I also meant to update yesterday with a full list of the films and dramas made about McGahern's work, or inspired by it, or scripts written by him. The IFI event is screening four, but there are others, and radio dramas and of course his stage play as well. A couple of years back, the mobile cinema in Drumshanbo had a festival of most of the works on film, more extensive than the IFI event even, gathering short films and student films from all around.

There's a list, a full one I think, after the jump.

By McGahern

Sinclair, radio adaptation of his own short story "Why We're Here", broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 16 November 1971; published in The Listener, 18 November 1971, 690-2.

The Barracks
, radio adaptation of his own novel, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 24 January 1972.

The Power of Darkness, after Tolstoy, submitted to the Abbey and rejected in 1972, produced as a radio adaptation on BBC Radio 3 in the same year (15 October), produced at the Abbey in 1991, directed by Garry Hynes. Published by Faber.

The Sisters, television adaptation of the short story by Joyce. Broadcast as part of Full House on BBC 2, 17 February 1973.

Swallows, television adaptation of his own short story. Broadcast as part of the Second City Firsts series on BBC 2, 27 March 1975.

The Rockingham Shoot
, original television drama. Broadcast as part of the Screenplay: Next series on BBC 2, 10 September 1987.

The Pornographer
, film script adaptation of his own novel, remains unproduced and unpublished.

By Others

The Barracks
, stage adaptation, adapted by Hugh Leonard, first performed 6 October 1969 at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin. Directed by Tomas MacAnna

Wheels, film adaptation of the short story. Adapted and directed by Cathal Black, 1976.

The Lost Hour
, television adaptation of The Leavetaking, adapted by Carlo Gebler, directed by Tony Barry. RTE, 1983.

The Key
, television adaptation of a work of McGahern (possibly "Bomb Box", but unverified), adapted by Carlo Gebler, directed by Tony Barry, RTE 1985.
Korea, film adaptation of teh short story, screenplay by Joe O'Byrne, directed by Cathal Black. 1995.
Amongst Women, audiobook, read by Stephen Rea, Faber 1997.

My Love, My Umbrella
, an opera version of that story, "Sierra Leone" and "Gold Watch". Adapted into a libretto by James Conway, score by Kevin O'Connell, first performed 9 October 1997 at the Stamford Arts Centre, England.
Amongst Women [2], television adaptation, screenplay by Adrian Hodges, directed by Tom Cairns. First Broadcast on RTE 1, 17 May - 7 June 1998.
Swallows, film adaptation of the short story, adapted and directed by Michael O'Connell. 2000.

Details from Stanley van der Ziel's annotated bibliography in the Irish University Review special on McGahern, 2005.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John McGahern, A Year On

Americans are not hugely familiar with the work of John McGahern, as I discovered when he died last year. Even in a school of fiction, only one person I spoke to had heard of him, and some people thought I was talking about Frank McCourt...

Anyway, March 30th is the first anniversary of McGahern's death, and there's an event to mark the occasion at Ireland House, the property donated to NYU by the Glucksmans and dedicated to Irish studies. With writers like Colum McCann and Nuala O'Faolain living in Manhattan, I'm surprised it's not a different, more writer-centric kind of panel, but hopefully there will be lots of contributions from the audience. The event will be followed by a screening of the terrific, moving documentary made about McGahern in 2004 (from which the still above comes).

Still, it's the McGahern event in the IFI in Dublin on Sunday which I'd really love to attend. It's a programme called "McGahern on Film" and will screen three screen adaptations of McGahern's work, as well as a TV drama written by McGahern in 1987. I've never seen any of these films; they're extremely hard to track down. Hopefully the IFI event will spur the release of a McGahern on Film DVD. The IFI event is hosted by Colm Toibin, who will be superb talking about McGahern's fiction, his aesthetic and his inimitable mischief.

Well done to both Ireland House and the IFI for getting the McGahern tributes together. I think there's one happening in his native Leitrim a little later in the year, which sounds great also. If you're in New York, come. If you're in Dublin, go, and report back...

update: Speaking of Frank McCourt, here's something I just found, in an interview with McGahern from 2000. He's responding to a question which was partly about Frank McCourt, partly about Brian Moore.

"Angela's Ashes interested me more [than Brian Moore].I found it a very strange book, a mixture of farce and clearly honed American evocative writing and literary pretension. The pretension was its weakest part. A work it reminded me of was Synge's Playboy of the Western World, also a farce. It was farce as a great kick at misery and passive suffering. If it's not a farce, then the concluding chapter is in serious bad taste and the whole book a sort of porridge."


Friday, March 16, 2007

The Fish Award

Here's an example of the kind of rapid-fire literary posting I was talking about in the n+1/TEV post: for the first time in its history, the prestigious Fish Short Story Prize has been awarded to an Irish writer, Kathleen Murray from Dublin. The 2007 Anthology will take its title from her story, A Paper Heart is Beating, A Paper Boat sets Sail. She began writing when she took a course with the poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in 2004; this was probably the one at the Irish Writers Centre, from which the anthology The Incredible Hides in Every House was produced. I like what Murray says about how she began writing - "I think good writing gave me the inclination to attempt to write" - and also about how she feels, having won the Fish award:

I feel that it is the story itself that has won though, not me, and I am pleased most of all for the story itself.


The Inelegant Variation

We're subscribers to the literary journal n+1 in this house, and daily readers of Mark Sarvas's literary blog The Elegant Variation, too (why am I using the first person plural all of a sudden? I blame Josh Ferris). Both are excellent. But the spat between the two camps which has exploded on TEV and also on the litblog The Millions (also a great blog, by the way) is just embarrassing. Confusing, also, and more than a little hysterical, and petty, a lot, but mainly just embarrassing. A couple of months back, I added the n+1 editorial in question to my course syllabus (I teach uni writing to freshman students), in a section which also included essays by William Cronon and Caroline Bassett. I added it, along with excerpts from Sven Birkerts' book The Gutenberg Elegies, and some recent media analysis of blogging, myspace, second life, etc, because I thought it was an interesting counterpart to those texts. Most of the students didn't like it, the n+1 editorial, for different reasons. They didn't think it convincing, or they thought it preachy, or they thought it too disjointed, or they thought it was "just showing off" (they tend to think a lot of writing is "just showing off", I should add). Or they didn't see the irony which I think was at work in much of the editorial. But they articulated their problems with it in a manner a damn sight more coherent and more reasonable than can be said for the leaders of the current litblog bitchslap.

For my part, I hugely enjoyed the editorial (which is currently excerpted on the n+1 homepage); I read it partly as satire, partly as polemic, and I found a lot of truth in what it had to say about blogging, about the e-mail bind, about mobile phones. It was, I think, too hastily dismissive of literary blogging - there do exist litbloggers who write considered criticism on their blogs, who do more than blow "wet kisses" or flick fillips of contempt, although they're in the minority. It's hard work to write a serious literary blog, and it's long work; when I started this blog, I hoped it would be a place for me to write about books I'd read and plays I'd seen. My friend Miglior does this kind of blogging about his particular area of interest very well, and very diligently. But I'm not that diligent, I guess. I read for work, and I read for school (apologies to non-American readers; I've caved in and started saying "school" instead of "college", like they do here), and I write for work, and I write for school, and I just plain write, and when it comes to blogging, I've found that it's the very immediacy of it - the very "reflex" criticized by the n+1 editors - the gossipy, news-sharing, info-sending aspect of it that most appeals to me. I'm a reflex blogger, and when I blog about books, it's rarely in a very considered way, or in a way, come to think of it, of which I'm particularly proud. I mentioned earlier this week, for example, that I was enjoying Liam Callanan's All Saints - well, that changed soon afterwards, and I began to be slightly horrified by it, and I kept going with it only to abandon it, unable to muster the enthusiasm to go on, roughly 20 pages from the end. Now that, there, what I've just written; that's not a review. It's a blog post. And there's no reason the two things shouldn't go together, and, on other blogs, they do, which is something the n+1 editorial ought to acknowledge, I think. But it's true, too, that there are many, many more examples of the kind of blog to which they do refer. And here's one of them.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

That Person We All Know

Today's Gawker Underminer (a column written in the voice of the friend whose brilliance always makes you feel like topping yourself) hones in on the literary overachiever. Specifically, the poetry overachiever, but it works for every genre. Read it and guffaw. Then go back to staring at your inbox and reminding yourself you're not 23 anymore and vowing to read David bloody Foster Wallace and generally asking soul-destroying questions of yourself.


PS I couldn't find an image of a New Yorker rejection slip to go with this post, but look what I did find, via cartoonist Royston Robertson's blog: Who remembers the brilliantly vile comic Oink (see here for a history and here for some online issues)? My mother used to buy it for me every Friday, along with the Beano and Bunty. This was when I was seven or eight. One day, after I'd read every issue for about a year, she actually looked through an issue and never bought it for me again.
update: turns out they just stopped publishing it in 1988. That was why the issues stopped coming. Sorry, mum...


Monday, March 12, 2007

And Then We Came To The KGB

After the Irish reading, we legged it up to the KGB for another reading, because I'd read a lot about Joshua Ferris's new novel, And Then We Came To The End (check out the fancy website here), and I wanted to hear him read from it. Ferris was an engaging guest blogger on The Elegant Variation last week, which I chatted to him about when he found himself inescapably stuck beside me in the tiny, overcrowded venue. He seems like a nice guy - talked about how time-consuming blogging was, and how he only ever did it at night, and how he couldn't imagine trying to do it all the time, while working on his fiction too - and he hung my coat up, so I'll definitely be buying his book. Oh, and it also sounded very good (if a little cinematic) - it's about office dwellers, and narrated in that horrible, cloying "we" voice, the first-person plural, beloved of HR departments everywhere - a nice touch, which knifes straight into the deadening, depersonalising heart of corporate culture. Anyway, they weren't selling the book in the KGB, so I'll have to hunt down a copy, and I'll report back when I have read it. I'm sure it will be a lot better than the novel I read last week, Andre Aciman's Call Me By Your Name; I don't know how Colm Toibin and Nicole Krauss could blurb it with straight faces. He wrote it in four months -clearly after having gorged on To The Lighthouse - and it shows. I like his non-fiction a lot, but

Getting back to the KGB reading - which will eventually be available to hear, along with interviews, here - Ferris was preceded by two other very enjoyable writers, Liam Callanan, whose new novel All Saints I'm reading at the moment (it was on sale on the night) and really enjoying, and Elise Blackwell, who read from her novel The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, which is about the floods which struck Louisiana in 1927. The book was all but finished when Katrina hit last year, and Blackwell felt it had to be completely rewritten, and relocated, in the light of what had happened. So her narrator now tells the story of one flood on the eve of another.


Some New Haunts

New blogs I've stumbled across, or been meaning to post about, of late:

The Convex Mirror
: a blog about art in New York, which may or may not be written by someone living in this very apartment (not me, and not the cat, above, pictured hogging the reading material behind the blog's title).

Sexagenarian And The City: my friend "Mimi's" blog about being a (nearly) sixtysomething on the dating scene in New York...hilarious and utterly true, every word of it...

The Poetry Snark
: does what it says on the tin. Merciless interrogation of the many sacred cows of the American poetry scene.

Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant: a literary blog which makes me feel dizzier than do the Elegant Variation, the unread pile of New Yorkers in my sitting-room and the Strand Bookstore combined.

Ed Park's Blog: Aptly entitled The Dizzies, this is another literary blog, by a co-founder of the excellent Believer magazine. Ed Park's first novel is due out later this year.

Brit in Brooklyn: Great photography, commentary on how developers are gobbling up this and other boroughs, and depressing hurricane-related news (if it hits, Brooklynites are goners. Oh well)


Ugh, Look What He's Done With His Copy of The Irish Book Review*...

"You'll never guess who's here," A. said the other evening, as we waited for a reading by some lesser known Irish fiction writers to begin in a Chinatown restaurant. The reading was part of the series Good Words at the Good World at the Good World Bar & Grill on Orchard Street; each month it has a different theme, and this month, to coincide with Paddy's Day possibly, the theme was Ireland - or "Out of Ireland", to be exact. Mary Burke, who teaches Irish literature at the University of Connecticut and was published in the Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2004-5, and Martin Roper, who wrote a novel called Gone and teaches nonfiction at NYU, both read from new novels in progress. The place was packed, standing room only, and for some reason there were replicas of the same couple - the distinguished-looking, grey-bearded man, and the long-haired, long-skirted, outdoorsy-looking middle-aged woman - in every corner. They all looked vaguely familiar - probably because they all looked so much like one another, so when A came back from his cigarette break with a glint in his eye and news of a celebrity sighting, I prepared my best fake-excited face, expecting to hear tell of some obscure modernist poet. Or worse.
"Please don't say Frank McCourt," I said.

But no! It was the semen-daubing sensation of the Downtown art scene, Dash Snow, described by a controversial New York Magazine profile in January as looking like "the son of Jim Morrison and Jesus Christ"; Dash Snow, who comes from the De Menil family, one of the richest art families in the world, but who ran away at 13 to be a thief, a graffiti artist and, pretty soon, a scuzzy, elusive scene legend. He makes art out of newspaper clippings and his own semen, out of skulls, out of phlegm. He had a piece - a series of polaroid pictures, one of a dog scavenging in trash - in the Whitney Biennial last year, and he also had a piece - a semen/newspaper collage - in the Saatchi Show. He and his set - Ryan McGinley and Dan Colen, McGinley arguably being the genuine talent among them - have been dubbed Warhol's Children, existing in their own mythology of weirdness, privilege and self-absorption. They're known for their Hamster's Nests, which they create by shredding up to fifty phone books, winding all the blankets and curtains in the room around themselves, turning on the taps and taking a lorryload of drugs "until they feel like hamsters".

And here was their leader, quietly sitting at the back of an Irish writers event. And not a hamster in sight.

Except, of course, Snow hadn't come for the Irish writers. He was at the Good World for his breakfast bloody mary, more than likely, it being the downtown breakfast hour of 5 p.m. And chances are (we couldn't see), he legged it out of there very soon after the first soft rumblings of an Irish accent came over the loudspeaker. He certainly didn't stick it out to the end. But I hope he was there for at least some of the first reading, so that his well-trumpeted paranoia might have been piqued by Mary Burke's descriptions of an early 20th century European bohemia (her novel is based on the story of Lucia Joyce) which, at times seemed both to mirror and to parody Snow's downtown scene, right down to the bodily-fluid-soaked artworks. There were a few strangled noises from the back in response to that bit, come to think of it...

* (on that business with the Irish Book Review)...well, who could blame him?

update: A. has helpfully pointed me towards this account of the making of a Snow/Colen Hamster Nest. Now I really wish Snow had stuck around. Cause that's the kind of Irish book party I'd like to see. Which Irish scribes are up to it, though? I see Des Hogan and Colm Toibin, holding forth over a mountain of coke and Cutty One Rock and surrounded by shredded 01 directories and Dublin pigeons named McDowell, while Tony Cronin and Tom Murphy roar encouragement from the sidelines.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Conde Nasty

In half an hour, I have to be at 4 Times Square, otherwise known as the Conde Nast building, otherwise known as The Scariest Place in New York, to do an interview with the poetry editor of the New Yorker. She, Alice Quinn, is not part of the scary bit - she was one of my teachers last year, and is a very sweet and approachable person. The scary bit, obviously, is the prospect of the Conde Nast girls, the skinny, pouty, cheekboney, Prada-clad swarm of Vogue-associated women, who will be stomping their $700 snowboots into the lobby just about the time that I arrive in my cat-hair-covered coat, slightly holey tights (please stay above the knee, ladder, please stay, nice ladder), odd vintage-meets-Belgian-weirdo-designer outfit, and hair which has not been combed because I this morning, of all mornings, I cannot find the comb. And of course, since it's pelting down snow and something like minus ten outside, I will also be red-nosed, sniffly and trailing hats and scarves in a Wurzel Gummidge manner.

Yes, I know I'm going there to talk about poetry. And I have been there before, and I survived. But seriously, I think I'm allowed this wobbly. Anna Wintour shouted at one of my classmates in the elevator there last week.

At least I haven't eaten any breakfast. That might help me to fit in.

Oh yes: forgot to add, because it is so flippin' cold, I will also be wearing red furry earmuffs which my mother bought me for Christmas, probably from Lidl. Got a clear enough picture?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Neighbourhood Snark

Speaking of blogging and the L train...

Over the weekend, while writerprocrastinating, I discovered, a New York City blogging map, which lists blogs by subway line and subway stop. Think of it as a sort of Gawker Stalker for bloggers. My subway stop, the Grand Street L stop, has 18 blogs listed. I haven't yet joined up because of their "New Yorkers Only" criteria, which made me stop and think about whether I could qualify as a New Yorker...and the next line on their form is "if you have to ask whether you qualify as a New Yorker, you're probably not." Huh. They also say ex-pats are welcome, but I don't think they mean Irish ex-pats, exactly...

Anyway. Forget all of that. My initial pleasure at finding a blogging map to poke around at was quickly curtailed and transformed into sheer terror. What kind of sheer terror, you ask? Well, the kind of sheer terror that only a writerprocrastinator - that is, only a trying-to-write-a-novelist - acquainted with the catty directness of Miss Snark, Literary Agent can understand. Miss Snark tells it like it is. She's an agent, who writes an anonymous blog in which she answsers questions from idiot (and not so idiot) writers about querying, agent-hunting, agent-pestering and publishing, and she doesn't mince her words. Witness her crapometers for synopses, query letters and first pages. Yeah, those sarky red notations she inserts into submissions as she tears them to shreds are funny. Catty. Hilarious. Until you find it's time to write a synopsis or a query letter yourself (NOT for Miss Snark...who would seriously put themselves through that ordeal?), and then you start to see her red notations in your dreams. She scares the bejaysus out of me.

So, you'll be wondering about the reason for my sheer terror. Turns out Miss Snark lives one subway stop away, at Montrose Avenue. That's less than ten blocks away. I probably see her on the subway every morning. Oh my god, what if she has seen me reading over print-outs of my bloody novel? Standing behind me during the morning rush and snarking silently over my shoulder? Aiming virtual red-pen squiggles at my every page?

Thanks a bunch, nycbloggers. Making me feel like a tourist in NY was bad enough. But this is just too much.


Caesar And Cassius With A Satellite Modem

I don't usually talk to people on the subway. Not even if I know them. Not even if I got on the subway with them. But this morning, on the L to Manhattan, I overheard a conversation which combined (in the space of two minutes): Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar, a daily videoblog and podcast, and a round-the-world-on-a-trawler trip starting tomorrow. I did the unthinkable and stuck my nose in. And here's what I got: a link to Bill Bowles's website, which kicked off in earnest yesterday and will kick off in a different form tomorrow, when he starts his world voyage (not in the cardboard vessel pictured here, I should clarify). He calls himself an "Interactive World Traveller" and has a background in film and theatre. Equipped with a satellite modem, he's planning to blog every day from tomorrow from wherever it is he ends up. Today, he podcasted from Brooklyn - somewhere in Bushwick, I think - where he and his actress sister gave Shakespeare his turn on the waterfront.

I know that videoblogging (vlogging) and video podcasting are well up and running by now in the blogosphere, but at the risk of sounding like a fogey (well, I am over 25...ancient in blogging terms), I don't know much about this type of blogging, and I don't have any video blogs on my blogroll. So, while it might be old hat by now, I was still really interested by what Bowles had to say about his project and about the ramifications of vlogging for traditional forms of journalism:

It dawned on me a few months ago, that if you had all the right gear, (camera, laptop, sat. phone, solar panels) a person could be a new sort of independent journalist; uploading video stories from anywhere in the world, while maintaining one’s creative freedom. I figure that within a few years, most travelers and bloggers will have this sort of gear, and we’ll have thousands of un-affiliated reporters roaming the globe, sending out news as part of a diverse open-source media network. I don’t really consider myself a journalist, but I’m interested in trying out the concept to see what happens.

I think it was the incredibly casual way his sister dropped into the conversation that he was about to sail around the world with his video camera that really piqued my interest. Even when I'm taking the subway to Manhattan, it feels like a major operation. Maybe that's the difference between the vlogger and the blogger. Or maybe it's just that they don't have wireless signals on the subway. Yet.

Any vlogs or video podcast recommendations out there?


Friday, February 16, 2007

Tubridy The Theatre Pundit, Updated

Following Tuesday's post about Ryan Tubridy's thunderingly ignorant approach to theatre criticism (in summary: don't bother seeing the play, assume that writing about a subject is the same as endorsing it, imply that a dramatic exploration of a disturbing relationship is irresponsible because it will just encourage people to engage in such relationships in real life, I heard from the director of the Dublin production of Blackbird, Michael Barker-Caven. He told me that David Harrower, the playwright, was seriously shaken up after Tubridy's vigilante-style swoop, and that he had never experienced anything like it in the round of press interviews he had done for the play's runs in other cities, and he's wary about the prospect of doing any more live radio interviews about the play in the future. Which caution is understandable, I guess, but hopefully unnecessary - Harrower would probably have to find himself in the hotseat on Vatican Radio's Concerned Mothers Against Theatre talkshow before he'd come up against a presenter as narrow-minded and blinkered as Tubridy.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Yup, And The Editor In Chief Is Cathleen Ní Houlihan...

He runs one of the best literary blogs out there, and he's barely one to be fooled, but Mark Sarvas over at The Elegant Variation fell hook, line and sinker today for Newton Emerson's satirical take on Gerry Adams, Writer Extraordinaire, which was published in the Irish Times a (full) month ago (and covered by Blogorrah here).

In a post entitled "Why Didn't We Think Of That?", TEV faithfully quotes from Emerson's piece on Adams's refusal to publish the third volume of his memoirs without the guarantee of good reviews. The gag about how Adams is believed to have "serious reservations about the final chapter" is also taken as fact, as is the quote from "Ulysses Grant", Emerson's fictional Irish Times literary edtor:

Like most creative people, Gerry Adams is surprisingly sensitive...[h]e finds it difficult to finish anything unless he's absolutely sure that everyone will love it.

And TEV rounds it all off with a hilarious crack about a car bomb, before the commenters come in to rain on his parade.


Messenger, Bullet Wounds, Tubridy: Nothing New Here

Having listened yesterday to Ryan Tubridy pouring ill-informed fury upon David Harrower, the strangely-appropriately-named author of Blackbird, which opened at Dublin's Project last night in a production by the Landmark company, it's great to see a vastly more considered (not to mention professional) engagement with this controversial play already online at Irish Theatre Magazine's website. As the reviewer, Peter Crawley notes that Tubridy's screeching outrage at the very idea of a play which deals with a sexual encounter between a preteen girl and a forty-year-old man "is hardly an aberration":

In fact, it seemed a true measure of the level of cultural debate surrounding paedophilia, even – or perhaps especially – in a country so psychologically scarred by child sexual abuse.

True; most of the Tubridy interview sounded like an outtake from the Brasseye special on paedophilia six years ago. The same levels of stupidity, narrow-mindedness and hysteria were in evidence as Tubridy seemed practically to confuse Harrower with the male protagonist of his play. To write about such a thing as paedophilia, he implied, you must be somehow interested in it, which is sick. And anyway, how could you write about such a thing; how much do audiences really need to learn about this subject? Was Harrower just looking around for something scandalous to write about, Tubridy asked, in a tone which made clear that he, for one, had already made up his mind; did he have children himself? No, said Harrower, and the smug, disapproving little grunt which followed from Tubridy said it all, really. Naturally, he hadn't bothered to go to a preview of the very play he was not-very-subtly dismissing out of hand.

Crawley is right; this response speaks volumes about the level of cultural debate around the subject. But it also speaks volumes about the level and quality of debate and discussion around practically any arts-related subject on daytime Radio 1 programmes. With the new policy of distributing daytime arts interviews between Tubridy and Kenny, the notion of genuine engagement with a book, or a piece of theatre, has been utterly abandoned. It's gotten to the point where anything that sounds like a comment about the work itself, rather than about the personal life, interests and hobbies or (in this case) Virulent Paedophilia Obsession of the work's creator, sticks out embarrassingly, so that even the most fleeting attempt to talk in artistic terms about art sounds pretentious. Witness Harrower, yesterday, using the idea of his characters carrying narratives of their pasts around in their heads; in the face of Tubridy's flaming How Could You Do This assault, Harrower's response sounded like it belonged to a different era, a different realm. Which it did. It belonged to the realm of intelligent radio, where to discuss the arts, presenters didn't feel the need to mock or deride their subjects - or make clear their gleeful ignorance of their subject, another RTE speciality - before, or in lieu of, getting into a discussion of it. Wouldn't it be awful, after all, if their listeners thought they were actually interested in this arts rubbish? Good god, people would turn off their radios in droves.

Funny, then, that exactly this has been happening anyway, isn't it?


Friday, January 26, 2007

Sentimental Muck Alert

Siofra King and Daniel Fay, both born on Wednesday....good to have you with us. Yeah, yeah, so there's an ocean between you and all that, but I'm still going to plague your teenage years with lame jokes about matchmaking, ok? You can do the preliminary flirting on the bebo pages I've already set up for each of you.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Twenty in NY Lawsuit Scandal

Tch, turns out Twenty Major is just another of those fakes who blogs about Ireland while actually living in New York. Tax scam? Legal loophole? Failed screenwriting career? Hopefully none of the above, for not only is Twenty homeless and living outside a Manhattan antiques store, but he's currently being sued to the tune of $1 million in damages by the owner of the store, Karl Kemp, who says the sight of the bearded man and his filthy belongings is adversely affecting trade.

It seems Twenty has written almost the entirety of his blog from his grotty perch on Madison Avenue; he has been blogging for just over two years, which is also the length of time for which Kemp, according to his lawyer, has been plagued by Twenty's presence. Kemp says that the blogger, who is known on the street as "the Preacher" and often accompanied by up to ten followers, also homeless, can often be found "sleeping on the sidewalk,” “consuming alcoholic beverages from open bottles, performing various bodily functions such as urinating and spitting,” and “verbally harassing or intimidating the plaintiff’s patrons and prospective customers.”

But the real problem facing Kemp and other antique store owners, and the real reason for the staggering lawsuit, was revealed yesterday. It seems that Twenty has not only been "intimidating" would-be browsers of Kemp's goods, but he has also been running a sidewalk business in more modern, efficient, and interesting versions of such goods, which has, over the past year in particular, begun to siphon away Kemp's customer base. "We can't compete with the sidewalk traders," said another antiques dealer, who asked not to be named, yesterday. "They're plugged into everything that goes on in a way that we, surrounded by our mouldering antiques, never really can be. They get everything we do done more quickly and more economically. And while most of our most loyal customers do keep coming back to us, the sidewalk traders are stealing away the next generation. There is no next generation for the antiques dealers. Those homeless bastards - and it's not just Twenty, they're all over the place - have got us licked. I mean, look at them. They don't have any overheads, don't have any staff to pay, don't have any bosses to obey or pander to. Who wouldn't want to be homeless, the jammy bastards?"

The unnamed dealer did add, however, that not every sidewalk trader ran as successful a business as Twenty. Referring to the group of homeless people who often surround him outside the Madison Avenue Store, he said that the sidewalk industry had its share of inferior hangers-on and imitators. "That lot are just a merry band of wannabes," he said, prompting the ire of some of Twenty's followers, who at the time had been rooting through his "filthy belongings" and attempting to make them their own. "We say hilarious things about goats," bellowed one man, who seemed to be wearing a fake beard.

With the lawsuit, Karl Kemp hopes to compel the city to finally remove Twenty and his associates from the area outside his store. Homeless advocacy groups last night criticised his action, however, calling it "blinkered". "Regardless of where they pitch their camp, the homeless will still be out there, and their number is only getting larger," said a spokesperson for one group. "Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they're not there. They haven't gone away, you know."

Read more on Twenty's new found celebrity (much better than a crummy mention in the Irish Times): Gawker, New York Times


Thursday, January 18, 2007


...begins today. And the festival's website includes a number of the shorts which will be screened in Park City over the next couple of days. I think the shorts section of the site will be updated over the course of the festival (at least in terms of the given day's picks), so it's worth keeping an eye on. But you'll probably need a strapping bandwith - even my normally macho broadband connection is struggling to get going on this.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Poor Old Peter

While happily gorging on the Golden Globes live blog at Cinematical (I do love me a live blog...nothing like a second-by-second commentary on Angelina Jolie's bored facial expressions, or the contrasting post-break-up sartorial statements of Reese and Cameron, to liven up a Monday night), I found myself really rooting for Mr O'Toole. And feeling so sorry for him when he didn't win for Venus. He was nominated in the Best Actor category, and the feeling seemed to be that he might take it, but no. And, not to get too gloomy about it, but this probably means he'll never win an Oscar, either, since the Globes are generally seen as a dry run for the Academy Awards. He'll just have to do with the honorary "lovely bugger" (his phrase for the statuette) he initially refused in 2003, on the grounds that he considered himself still in the running for a real one. Someone had a word in his ear, though, and told him not to be such a silly bugger, or words to that effect, and he accepted eventually.
New York magazine is feeling gloomy about Venus, too, but not because of anything to do with the quality of the film; rather, its review says, it comes as a shock to see O'Toole, "once the most beautiful of actors," playing "a near-death version of himself". See? Depressing.

But if anyone has to put paid to your last hopes of an Oscar, it might as well be Idi Amin. Forrest Whitaker took the Best Actor Globe for his portrayal of the dictator in The Last King of Scotland.


Sunday's Media Stuff: The Good. The Bad. The Sindo.

The Good: Ambrose Clancy's riposte to the lazy sterotyping employed by Pico Iyer's New York Times review of Colm Tóibín's Mothers and Sons:

To the Editor:
In his review of Colm Toibin's "Mothers and Sons" (Dec. 31), Pico Iyer separates Toibin from the "typical Irish writer, if you associate such with musical rhapsodies, loquaciousness or blarney."
Typical? Who has he been reading? Jonathan Swift? Frank O'Connor? Elizabeth Bowen? Benedict Kiely? William Trevor? John McGahern? Not to mention Samuel Beckett, so I won't.
There's a long list of writers, many included in the Toibin-edited "Penguin Book of Irish Fiction," who are spare in their music, blade-sharp and ruthlessly to the point.

Good man, Ambrose! Though you might have told them that the fadas in Tóibín's surname aren't mere rhapsodic quirks either...

The Bad: Albert Reynolds, in the middle of a riveting account of his working relationship with the late David Ervine on Marian Finucane's programme, uses the phrase "the nigger in the woodpile". The silent horror of everyone else in the studio comes over the airwaves like a blast of cold air. The tension was palpable for minutes afterwards; RTE's radio dramatists could learn a lot about atmosphere from the clip, which should still be online here. Reynolds will likely get a roasting over it, and deserves to, for speaking like a silly old fool.

The Sindo: Loads of coverage on Ireland's coke catastrophe, most of it by hacks only too happy to come across like they know just a little too much how this whole cocaine thing works - and all of it, hilariously, filed under the "Analysis" rather than the "Lifestyle" section of the paper, when, almost every case, the "analysis" in question barely extends beyond the tip of the writer's nose, clean or otherwise. As you'd expect, Bazza is in his element on this subject; so breathtakingly close to the action is his exposé of "(literally) high society" that it dispenses almost completely with the notion of providing sources for quotes. Sources? "[o]ne or two Irish rock stars, restaurateurs, Bohemians, rock managers, famous wives, solicitors [and] models" are hoovering it up and you want sources? Tch, petty. The man's a genius; he knew it wasn't enough just to describe the coke scene in Dublin. No, he worked long and hard on his style to make sure that it replicated in dizzying detail the precise sensations of a coke high; the rambling, unsupported assertions, the delusions, the shattered focus, the peaks of hysterical aggression, the verbal slips and slurs (" The magazine rang a front cover issue on coke last mag called 'High Society"). Repeating himself, mixing his metaphors, composing memos to Kate Moss, drawing on Naomi Campbell, Oasis and P.J. Gibbons as cultural referents, launching into, and then abandoning, a treatise on fashion and its drug history...Bazza brilliantly imbues his words with all the tics and traits of an addict. At the end of his piece, when we read this passage...
"Unbeknownst to themselves, cokeheads talk a lot of shite; but in very quick sentences and in a hyper manner as if dispensing some all-important wisdom that needs to be heard before time runs out."
...we feel, somehow, as though we've already been there, as though we've already witnessed the exact scenario he describes. His writing is that good. It practically gurns. Anyone can write about cokeheads. It takes Bazza to to become one - in a purely metaphorical sense, of course. Give the man a Pulitzer. And make sure the prizemoney's in nice, crisp banknotes.

That's if his colleague Liam Collins doesn't win, for his first-person account of the horrors of coke - all of which seem related, for some reason, to lovely girls and the weddings they either attend or intend to have. Liam's piece includes the story of a couple who last year died a Romeo and Juliet-style death in a Dublin hotel - after a wedding, naturally. It's incredible. No, really. Not a source or citation or a name or a date in sight. But look, the man says it happened. Isn't that enough for you? Bloody cocaine classes, always wanting more.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Once I Had a Bunch of Time (To Blog)

Well, hello there, faithful readers. What you you doing, still hanging about here? Didn’t you know that after that last snide post there - that Lohan-bash which disregarded the whole meaning of Thanksgiving - I suffered a Lohanesque breakdown of my own (read: got blogblock) and had to go into rehab? Except it kind of looked like my parents’ home in the Irish midlands. And instead of having Pete Doherty to look at outside my window, snorting coke and groping Kate Moss in the clinic’s salubrious gardens, I had for my viewing pleasure the time-honoured elements of the fragrant midlands countryside: the Old Black Cow (the cranky one who insists on getting hurriedly knocked up at unsuitable times of the year, the old-fashioned way, without the help of the AA man); the New Housing Development (knocked up at a similarly hurried pace, also without the help of the AA man but with plenty of help from the WPP [What Planning Permission?] man), and the Two Roads Diverged in a Scraggy Wood, neither of which I could take due to my continuing, really-embarrassing-at-this-stage, inability to drive.
I also had at my disposal the slowest, patchiest, most sputtering internet connection outside of the Comoro Islands, with which I could try, I suppose, to excuse my blogging silence of the last two months, but I won’t lie to you. I was only home for three weeks: I could have been frenetically blogging all of the rest of the time. Out of the loop I fell, however, and here is my pathetic attempt to muscle my way back in. Wish me luck. It’ll probably be the 12th of April (happy birthday, Miglior!) before you hear from me again.

So, to kick off 2007 chez ESV, below are some lovely youtube swipes which pretty much sum up the world I’ve been inhabiting for the last few weeks:

1. My Native Place (or near enough):

I don’t know who made this (I swear to god it wasn’t me), but as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest work of art to come out of said county since Castle Rackrent. The suspicious cattle, the time-stained bungalow, the novel approach to “landscaping” in said bungalow’s front garden; this skatebop guy has it all. I hope he’s at least getting some Local Authority funding.

2. My social life over Christmas:

I ventured all the way to Leitrim. Again, I am not the artiste behind this tape, but I live in hope of the day some Carrick-on-Shannon lad will shout “howya horseboxes” at my retreating skirt. (I hope they don’t speak to Mary McAleese like that as she’s going about Carrick doing her shopping, as she recently told Marian Finucane she likes to do.)

3. What I saw on my daily rambles down to the banks of the canal:

This is always happening, you can’t go for a walk anywhere in my neck of the woods without stumbling over proof of the county’s traditional song and music heritage, and what a hale and hearty state it’s still in. Honestly. All the energy there goes into fiddle-playing and sean-nós dancing, not into breathalyzer-avoidiance and anti-Latvian mutterings.

4. My new standard of excellence:

No, really. I thought Shay Healy’s documentary on Foster and Allen (which skipped over the whole matter of the boys playing in South Africa during the Apartheid-protesting boycott by practically ever other musician in the world) was kind of brilliant. In an accidental way, mind. But still. You can’t beat quotes (only slightly paraphrased) like these:

Foster: “I don’t think I’m famous at all. I don’t get treated too famous around here anyhow. Sure didn’t I come back from a world tour there one time, and I was only in the door before a neighbour rang to know would I go up to him and help him to pick a few stones out of a field. And I went.”
Allen: “No, we never see each other when we’re not on tour. No, never.”
Foster: “I built this huge complex for me horses. And I have pictures of horses everywhere in it. And this oul' Native American Indian wall hanging. It has a horse on it too, see?”
Allen: “I built this patio so that when I come home from tour, I can sit out here on my own. On my own. Do you understand me?”

I can’t wait for the director’s cut with behind-the-scenes coverage of the boys’ obvious mutual resentment.