Neil Jordan’s new novel Mistaken is about two Dubliners, Kevin and Gerard, who spend their lives being mistaken for one another. A mix of thriller and gothic genres, it is Neil Jordan’s first novel in six years. You can see Neil Jordan talk about his work on TV3 here.
All the Kyleglass Book Worms agree that the book gives a rich, immediate and evocative picture of Dublin in the sixties, seventies and eighties: Woolworth’s, Bewley’s, the Wellington Monument, Burgh Quay Irish Press offices and the real-life figure of David Marcus.
All agree that the Neil Jordan’s writing is crisp and direct with a strong visual eye – a skill inherited from his painter mother, he says. One sees the screen writer at work, every word selected with precision.
One of us has read an interview Neil Jordan gave to the The Telegraph where he talks about the two Niel Jordans: the writer and the film maker. ‘This mildly schizophrenic feeling triggered the idea for this novel.’
Some of us think that the book sags a bit in the middle; others that the narrator device of addressing Emily as ‘you’ is confusing in parts; that the Bram Stoker thread seems contrived; that the Manhattan gothic strand is over the top; that it is pretentious to be dragging Joyce into the story as if it is a modern-day Ulysses.
A ‘Small Talk’ interview Jordan gave to the Financial Times was intriguing. Asked what his current favourite word was, he replied, ‘Dinnsheanchas. An Irish word meaning “the lore of place.”‘ What comes across in Mistaken is Neil Jordan’s deep and abiding immersion in his Dublin places.
After all that, I can say that this ode to Dublin, Jordan’s place, with its stories, its lore and its literary ghosts, was not a bad January read. That’s the consensus from the Kyleglass Book Worms.
The project traces the place lore of pathways that criss-cross the landscape where I grew up and rambled in the East Mayo Parish of Bekan. A wonderful achievement in public art where a community is engaged in reliving its history.
In a recent interview in the Financial Times, Irish novelist and film director Neil Jordan was asked what his current favourite word was. He gave a surprising answer. ‘Dinnsheanchas,’ he said. ‘An Irish word, meaning “the lore of place”.’ On the day this interview was published, the output from an innovative Dinnsheanchas initiative was presented in Claremorris, County Mayo. En Route – A Public Art Project, commissioned by Mayo County Council, produced by Aileen Lambert and comprising a book, two CDs and on online version http://www.enroute.ie , was launched.
The project is supported under the Percent Art Programme by Mayo County Council whose public art programme has to be one of the most innovative in the country. (The North Mayo Sculpture Trail, comprising fourteen individual pieces of sculpture across the North Mayo coastline is their most high profile effort.) The concept behind En Route was to explore old landscape routes in the hinterland of Bekan, Southeast Mayo. It became, not just a collection of maps and a pulling-together of historical information, but a creative gathering of personal and community stories about the disused and forgotten pathways. While some of the routes such as the disused Ballindine railway had a documented history, many had a life only in local memory and oral tradition.
The thrust of Aileen Lambert’s artistic practice is tracing the ‘body’s presence on the landscape’. In En Route she sets out to examine how a community leaves its mark on the environment in the form of old routes and pathways. In the first project phase, she did her research of the locality in libraries, on the internet and through the Ordnance Survey. There then followed the innovative phase where locals were invited to walk the network of shortcuts and rights of way while their stories and memories were documented. ‘In the rural landscape there are names for every lane, gap, stream, wall and bend in the road.’
En Route brings to life the oral history and place lore of the area I grew up in: the Lisheen burial ground at Reask for unbaptized infants; leaba Dhiarmada agus Ghrάinne near the ‘high crossroads’; Johnston’s route from Erriff to Greenwood by the ‘fόidin mearaí’; the house of the Burke landowners near Bekan Cemetery; the ‘pόirse’ down to Lios Bawn fields and Cathairín Hill. As the psycho geographer writer Iain Sinclair wrote, in tracing the Essex journey of poet John Clare: ‘We re-lived their history and remade our own.’
A quarter of a century ago a ground-breaking local history study, Béacάn/Bekan: Portrait of an East Mayo Parish (1986), edited by Father Michael Comer and Nollaig Ō Muraile, covered a largely similar physical territory to this project in a scholarly series of essays. In En Route we witness the community of Bekan re-living and remaking that history as they walk the network of paths and routes that criss-cross their local landscape. Perhaps we have in En Route a model for others in bringing dinnsheanchas and oral history alive for the enrichment of communities.