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Archive for April, 2011

So This Is How It Ends: A Writer In Grandmother’s Footsteps

25/04/2011 Comments off

In a nice piece of symmetry Kathleen MacMahon’s novel, So This Is How It Ends, recently signed by Little Brown (UK) and Grand Central (US),  will be published in 2012, the centenary of the birth of Mary Lavin, the author’s grandmother.

‘My memory of  grandmother as a writer,’ Kathleen MacMahon said, ‘is of her in bed with a wooden tray writing, with endless pots of tea. That must have lodged in my brain at some point as being quite a nice job.’

So This Is How It Ends is a love story about a man who crosses the Atlantic to Ireland, as the Celtic Tiger collapses, and falls in love with a distant cousin. It is 90 years since the nine-year old Mary Lavin left the place of her birth in East Walpole, outside Boston,  and sailed the Atlantic to Ireland on the SS Winefriedian with her mother. Mary Lavin’s transition from America to Athenry, her mother’s birth-place, is wonderfully captured in her short story ‘Lemonade’.

I visited East Walpole last summer, travelling along Boston’s Washington Street that seemed to go on forever. I walked in the Francis William Bird Park, where Mary Lavin played as a child when her father was employed on the Bird estate.

Mary Lavin would, I imagine, have been thrilled by the writing success of her grand-daughter. The publication of So This Is How It Ends will be an appropriate event to mark the centenary of Kathleen MacMahon’s grandmother’s birth.

Happy Easter!

21/04/2011 Comments off

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A Book Club Take on The Boy In The Gap

15/04/2011 Comments off

They’re a fussy lot in our Book Club but each and everyone gave the thumbs up to Paul Soye’s The Boy In The Gap. Can it really be that this is his first novel, so fine is the writing achievement?

We were into the suspense from the very first line, I remember the first night ‘on remand’ watching the news, and the tension is held right to the end through the device of having Jack  Sammon – the main character – jot down his thoughts in prison in an exercise book; more precisely, in The Ireland Series No. 03. Coipleabhar – 120 pages. Paul Soye’s writing is exquisitely precise.

Jack’s father dies when he is six and his mother takes on a partner, to whom Jack and his brother assign the nick name Latchico. For our non-Irish book club member we spent a few giddy minutes coming up with expressions to explain our understanding of the term Latchico: ass-hole, wastrel, good-for-nothing, gob-shite….

The story is set in te west of Ireland, in the area of County Mayo around Clew Bay ‘like a grey-blue desert from Achill and Clare Island to Newport and Westport, out along by the Reek…’ The landscape is finely evoked as is the animal life. The young boys get their early sex education as they watch a ram circle with twisted nostrils and mount his first ewe.

The book reaches into deep psychological recesses and the trauma that can erupt when an individual’s balance is disturbed: ‘The world shakes. The world and the delicate things around you are no longer stable.’

There is a consensus among the Kyleglass Book Worms: already we are looking forward eagerly to Paul Soye’s next novel.

True or False

10/04/2011 Comments off

This is a true story | A guide to reading narrative nonfiction.

It was good to come across this blog for readers of Creative Nonfiction.  While aimed at readers, it’s packed with useful resources, tips and links for the nonfiction writer.

I’m wrestling at the moment with my manuscript that is based on true events and deals with a West of Ireland  historical crime in the nineteenth century. The research is done and the task now is to dramatise the story using fiction techniques.

This blog is helping me through the maze. Read more here.

Interested in hearing from any writers out there who are working through a creative nonfiction story.

Writing Too Much About Carrigskeewaun

09/04/2011 Comments off

Michael Longley’s new volume A Hundred Doors is slim and snug and almost weightless in the hand. He returns again, almost apologetically, to a place that changed his life: ‘I am writing too much about Carrigskeewaun.’

He is there for the millennium, at Christmas, at lambing time, and – for the first time – with his new grandson Benjamin: ‘This is your first night at Carrigskeewaun. / The Owennadornaun is so full of rain / You arrived in Paddy Morrisson’s tractor’.

And then abruptly, we are in the Berg Room at New York’s Public Library where Longley peeks at the field note-books of the war and nature poet Edward Thomas: ‘A shell blast killed Edward Thomas, a gust / That still rifles the pages in the library.’

At the end of the collection the poet loops back to Carrigskeewaun and imagines a time when ha has left the place for the last time: ‘I hope you discover something I’ve overlooked, / Greenshanks, say, two or three elegantly probing / Where sand from the white strand and the burial ground / Blows in.’

A Take on All Time 100 Novels

04/04/2011 Comments off

The List | 101 Books.

I like the approach to reading in this blog. Robert Bruce takes Time Magazine’s Greatest 100 Novels (since 1923) and adds in Ulysses. He is working his way through the list and compiling his own rankings as he reads.

When he finsihes reading a book, he asks the simple question: Did I enjoy it? Then he writes up his personal review and ranks the book against others he has read. Top book so far is To Kill A Mocking Bird. The rankings change as he works through the list.

See how he’s getting on here.

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