Posts tagged ‘Irish author’
September 12, 2018
Colin O’Sullivan, author of Killarney Blues (Winner of the Prix Mystère de la Critique 2018 in France), The Starved Lover Sings and The Dark Manual, features prominently in the latest issue of Books Ireland Magazine.
Nostalgic or futuristic, even visionary, his novels focus on characters “grappling with loss, the past and their lack of purpose”, in a turbulent political environment. But O’Sullivan firmly believes that “we have enough inside us to withstand, to cope, and eventually to surpass. We are still here, after all, or I should say, despite all.”
Meet a writer who “has an understanding of the power of words, their placing, their specific meaning” and “reflects the current malaise and modern preoccupations”*, “sends language out on a gleeful spree, exuberant, defiant”**, and who is “one of the finest storytellers out there, a lyrical master of the written word”***.
* From a Book Noir review by Paul Burke
** Endorsement by writer Niall Griffiths
*** From a review by Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions
September 11, 2018
Review published on Book Nudge / Book Noir, August 31, 2018.
The Dark Manual defies easy categorisation; it’s a literary novel, a very desperate tale of love and loss, a noir thriller, of real and imaginary threats and a sci-fi speculation (which could be read as prescient future gazing). O’Sullivan has carved himself a distinct niche in the blackly comic noir world. The Dark Manual proves that he is as comfortable writing about Japan, the place where he has lived for many years, as he was writing about his native Ireland in his earlier novel Killarney Blues. The Dark Manual is a mature rounded work, assured and confident, at times lyrical and beautiful but also punchy and sharp. Susie Sakamoto’s bleak world is painful and depressing but compelling and honest. Yet this isn’t a hard read, it’s engaging, inventive and thought-provoking.
So The Dark Manual takes us into the world of Susie Sakamoto, an Irish woman trapped in a nightmare since the disappearance of her husband and son, Masa and Zen, in a terrible plane crash at sea. Susie is alone in her grief, except for the homebot, Sonny.
“Her deep despair. Her piteous and addle-egged mind….Gravity pinning her right down. Gravity seems so much heavier these days; her bones, now leaden and so hard to move. She is rooted. Rooted to this spot. So firmly, so horribly stuck.”
The description of Susie’s home life is so stark and brutal, it could be an interior scene from Blade Runner 2049. As Susie sprawls on the couch unable to relieve the torpor she is irritated by the hoover, is it just a symptom of her malaise or something more insidious? Her life is managed by the homebots, particularly Sonny, model SH.XL8. Susie can cook, she can clean, she used to be able to manage her life, but now the machines do all the work. Even though she doesn’t want to acknowledge their presence they become one of her only means of discourse. Sonny is male, he responds to commands, but is there a touch of sarcasm in his answers, an independence, is he manipulating her life? Is Sonny arguing with her? For the reader the exchanges with the homebot are witty, for Susie they are both necessary, invasive and disturbing. Did she ask the health information monitor to tell her, her weight, to suggest a revision in her diet?
Susie is adrift after the death of her family, mired in grief and not coping. She was a confident woman working for an online news outlet compiling a column: “a foreigner’s interpretation of Japan”, which was translated from English to Japanese by machine and checked, but rarely corrected, by a sub-editor. She’s not ready to return to work and fills the void with bars and booze with her friend, Mixxy. Are her problems with the robots in her head, are these computers a benign or malignant force. What is The Dark Manual, and what did her husband have to do with it?
There are so many facets to this novel, subtleties to the story, but I have want to concentrate on three major themes. Grief – this is a study of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, suffering the profound grief of losing her loved ones (grief the devouring monster). It’s grief in an alien environment, or perhaps more accurately, the realisation that any environment becomes alien when grief strikes. Susie’s grief is all she is left with in the world where she has so little real contact to other humans, where everything is done for her by machines but nothing fills the void. Artificial intelligence – the fear of a future in which we may not be in charge, think of a more intellectual Humans (the Channel 4 series). It’s deja vu, the re-emergence of Frankenstein’s monster, except this time there is a genuine concern that the machines will outstrip us. Will we be consumed, altered, rendered helpless by machines? Truth and memory – was Masa the man she thought he was? We all want to believe we know the people who are close to us but do we really know others? What if the human impetus for the robot programmes is not benign? O’Sullivan has an understanding of the power of words, their placing, their specific meaning, that reminded me a little of Bernard MacLaverty’s use of language to conjure images in Cal. This bleak, but also witty novel is a philosophical musing on what we are and how we respond to life; grief, the future, a world inhabited by AI. The dystopian future has been the staple of sci-fi (1984, Brave New World). This is a modern novel that reflects the current malaise and modern preoccupations. As a thriller this is a page turner, a really intriguing read.
The publisher, Betimes Books, is about to announce a major film deal for the The Dark Manual, which will be one to keep an eye out for. [SOON!!!]
If you like The Dark Manual I would thoroughly recommend O’Sullivan’s earlier novel Killarney Blues, an unconventional crime novel of small town living in Killarney – everyone seems to be in a funk. Bernard Dunphy loves American Blues but he’s troubled by his father’s suicide. The sins of the past always have ramifications in the present. A sudden violent act has an impact on Bernard and the young people of the town. Killarney Blues is engrossing, witty, depressing and uplifting. Winner of the Prix Mystère de la critique 2018.
The Dark Manual by Colin O’Sullivan
Betimes Books 9780993433177, May 2018
Original review here: https://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/08/the-dark-manual-by-colin-osullivan/
June 15, 2018
Isaac Asimov had Three Laws of Robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Asimov’s laws are sourly tested in Colin O’Sullivan’s new novel, The Dark Manual. The author, Winner of the Prix Mystère de la critique 2018, just gets better with each book, and with this, his third, he is becoming one of the finest storytellers out there. His prose keeps one glued to the page, with delightful concentration.
Colin O’Sullivan does not write a bad line. His characters become a part of the reader as they turn the pages, and they dwell in the mind between reads. I found myself setting the book down, two or three times, but not able to leave it until I picked it up again, and read some more. Colin O’Sullivan’s writing style reminds me so of jazz, with its one-word, then two-word, then three-word sentences. Bop, bop, bop-bop, until you realize you have read a paragraph, then onto a new riff. Lyrical, powerful, humorous, poetic, emotional. He is a lyrical master of the written word. There are sections of the book that are heartbreaking, in their emotional and physical sense of loss, and moments of humor, surprise, suspense, pure sudden horror, and stark naked joy.
Susie Sakamoto, came from Ireland, to live in Japan with her husband, Masa, who designed and built “homebots,” domestic robots. Their primary role: clean the home, cook, make drinks, tend to the owner, and stand still in the corner when turned off for the night.
With their little boy, Zen, Masa and Susie have a happy life, until the day when Susie bids goodbye to her son and husband at the airport, where they are setting off on a trip to South Korea. A trip that becomes a tragedy when an errant missile launched from North Korea causes the plane they are on to break apart, its pieces and bodies of those on board falling into the sea. Her dear husband and darling son, suddenly gone. Their bodies never recovered.
Susie now spends her days in a deep depression, going over the what-ifs, coming to hate the homebot that lives with her, and staying drunk most of the time. Appearing at work, where she is a reporter, occasionally, but contemplating suicide, and spending nights in a bar getting wasted and mourning the tremendous loss she has suffered. A drunken Irishwoman in Japan, with little reason to get up in the morning, except to order the home robot to bring her another drink, while outside, in the trees, the owls are gathering, as if something was amiss.
At the bar she hangs out at each night, Susie becomes somewhat friendly with the ultra free spirit and flamboyant Mixxy Makanea, a Japanese woman who speaks English, and pretty much does what she wants, when she wants, and with whomever she wants. When Mixxy struts into a bar, all heads turn. Green streaked hair, fishnet stockings, glossy lips, and just a touch of white powder under her nostrils, she is ready to steal the evening. Mixxy is one of the great characters from the author. With her flash flamboyance and pizzazz, she colors the novel with her profane antics, and so-what attitude. Mixxy also feels the presence of the owls. Knows they are in the trees. Watching.
Susie continues to struggle with whether to live or die and blacken it all out once and for all. Her anguish palpable. Her loss profound. Her hatred for the annoying domestic robot growing each day. Then she begins to hear about the Dark Manual, a legendary means to shut off all the machines, that might or might not exist. Susie starts thinking that if she could find it, she could shut the damn thing off. Shut them all off. If she gets Mixxy to help her, could they find it? Did her husband write it? Is it close by, within her reach?
Meanwhile the homebot waits. All the homebots wait. Lights flashing on and off. Eerie sounds emitting from where there mouth would be. Do they come into the bedroom at night to watch the sleeper? Are they capable of harm? If Susie and Mixxy find the Dark Manual, will the machines know, and try to stop them from shutting them down? Can they think? Can they communicate with other homebots? Are they evil?
Worst of all, can they kill?
Meanwhile, outside, more owls gather in the trees, and now also the crows. They too gather and caw in the trees and rooftops. More and more of them. Watching. Waiting.
–Marvin Minkler of Modern First Editions
March 26, 2018
Congratulations to Colin O’Sullivan, Winner of a prestigious crime fiction award in France: the Prix Mystère de la critique!
Previous winners include:
Don Winslow, Daniel Woodrell, Dennis Lehane, Boris Akunin, Donald E. Westlake, Henning Mankell, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris, and many other fabulous writers from around the world.
November 2, 2017
“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.” —Le Soir
“A cathartic novel that ultimately creates positive emotions, like the blues can do. Poignant.” —booknode.com
“A luminous novel that chases away the darkness… All its characters are at a crossroads and they will either meet the Devil himself or find a way towards a new life.” —Appuyez sur la touche lecture
“Moving, tragic, masterly crafted.” —Lea Touch
“In a style that is sometimes luminous, sometimes direct, sometimes poetic, Colin O’Sullivan traces his narrative path, creates incredibly vivid and appealing characters and brings the reader, to the 12-bar beat of the blues, towards a heart-breaking denouement.” —Le blog du Polar de Velda
“Colin O’Sullivan’s Killarney Blues brings us to a paradoxical Ireland, half-way between mythological timelessness and modernity. …A novel full of deep melancholy and beautiful blues.” —actualitte.com
“A great, great book.” —unwalkers.com
“A hard, poignant novel of great humanity… remarkably well written…” —Rolling Stone
September 20, 2017
A wonderful review of the French edition of Colin O’Sullivan’s KILLARNEY BLUES!
Traduit par Ludivine Bouton-Kelly
Bernard est jarvey dans la petite ville de Killarney, en Irlande, dans le comté du Kerry. Si vous connaissez Killarney, vous avez sûrement rencontré ces conducteurs de calèche qui promènent toute la journée les nombreux touristes. Pourtant Bernard est mis au ban de la bourgade : il est considéré un peu comme l’idiot du village. On découvre qu’il aurait peut-être une forme d’autisme Asperger (mais cela reste une supposition). Cet homme a une passion : le blues. Dès qu’il peut, il gratte sa guitare et chante (mais chez lui). Il est incollable sur tous les bluesmen américains. Une passion que lui a transmise son père, décédé. Bernard est amoureux depuis son adolescence de Marian, à qui il envoie régulièrement des cassettes de ses enregistrements.
Quand s’ouvre le récit, Bernard se fait rosser par des hommes, à la sortie d’un pub. On ne sait pas pourquoi. Des…
View original post 837 more words
April 18, 2017
The Starved Lover Sings
Fall under the spell of Colin O’Sullivan’s distinctive narrative voice.
O’Sullivan’s writing is striking.
Admire the at once precise and experimental nature of his prose, its energy and daring.
Enjoy it despite its darkness – and be impressed with it.
For bloggers and reviewers: please contact us to receive a free review copy.
February 8, 2016
I have long been fascinated by the charismatic artist Francisco de Goya. The seeds of my fascination with this Spanish painter were sown during my studies in History of Art in Trinity College, Dublin. The firework that sent me into orbit to write the novel, The Painter’s Women: Goya in Light and Shade, was a visit to an exhibition in New York some years ago of The Disasters of War. I was stunned at the depiction, in small intimate etchings, of the savagery of man’s inhumanity to man. No glorious victories, no medalled generals; instead bodies hanging from trees, soldiers castrating a helpless man. Later, I went to the British Library in London and handled prints of the Los Caprichos and visited the Prado to see the Black Paintings.
To my mind, Goya is one of the most enigmatic and influential painters in the history of art. As Court Painter, he was well-in with the Spanish royal family and the nobility, of whom he painted many portraits, yet he lambasted what he saw as the cruelty, superstition and hypocrisy in Spanish society, as we can see in his scathingly satirical series of eighty etchings, Los Caprichos (1799). He saw nothing glorious either in war and depicted it in all its horror and brutality in a series of etchings The Disasters of War (1810-1815) and in his large painting, The Third of May, 1808. Goya painted sunny pastoral scenes, church frescoes, courting couples. The same artist also covered the walls of his country house at Quinto del Sordo with grotesque images of monsters and devils―the famous Black Paintings now in the Prado, Madrid.
So who was this Francisco de Goya? In the novel I wanted to explore behind the scenes, to discover something more of the man and of his work. What better perspective to obtain than that of the women who were closest to him in his life? As they lived with Goya at different stages of his long and turbulent career, they have lot to say about the private character of the great artist as well as being able to tell us the background to some of his most famous art works.
Thus, to get a closer view of Francisco de Goya, I chose to create, to listen to, the voices of six women who knew him very well. Four of the six women whose voices we hear in my novel lived in Spain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They are Josefa, Goya’s wife of forty years, the mother of his six children, of whom only one son, Javier, survived infancy; Leocadia, his much younger mistress who lived with him for the last sixteen years of his life until his death in 1828; Rosario, his unacknowledged young daughter who had ambitions to follow in her father’s artistic footsteps, and Gumersinda, his acerbic, grasping daughter-in law. History tells us very little beyond the names of these four women. I wanted to give them a voice, to bring them out of the shade into the light and in doing so to hopefully illuminate Goya.
The fifth voice in The Painter’s Women is that of the totally fictitious Dolores, a young peasant girl who ends up, in the novel, as one of the most legendary nudes in the history of art. The sixth woman is the famous Duchess of Alba, feisty, flighty and fabulously wealthy. She appears more than any other woman in Goya’s art. There was much juicy gossip and speculation as to the nature of their relationship. This gossip finds a possible source in Goya’s portraits of the Duchess; especially the portrait of 1797 in which the Duchess is painted in the black costume of a maja. She is standing on a sandy shore, her right hand points to an inscription in the sand, Solo Goya. On her fingers are two rings, a diamond ring bearing the name Alba and the other a gold ring inscribed Goya. Maybe there is some truth in the rumours, or maybe not. Very little in Goya’s life was transparent.
I will leave the last word to the artist himself, talking to his daughter Rosario.
“This world is a masquerade: face, clothing, voice ―everything is meant to deceive. Everyone wants to appear what he is not, each deluding the other and not even knowing himself.”
December 16, 2015
French translation rights have been acquired by the legendary publisher of Rivages François Guérif.
The novel will be translated by Jean-Paul Gratias, the no-less-legendary translator of James Ellroy and William Kotzwinkle, among others.
“Colin O’Sullivan writes with a style and a swagger all his own. His voice – unique, strong, startlingly expressive – both comes from and adds to Ireland’s long and lovely literary lineage. Like many of that island’s sons and daughters, O’Sullivan sends language out on a gleeful spree, exuberant, defiant, ever-ready for a party. Only a soul of stone could resist joining in.” —Niall Griffith
October 28, 2015
We would like to share Charlie McCarthy’s thoughtful and quirky speech at the launch of The Painter’s Women last night with those who couldn’t attend. Enjoy!
“The Painter’s Women is told from six different perspectives so I thought I might say six different things about Fionnuala’s novel and my experience of reading it. (Relax — they are going to be short! Ish.)
The ﬁrst thing I want to say is that there is absolutely no need for me or for anyone else to launch this book — as if it were a rocket waiting to be shot into space… The Painter’s Women has already travelled quite a distance from initial idea to ﬁnal draft; from corrected proofs to published book; from black marks on a page to vivid images inside this reader’s head. It is already launched and conﬁdently in orbit.
2. When I ﬁnished reading the novel I phoned Fionnuala to congratulate her. Not knowing the details of Goya’s life and work, I tiptoed around the question of how much was fact and how much was ﬁction. I was hugely relieved when she said that most of it was made up. Of course, the novel is true to the facts of Goya’s life and accurate about the many paintings mentioned. It is also true that these women did exist. But their inner lives and voices and viewpoints are totally imagined and all the better for it. Fionnuala has obviously taken the good advice of Emily Dickinson to ‘tell the truth but tell it slant’.
(This is number 3 in case anyone is so bored that they’re counting.) Today I went to the National Gallery to look at their only Goya. It wasn’t there — it’s out on loan. All the more reason then to imagine a tour of Spain and France, Fionnuala’s book in hand, visiting the locations and tracking down all those Goya paintings. In lieu of that exciting trip, I do intend to re-read the book, Google Images at my ﬁngertips, looking up each painting and print as it is mentioned. It is a clever writer who makes it almost essential to read their book for a second or even a third time.
4. Of course, nothing is more autobiographical than the writing of ﬁction. And so while reading this novel a portrait, or indeed a self-portrait, of Fionnuala emerges. If you didn’t know her personally, you would learn that she is expert in the history of visual art and passionate about what artists do. She also has the emotional intelligence to reﬂect on the big themes of all our lives: love and loss and longing. Most importantly, she is someone who exudes the life force and celebrates it throughout her novel. Proof of this is in the all-important opening sentences which declare that a man might as well be dead if he doesn’t live energetically. Indeed.
5. The six principal characters in The Painter’s Women are a daughter, daughter-in-law, two wives, (one ofﬁcial, one not so much), a rich patron and a young innocent model. These six well-drawn characters are clearly not in search of an author. Though these women mostly bow to the notion of the Great Male Genius, Fionnuala counterpoints this by giving over the entire narrative to them, women who are neither Great nor Male (obviously / luckily) nor Geniuses. These are women who are mostly now forgotten; not so much written OUT of history as never written IN to it. The novel corrects this imbalance with great conﬁdence. Not only that, but Fionnuala risks and carries off that most uncynical of conclusions — a fairy tale ending. And that is some achievement!
(You’ll all be happy to hear that this is number 6!) So, there is no need to launch this book. But if I was a Royal, on a gangplank, overlooking the big ship of this novel, I would be honoured to smash a bottle of champagne against it, conﬁdent that it is sea worthy, water tight and ready to meet its readership. So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy because after all there is no such thing as a free launch.”
Charlie McCarthy, Dublin, 27 October 2015
*Charlie McCarthy is an award-winning film director and producer.
October 26, 2015
October 5, 2015
May 27, 2015
David Hogan: You’re in the long tradition of writers leaving Ireland in order to write about it. Is there something unique about the country that pushes you away while at the same time drawing you back?
Colin O’Sullivan: The Irish have always been a migrant race as you know, for many reasons too long to get into here , and I’ve always been fascinated by those great Irish writers who left and became the geniuses we know today – I’m thinking specifically of Joyce and Beckett, two artists who loom very large in my writing life. I never understood it until I actually did it, I suppose. That is until I upped and left Ireland and spent years abroad, I never really understood the idea of exile and writing about your native country from a distance (physical and emotional). But I think it has made me a better writer. I don’t think I’d write as much or as well if I had stayed at home – I think I’d be far too busy drinking Guinness and watching football (nothing at all wrong with those pursuits, but I don’t think I’d write very much). The fact that those delights aren’t available to me here means I have to get down to work and the hard graft of writing. And following on from that, I then have, I suppose, the time and inclination to look back and contemplate my native land. That’s not to say that all my work will be set in Ireland – my new work is wildly different and has nothing at all to do with my homeland.
D.H.: What are you working on now then?
C.O’S.: I won’t go into too much detail (might jinx the whole endeavour) and even to describe it might not do it justice, but let’s for the moment say it is an: existentialist-gothic-tragi-political-satirical-absurdo-comedy…with wolves, set in Japan 2045. If that doesn’t whet the appetite I don’t know what will!! If Killarney Blues was my Blue period, then I’m just moving into my Cubist period – do you like the way I align myself with geniuses?
D.H.: Bernard in Killarney Blues loves American blues “Because it’s exotic. From far away.” You’re an Irishman living in Japan; can this sentiment be applied to yourself in anyway?
C.O’S.: Yes, I think that can be applied to me in many ways. Not just because I live in Japan and appreciate the “difference” in culture, but in my artistic tastes too. Growing up I didn’t like traditional Irish music at all (I’ve since changed my mind) and wanted only rock, and certainly not Irish rock music, but British or American only. The further away the better from Irish shores the more authentic, I had foolishly thought. I don’t know why this was, a form of teenage rebellion I suppose. And I went through a phase of reading loads of American literature and eschewed anything from Ireland too. Maturity in thought and a sense of balance comes with age of course and I’m not so silly and dismissive anymore. But I still have a lot of Bernard in me – been going through a jazz phase over the last few years, which has of course absolutely nothing to do with Ireland and I enjoy it’s “far-awayness”.
D.H.: Funny you should mention jazz, your writing has a jazzy, improvisational feel to it. Are you able to get into ‘a zone’ where this flows? Does it come in the editing? Do you have to be careful not to over-edit?
C.O’S.: The zone. Yes, that’s a good word, I suppose I do get into it and try to go with that particular flow. It’s difficult to describe. But I do aim for that intensity of thought and concentration, whatever happens within that, whether it is jazzy or not, I don’t know. I’m looking for that voice I suppose. In Killarney Blues I was trying to get Bernard’s voice or Jack’s or whoever, yes, and improvising around them. As for editing, well, I can’t stop. I can go over pages again and again for hours, and still might miss something! There comes a stage when you have to call in another pair of eyes. Luckily I have a great editor at Betimes Books to help with that.
D.H.: Did you listen to the blues while writing “Blues?” Something else?
C.O’S.: I did listen to a lot of blues at that time yes, while going for a walk or whatever, or just doing work around the house, not during the actual writing time though: I prefer silence. Instrumental music I can take, a little; I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I write, I get too involved. Drone-like stuff works best. But yeah, you can’t beat silence when you’re trying to get the words down.
D.H.: There’s the great line in Killarney Blues: “The kind of person you’d release from prison on the back of songs. As if music, and music alone was enough.” This speaks to the redemptive power of music and, by inference, literature. What are the respective powers of the two mediums to you? How are they alike or different?
C.O’S.: They’ve always been there for me, that’s about as much as I know. I’ve always been fascinated by books, music, all art in fact, and have always found them to be my salvation. That sounds very pretentious, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ve always needed books and music around me at all times and I get antsy when they are out of reach. Music from my teenage years still gets me tremendously excited as do books that I’ve read and cherished several times. And I love that feeling of being overwhelmed and utterly excited by art. It’s thrilling, and I’ve never lost it.
D.H.: The demise of long forms (e.g. the album as opposed to singles and the novel) has long been predicted. Are you concerned about this? What will be lost or gained?
C.O’S.: I’m not overly concerned; I think music will always find a way. I do miss things, the long playing albums like you say, the cover art that isn’t so important anymore, sleeve notes, that kind of thing. Something like Bowie’s Low is hard to conceive as anything other than a two-sided record: listening to it straight on the iPod, it misses something; you feel like you have to turn over for the very different second “side”. But musicians are still making all kinds of great music and it’s still finding a way to get to us, so I’m happy enough about that, I guess. The novel will also endure. As an art form it’s too important not to.
D.H.: Desert island question: would you take a book or an album? Which one?
C.O’S.: A book, something huge, like The Complete Shakespeare, or War and Peace. I already have music playing in my head 24 hours anyway. Even my dreams have a soundtrack and I wake up thinking: Wow, I haven’t heard that song in years.
D.H.: What type and color of hat are you wearing these days?
C.O’S.: This grey one:
D.H.: What are you reading and/or listening to?
C.O’S.: On the current playlist: Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, PIL, The Fall, Swans and Nick Cave/Warren Ellis.
Reading: Tim Winton’s Eyrie, Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary, and Kevin Barry’s short story collection Dark Lies the Island.
D.H. What does Colin do for fun?
C.O’S.: Music and books, what else is there? Actually I do enjoy watching football (that’s soccer to you David) movies, and good TV dramas too, the usual box set stuff that everyone loves, and if there’s a good comedy out there I’m on it, like Veep or Louie – boy, do we need a laugh in the world these days… but that’s another story, eh?
May 26, 2015
30 – Michael Bourke
I opt to meet her in the office, not the house. The church had to be re-opened anyway: outrageously selfish of me to have kept it closed. I also hope to project a more officious nature, surrounded by the trappings of ecclesiastical power. Not to impress the journalist – she is bound to be contemptuous of such things – but to bolster myself. In truth, I want to cancel the meeting but lack the strength even for that.
I hear her well before she appears: her high heels clacking down the centre of the church, proclaiming their vulgar selves against the tranquillity around; yobs in an art gallery.
I move to the door of the office and beckon. She’s not what I imagine a journalist looks like: far worse, in fact. I expected some power-dressed vamp with scarlet fingernails, but this creature is quite scruffy, her unbrushed hair featuring a vivid slice of red; as if she has accidentally tipped a can of paint over herself. Her suit is wrinkled and seems in need of a wash: rather like its owner, who is making heavy weather of the walk through the church. She smiles as she approaches me, then sighs, then makes what I assume to be a comical face, indicating that this wouldn’t take so long if she exercised more.
That is self-evident.
While I wait, I glance around the church, which is empty save the two of us. Been that way for years, it seems. Even on Sundays it is barely half full and at Christmas only reaches the three-quarter mark. But we have kept the place well, Jack Kelly and I, agreeing to avoid all the modernist dabblings many churches go in for nowadays. We have kept it traditional. Rich golds at the altar, with faux-renaissance paintings lined up on either side, marking the Stations. Each pillar is partially shrouded by magnificent velvet drapes which lead to the ornate wooden roof. The roof, however, is badly in need of repair: a task we fear we will never complete. We simply don’t have enough parishioners, who would be too poor anyway to fund such a project. Jack has beggared himself before the Bishop, but the money offered was far from sufficient to bring the roof back to glory; just enough, in fact, for the ugly scaffolding which now holds it in place. The roof consists of interlocking joists, between which are once-vivid depictions of the stars and god-men. Sadly, it will probably be replaced with something plain and modern; something altogether more secular.
The panting hackette finally reaches me. She jabs out a sweaty hand and declares: “Oh, I need to do more exercise.”
Already, I loathe this woman; but I loathe myself even more. I have the attitude of a willing penitent, ready to submit myself to righteous punishment. I lead her into the office, slump into a chair and wait while she divests herself of her jacket and searches through her massive leather bag for the tools of her sordid trade.
“Well,” she says as she sits opposite me. I ignore this prelude, this marked attempted at charm. I commence speaking. I tell her everything, or almost everything: my experience of this girl’s death, followed by my contact with the Gardai and everything they told me about this unfortunate girl, this Manda.
I don’t mention Jack, naturally. Wisely, the reporter doesn’t interrupt, but scribbles furiously: the sound of a mouse trapped in a small space.
I finish, and expect her to go. It is evident that there is nothing more to say, that I have fully exhausted my usefulness to her. I don’t look up. I can’t.
But she remains where she is, rustling and groaning and shifting on her seat; as if something has trapped her there and she is struggling to escape.
Then it comes: the softened tone, the elongated vowels which no doubt she imagines sound the same as compassion; a limping totter of words which take their time to stop off at every condescending cliché they can find. She suggests that I was a comfort to Manda during her final seconds. It is a vomit of well-meaning insults which reach their zenith with the harshest of all: that she, this bedraggled pimp of words, knew Manda. And of course, believing it would please me, she has to mention Manda’s great Faith.
Faith. Hundreds of years of mistranslation has the Galilean exhorting all he meets to ‘believe’ in him. But the word he uses in the original Greek texts is pistis: which doesn’t mean faith. It means loyalty.
Now the anger comes. But it is not energising; more as if black walls suddenly partition my vision, screening out all but my failure: not just in relation to the girl, but everything I have set out to do since the seminary. It has all been wrong. Worse: it has been cowardly and hypocritical. I have peddled myths just like the rest of them, hoping that others might sense the music hidden behind my stock phrases. There are no others like me; or at least, none who will admit it. I am alone with a howling truth which for the last two decades I have denied.
This is the truth behind what has happened to me.
I wish to say these things, to declare them, but the words shoot through my mind far too quickly to marshal. Like grabbed raindrops, they splatter against me. I have nothing, but must make her go. So I descend to her level.
She makes a noise; as if she is genuinely surprised by such vulgarity; as if it’s certainly not the kind of language she’s used to hearing in the salubrious offices of the Daily Tit or whatever her rag is called. She stands, picks up her leather sack and flounces out, leaving me to listen to the blood raging around my brain and watching the shake in my hands. I know what I must do; all I can do. I must burn it to the ground.
“The Angel of the Streetlamps” by Sean Moncrieff is available HERE
April 7, 2015
Why I Write
by Jackie Mallon
The sound is like a low growl. You mightn’t hear it but even when I look at peace, I’m making it. Then I itch and scrape. Is my stomach empty? Do I need a walk? A nap? A blanket? Kibble? Tranquilizing?
Reading, yes, that calms me. For a while. Until there is something in the book that reminds me of my story. Oh, so I think I could do better than the writer? Well, let’s see it then, come on!
I go out, see friends instead.
I’m among people, reducing them to characters. Scrutinizing them as they speak, I wonder how I would best describe their features, their expressions, the sound of their voices, the texture of their hair, their energy, their teeth, their smell, their size, their ideas, their accents. I’m exhausted. I go home determined to get up early, get a real run at it.
A hearty breakfast. Back on the chain gang. Stacking the words one next to the other. Back breaking work bent over that one track as morning becomes afternoon, the sentence shifting, extending, shortening.
From the menial, I’ll build meaning.
Is my stomach empty? Something sweet? Check mail? Weather? How’s Mum?
A fashion agent calls, wants to put me forward for a design job. Good God, no! I hang up and write all the way through till night. I will do this till I finish. Then I will do it all over again. I know I will be doing it years from now. I can’t help it.
That means something.
Jackie Mallon is the author of SILK FOR THE FEED DOGS