Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bloomsday, or Not every Irish writer is a dead green male

Today is Bloomsday, and Mysterious Press wants you to celebrate by reading Ken Bruen. Adrian McKinty, mentioned a time or two in this space, suggests reading some contemporary Irish writing.  I will take their suggestions, run with them, and offer a few of my own. And this is just crime fiction:
Declan Burke. McKinty. Stuart Neville. Ronan Bennett. Bruen. Eoin McNamee. Kevin McCarthy. Arlene Hunt. Alex Barclay. Brian McGilloway. Garbhan Downey. Alan Glynn. David Park. Gerard Brennan. Eoin Colfer. Colin Bateman. Ruth Dudley Edwards. Gene Kerrigan. Declan Hughes. John Connolly. Gerard O'Donovan. Tana French. Ian Sansom. John McAllister. Sam Millar. Jason Johnson. Rob Kitchin.
Who'd I miss?
*
If you're old-school and want to celebrate Bloomsday with Joyce's text, copyright expires on Ulysses this year, so adapt, stage, and perform away!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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64 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Good fellow you are, Peter

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A propos the occasion, you might enjoy this bit from Donald Westlake's novel Nobody's Perfect:

"Stately, plump Joe Mulligan paused in the privacy of the hallway to pull his uniform trousers out of the crease of his backside, then turned to see Fenton watching him.`Mp,' he said, then nodded at Fenton, saying, `Everything okay down here.' "Fenton, the senior man on this detail, made a stern face and said, `Joe, you don't want any of them princes and princesses see you walking around with your fingers up your ass.' ... A bit of a martinet and a stickler for regulations, he liked the boys to call him Chief, but none of them ever did."

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I remember that bit very well. The novel was new in paperback. The place London. The time, 1989? Laugh? I laughed so hard I pointed it out to the person sitting next to me on the Tube who was completely indifferent. That person and I subsequently broke up but not, I feel, because of the Westlake, and not because she was always saying no when I wanted her to be saying Yes. No the reasons were quite different.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Thanks for the mention, Pete!

I'd add Paul Charles to the list.

Cheers

gb

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Oh! And Claire McGowan seems to be the hot new thing in NI crime fiction. I have to check out her debut ASAP.

gb

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Since I happen to be listening to music, here’s another fine artistic effusion about a woman who said no, no, no.

Wow, a moment in one's life associated inextricably with a comic crime novel!

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard: You're welcome. And thanks for the recommendations. I just read a sample each of Claire McGowan and Paul Charles online, and I liked both.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Back then before my spirit was crushed I was always pointing out stuff that I was reading to people, most of them, it must be said, were highly indifferent, if not downright hostile.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've found that warming up the audience works. Show 'em you're enjoying yourself. Tell a few jokes. Say: "Boy, am I glad I ran into you because I just read something soooo great ... "

Hey, did you see that Armando Iannucci was named an OBE? Alastair Campbell appears quite snippy about this.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Paul D Brazill said...

Good list. I'd add William Ryan, Paul O' Brien and JJ Toner

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

And Kenneth Branagh got a knighthood for services to drama in Northern Ireland. You can really tell he's from Northern Ireland can't you? It's the accent that gives it away.

June 16, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Is it my imagination or have I seen a crime novel by an Irish writer (maybe more than one) that tries to do the Joycean thing? As if obligatory for Irish authors. :)

Sorry, memory doesn't serve with names and titles.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I met William Ryan at the recent Crimefest in Bristol. It's not every crime writer who uses Isaac Babel as a character.

Thanks for suggesting Paul O' Brien and JJ Toner also. Each is a possible addition to my list. Toner gives a long an interesting list of literary influences on his Web site. Samuel Beckett, Colin Bateman, and P.G. Wodehouse are just three of the names.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, think of the positive: Malcolm Tucker's creator is an OBE! I wonder where he is in the lie of succession to the throne.

In re Branagh, do most Shakespearean actors have accents burned out of them at an early age?

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I don't know if any Irish crime writers did a James Joyce thing, but I think Declan Burke did a bit of a Flann O'Brien thing in Absolute Zero Cool.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Maybe I.J. is talking about Adrian's Bloomsday Dead?

gb

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aha!

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And here’s a post I put up a few years ago called ”The Bloomsday Dead's best paragraph.”

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Malcolm Tucker himself is not happy about it:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun/16/armando-iannucci-honours-system

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I had seen that piece, and that's the reaction I had in mind when I posted a comment at your place.

Alastair Campbell has struck me as a bit of a greasy little wanker in his comments about In the Loop and The Thick of It. I saw a show where he sat down with some commentator for a screening of In the Loop, and he was dismissive, whiny, and and self-pitying. You know, "The movie would have you believe everyone in politics in amoral, but many of us really do want to do good..."

The moral superiority was reminiscent of some of the attitude that surrounded Bill Clinton and his entourage, a fair connection given Campbell's ties to Blair and Blair's political similarities to Clinton. So I didn't believe his disclaimer that he liked The Thick of It. It seemed too calculated to lend credence to his disdain for the movie -- triangulation in the early Clinton mode.

But I do feel sorry for him in a way. He wrote a short bit of swearing in what he fancied was the Malcolm Tucker manner, maybe on his Twitter account, that was just pathetic, the sort of thing that would be sarcastically derided as "Oh, top swearing, Alistair" on The Thick of It. So look at his position: The only way he can plausibly deny being the model for a character that everyone assumes is based on him is to say, "Oh, no. I'm much lamer, much less funny, and far less colorful than that" -- but he can't plausibly deny being a first-class arsehole.

By the way, you once expressed disgust the appearance of Rachel Maddow and other television "journalists" in some movie or other. How about Jeremy Paxman's appearanceson The Thick of It?

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I was dismayed to see Paxo on The Thick Of It. It adds credence to the cynics who say that its all a gigantic club and all those chummy public school types are just playing at disagreeing with one another.

I thought Ianucci's response to Campbell's complaint was rather weasly "well at least I didnt invade Iraq..." I think Campbell has a good point to make though: for a writer or satirist taking an honour from the government is a bit like take advertising dollars from a corporation. You may think your integrity hasnt been compromised but you're wrong.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't even know Paxman was a real interviewer after I'd started watching The Thick of It.

Perhaps Iannucci's crack about Iraq is a sign that he'll still make fun of the government and its actions.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But then, The Thick of It's humor is non-partisan, for the most part, at least as far as my non-British eyes can tell. New Labour and the Tory opposition are really nothing more than mutual idea stealers when it comes to ideas, which I guess is a major part of the show's point.

June 16, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I like Iannucci and I think The Thick Of It is a masterpiece but the safest thing you can say in Britain is that you opposed the invasion of Iraq and the easiest way to smear someone is to say that they were in favour of the invasion of Iraq. Its not really addressing the point. I think a useful rule of thumb for a satirist is to ask themselves what would Bill Hicks do?

Nice and surprisingly comprehensive list of those who have refused honours here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declining_a_British_honour#Honours_declined Heroes all if you ask me.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Neville Chamberlain, after his retirement as Prime Minister in 1940 (also declined appointment as KG, October 1940)

A hero, eh?

I don't guess that even Iannucci would deny that his crack evades the issue of the morality honours. This is not a debate, it's just sniping.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

It's still Bloomsday here, barely, so a toast to you all, Irish or otherwise.

So does Bob Dylan's recent Medal of Freedom award nix his chance at keeping his integrity? Of course, he's 71, so he might not care at this point.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Enjoy the remaining twenty-two minutes or so of Bloomsday. Hmm, the same Bob Dylan who asked senators and congressmen to please heed the call and who sang that even the president of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked?

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did you celebrate Bloomsday at the shop? I saw some talk about you bringin a copy of The Bloomsday Dead, didn't I?

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Well, it was a night spoiled for choice because Jonathan Franzen was speaking at the store but I had already committed to doing something Bloomsdayish with the Finnegans Wakers. That's where I brought Bloomsday Dead, which I did pass around. People got a laugh out of the first sentence. I got more joy out of Norn Iron terseness of the last.

Best bit was listening to the BBC do the pub sequence.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, have you seen the Donald Westlake excerpt that I quoted near the top of this thread?

June 17, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Neville Chamberlain wasnt the first or last to be duped by Hitler. He was the first to draw a line in the sand though, and yes he did have the sense of honour to recognise that a gong from the King would have gone down very very badly with the British people.

Its not an iron clad rule but in general I'd want to hang out with the cool cats who refused the honours rather than the toadies who accepted them.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, it took Chamberlain a while. And I'll grant you that David Bowie is cooler than Elton John or Paul McCartney. Given a choice, though, I'd rather have a drink with Armando Iannucci than with Alastair Campbell.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah me too.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Paul D Brazill said...

Peter,

Ryan's two books are the first time in donkey's that I've read two series books within a couple of months of each other and wasn't disappointed. I'm an unashamed fan.

You can get a taste of Toner here. One of my fave crime short stories of last year. http://noirnation.com/sample-page/

June 17, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Nope. It wasn't Adrian's book. Never mind. It's one of those things that will now drive to read every Irish mystery I can find.

Very peculiar thing about the Joyce family and the copyright thing. I don't approve. If they stop publication, they aren't doing the venerable ancestor any favors.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: Again, poor Alastair Campbell. He's stuck being the model for a character who's far more compelling than he is.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul: Here that Toner link in one-click form. Someone conjured up Elmore Leonard and Mario Puzo in connection with Paul O'Brien, so he could be worth a look, too. Thanks.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., the copyright matter is now apparently largely moot as of this year, so that's one question out of the way. You have a year less a day to come up with the name of the Irish crime writer you have in mind.

In any case Gerard is at least partly right about Adrian's The Bloomsday Dead, which begins on June 15 with a chapter called "Telemachus" and which opens:

"`State LY Plum P Buck Mulligan.' Hector handed me the message on the cliffs at Miraflores."

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I did see the Westlake. Maybe I'll remember to bring that along next year.

And to respond to something else up there, I think you all should keep pressing books on people no matter the reception. I'm not that good at it myself, because I don't necessarily believe that other people will like what I like, but I'm pretty good at just writing shelf talkers and mini reviews for things and just letting people decide for themselves whether to pursue them.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sure, make a compelling case for a book. Make it something to talk about. Make the book part of their mental worlds, the same way the big promotional machines do for Fifty Gray Shades of Harry Potter With Zombies.

Books that have fun with Ulysses, such as the Westlake and The Bloomsday Dead, would make a nice Bloomsday addition, I think.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I'm pretty sure you should only read Ulysses for fun, so books like Adrian's and Westlake's can only help tilt the balance against pomposity.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've never read Ulysses, I'm afraid, but I would guess that a century's accretion of scholarly and critical worship has gone a fair way toward obscuring the fun. McKinty, Westlake, and doubtless others (maybe Woody Allen, though I think his satirical target was as much Yates as Joyce) could redress this.

I envision a display toward the middle of June next year of Ulysses, elevated, perhaps, on a stack of books, flanked by The Bloomsday Dead on one side and Nobody's Perfect on the other.

I'm reading another Irish classic now, At Swim-Two-Birds, whose fun is in no danger of being obscured.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, in re an earlier strand in this discussion, I've rewritten the refrain of an old, classic Bob Dylan song. It's now "And I gazed upon the Medal of Freedom gleaming."

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Peter, if I'm still at the store by then, I'll see to it. Well, if both books are in print, which is not a given these days.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lay in some copies now as a hedge against the possibility that they might go out of print. Depressing thought, that.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

There's a good book I'm starting called Ulysses and Us by Declan Kibbard, and he says that Joyce was writing for the common reader in much the same way Shakespeare was in his era. He didn't mean it to be daunting, though he did want people to work at it a bit. I'd say it would be something along the lines of Salman Rushdie now.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

As to awards, I'd say just take them, and don't think too much of yourself as a result.

Unless it's someone like Hitler giving them and then you have to say no. And not take the money either. Sadly.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Ulysses and Us sounds like a book very much worth reading. And its title echoes that of Shakespeare, Our Contemporary.

It's hard to imagine an author and publisher having the courage and confidence to expect the public to work a bit these days, isn't it?

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was thinking about Dylan after you brought his name up. His songs don't appear as jingles shilling beer, the way Eric Clapton's or Stevie Winwood's do, and he's never, as far as I know, been appropriated by political candidates or computer, running shoe, or auto companies. Maintain your independence that way for fifty years and yes, I'd say you can probably accept an award like the Medal of Honor in good conscience.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

No, I don't think so, but the audience they are writing for in that case is kind of an insider crowd. What Kibbard is saying is that the culture at that point in time was not divided between those rising by becoming part of the educated elite, but was trying to be one civilization, with the endowment of working man's libraries, etc. There was still some idea that we all had a stake in the common culture. But a writer by him or herself can't provide that.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds a little like the era of Carnegie libraries here.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Exactly.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

An era of which, say, Eric Hofer was one of the dying embers.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I should correct my error here and say that the author's name is Declan Kiberd.

Yes, Hoffer would have been a beneficiary of that. But we still have libraries and we plenty of access to information, so I'm not sure what the gap is. I've been trying to find one sentence of Kiberd's that represents the whole: He says that after the mid-twentieth century:

"No longer was the prevailing idea that anyone bright enough could read and understand Hamlet or Ulysses, but that anyone sufficiently clever could aspire to become one of the paid specialists who did such things."

And "...two decades of 'critical theory' have challenged neither the growing corporate stranglehold over universities nor the specialist stranglehold over Joyce. They have in fact strengthened both forces. That is because 'theory' is rarely concerned with linking analysis with real action in the world.'

Makes me think that Ulysses might be a good book for the Occupy movement. Or at least Kiberd's might be.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This reminds me of Bill James' observation (Bill James the baseball guy, not Bill James, the crime writer) that professionalization was one of the worst things ever to happen.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I don't know enough about baseball to know, but I can imagine it might work that way.

Kiberd says that Joyce was not forbiddingly learned and cut more classes in college than he attended. He often got less than 50% on his exams. His classmate said that Joyce made the little he learned there go a very long way.

He must have learned a bit more by the time he came to write Finnegans Wake.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

James is like Kiberd says Joyce is. Once he gets started, he moves well beyond his subject and into areas anyone with a brain can understand. As a professionalization example, he cites a physician of his youth, a GP who would make house calls. In today's era of specialization and professionalization, he writes, such a thing is inconveivable.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

In preparation for a trip to Ireland in October, we have been getting some of these writers. Have been dismayed at the ones very difficult to lay hands on here.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Patti, some of those folks are not published in the U.S. Where do you plan to go in Ireland? A trip to No Alibis in Belfast is would be very much worth your while. There also a newish bookstore in Dublin that has opened since I was last there that has hosted crime events and seems open to the genre. Check with Declan Burke.

June 17, 2012  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

He gave me the list of books. We are going to Dublin and Galway. Wish I could go to Belfast. My grandmother came to Philly from Londonderry in the 1860s. But we're only there for a week. I will get to that bookstore though.

June 18, 2012  
Blogger Joe McCoubrey said...

Paul - well done for promoting Irish writers. I hope readers follow the impressive list on offer.

June 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have not been to the west of Ireland, though I know it's wild and beautiful and has Ken Bruen in it. You're probably making good use of your time, but in case you change your mind, Belfast is very close to Dublin.

June 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Joe. I've long been a fan of Irish crime writing, and I don't know why people don't talk about it more, they way they talk about Scandinavian crime writing, say.

June 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should add that the readers have given me some new names to follow, as well.

June 18, 2012  

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