So said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian at the opening of the DublinSwell event in the city’s gleaming, green-lit, Convention Centre last week. This, she said, was Ireland’s largest literary event ever.
It was a celebration of Dublin’s listing as a UNESCO City of Literature – one of only four cities in the world to receive this designation. A happy audience of some 2,000, led by President Mary McAleese, gathered to listen to Dublin poets, musicians, writers and actors.
I had a few quibbles, like the half-hour delay in getting the programme underway, our seats being double-booked and the blaze of gore in the visuals of Iran that accompanied Mike Scott’s rendering of Yeats poems.
The poets were my stars of the night. Seamus Heaney read ‘Postscript’, one of my favourite Heaney poems: ‘As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways / And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.’ We had Paul Durcan’s tragic-comic verses, Dermot Bolger’s tribute to his late wife, Paula Meehan’s earthy Dublin lines, Biddy Jenkinson’s poems as Gaeilge and verse-drama excerpts from Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus.
The President spoke of ‘Brilliant’ – Roddy Doyle’s short story that was the inspiration for Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Festival 2011 parade. The word could be applied to DublinSwell. Great to be there.
See details of full DublinSwell programme and review here.
I like this idea from City of a Thousand Welcomes initiative. A simple notion asking volunteers to meet up with a visitor to Dublin and share – over a cuppa or a pint – their enthusiasm for the city.
You fill in a simple form and nominate one thing every visitor to Dublin should see. For me it is the National Library of Ireland. Not just packed with archives and exhibitions and literary ghosts, but a great place to stand on the steps and watch the comings and goings to Government Builidngs and the Dail next door.
Only problem for me is that I don’t qualify as a Dubliner!
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.