‘A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.’ This is how Graham Greene started his novel The End of the Affair – a book that was published sixty years ago, in 1951.
The event was marked in Achill this weekend at the Heinrich Boll Memorial Weekend where visitors could view the house in Dooagh, at the Atlantic’s edge, where Graham Greene and Catherine Walston carried on the affair that inspired the novel.
William Cash, author of The Third Woman: The Secret Passion that Inspired The End of The Affair was a guest speaker and fascinated the audience with excerpts from a taped interview with Vivien Greene, the author’s former wife, as she popped open a bottle of champagne. William Cash spoke on the evening of the day that Prince William married Kate Middleton in Westminster Cathedral. Intriguingly, he said, it was on the day of Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip in 1947 that Graham Greene told Vivien that he was leaving her for Catherine Walston.
The moment Greene choose to start his story was ‘that black wet January night on the Common,’ when he met Henry Miles, his lover’s husband. It is also the moment that Neil Jordan choose as the starting point for his film adaptation of The End of the Affair. We were treated to the movie in the Cyril Gray Memorial Hall, Dugort, at the foot of Slievemore – Achill’s Black Mountain.
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.