Following on from last week, today we bring you another hit song from The Kinks. The track is “All Day and All of the Night” and the video is a spirited, live performance of the song at the Providence Civic Center, some thirty-odd years back. Remember that Ray Davies, former front-man of The Kinks, will be appearing at the National Concert Hall, on May 19th, in conversation with Joseph O’Connor. Ray will be reading from his new book, Americana: the Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff, and chatting about his life and experiences. An event not to be missed, further details here.
In just six short weeks, on Monday May 19th, Ray Davies will be taking to the stage at the National Concert Hall at this year’s Dublin Writers Festival. The former front-man of the iconic sixties band, The Kinks, will be there not to sing nor to play guitar but instead will be sitting down in conversation with Joseph O’Connor to talk about his life and his new book, Americana: the Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff. Tickets are still available and are priced at €20 and €18 with a concession. Don’t miss out on this exciting event!
It will hopefully prove to be a great night’s entertainment and a fantastic start to this year’s festival. In anticipation of this, and to whet your appetite a little, every week we will be posting a song by The Kinks. Today’s song, “Waterloo Sunset”, is one of my favourites from the band and is presented here for your weekend listening pleasure.
In the intimate setting of the Smock Alley Theatre, Anita Shreve sat down in conversation with Sinead Gleeson. The writer began proceedings by reading a very brief extract from her new book, The Lives of Stella Bain. As she read aloud her own words we viewed the world through the eyes of the protagonist as she awoke in a field hospital in 1916 France to the realisation that she has no notion of her own identity.
After that tantalising snippet from her new novel, Anita chatted about her past and her work. She shared her memories of her early days as a teacher and her short story writing, her winning of the O. Henry prize in 1976, through to the publication of her first novel, Eden Close. Then we heard of her breakout success with The Pilot’s Wife, which was featured as part of Oprah’s Book Club, and her continued success up until the release of her newest novel, Stella Bain, which went through an incredible 9 drafts and a period locked in a drawer.
There were some standout moments, including an epic Oprah Winfrey impression and an anecdote in which it transpired that Anita only realised her novel, Resistance, had been adapted into a movie when a passing stranger happened to mention watching it on Netflix.
When it came to the Q&A the audience offered up some great questions. Here we learned, amongst other things, that Shreve does not try to imbue any particular ideology into her work and that her focus is on the story. She also revealed that she doesn’t talk about a book while she’s working on it, likening a story to a bottle of soda. She wants to keep all the fizz in the story so keeps the lid on tight until it’s time to drink it.
As the evening drew to a close everyone decamped to The Gutter Bookshop, across the street from Smock Alley Theatre, where the writer met fans and signed copies of her book. And so ended the second and final of our DWF-Off The Page preview events. There are now only 6 weeks left before the festival itself returns on May 17th, with a huge range of events in a host of venues over nine days. Full festival details will be announced very soon so keep an eye here and on the events section our website.
To learn more about Anita Shreve and her novels you can visit her website.
Emma Donoghue has been on my must-read list since her début novel Stir-fry (which interestingly she tried to have pulled just before publication) in 1994. She is a fantastic writer, full of surprises in terms of subject matter and setting and that is what makes her such an enduring author. Who wants to read the same novel written ten different ways? I know I don’t.
Emma’s eighth novel, and twelfth book of fiction, Frog Music, has just been published and it is a delicious prospect: in the sweltering summer of 1876 in San Francisco, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Blanche determines to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice provided the killer doesn’t track her down first. The blurb says: ‘The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.’ This is classic Donoghue territory; as The Guardian said, her historical novels ‘kindle imaginative worlds from the embers of forgotten lives’.
On Saturday in Dublin Castle’s Printworks, in a preview event for the Dublin Writers’ Festival, journalist Edel Coffey interviewed Emma Donoghue about Frog Music and about the writing life. Donoghue is a wonderful interviewee: pleasant, intelligent, articulate and interesting; she has plenty to say and has no difficulty in saying it. She has an open honesty about her that makes her compelling to listen to.
The author read first, a passage from Frog Music, featuring Blanche’s less than motherly relationship with her baby son. After her hugely successful novel Room, Donoghue said she wanted to write a truly awful mother and she has done that with Blanche. She says the novel asks the question: ‘Can mother-love bloom under difficult circumstances?’. She also described Frog Music as ‘a murder mystery’ – a genre new to her and, she said, ‘in some ways the most appealing genre’.
She spoke with enthusiasm about the research process: ‘It’s your job to take the research and turn it into living material. The process is fascinating – facts are suggestive and stimulating.’ She said in her research she is always looking for ‘oddity’ and that the move back and forth between being researcher and historical fiction writer is ‘very fiddly’. But she also said she gets a ‘forensic excitement from using fact’.
Donoghue described Blanche as a terrible mother – ‘She is irresponsible, slutty’ – but that she wanted the reader to empathise with her nonetheless. She posited that Blanche ‘proves the power of perspective’ in that the reader is ‘forced to empathise once other characters start shooting at the main character’. Donoghue said she was inspired to write unlovable characters by Baltimore-set TV series The Wire. ‘It’s about lowlifes but we care about them.’
Donoghue said she began her career wanting to ‘put women back into fiction’ but now she is more inclined to take ‘long forgotten nobodies and give them a name again’ and it just happens that many of them are women. She said her publishers ‘never quite know what I am going to throw at them’ but she is in a happy position because they are ‘very tolerant of that’. She went on to say that the idea for Room ‘fell into my lap’ and that it was ‘the easiest book I ever wrote because it was high concept’. Edel Coffey pointed out that it has sold 2,000,000 copies to date.
Donoghue is currently working as executive producer and co-screenwriter with Element Pictures on the film version of Room, telling us that director Lenny Abrahamson flies out to her home in London, Ontario in Cananda, and they ‘sit around swapping ideas’ about the film adaptation of her novel. She said that Abrahamson is ‘very brilliant and tasteful and his films always have heart in them’.
Film of course is very different to novel writing and Donoghue said she is deliberately working with a small Irish company because she wants the collaboration that Hollywood might not offer. Of the process she said: ‘You draw on the director’s knowledge and you try to think visually.’ She also said: ‘I love the discipline of seeing which lines from the novel can stay and which don’t need to.’
She told us a little of her life in Canada – a country that ‘suits her very well’, she said – because it is ‘diverse and civilised’. When asked by Edel Coffey about her writing process, she revealed she has, for the last 18 months or so, been writing while walking on a treadmill because she realised she sits too much. It’s working for her but she said she sits at her desk if a scene requires a slow pace. She is also writing a children’s book which she is nervous about but is enjoying. ‘I have to be fascinated by a topic in order to write it.’ She also said she allows herself, to quote Ann Lamott, to write ‘shitty first drafts’, a relief to many writers there that day, no doubt.
When asked in the Q&A to give advice to writers Donoghue said: ‘Take it up at 70 or 12. You only need yourself. Go ahead and do it. Don’t let any paralysing self-consciousness get in your way. Plunge in and have a go.’ Down to earth advice from a very down to earth Irish writer. If she is appearing anywhere near you, go and listen. Emma Donoghue is a wonder.
For more on the new novel, please go to www.frogmusic.ca
(Nuala Ní Chonchúir)
On stage at The Printworks, Emma Donoghue had everyone enthralled with a reading of an extract from her new novel, Frog Music. With a spirited delivery her words transported us from a well lit room in Dublin to the sweltering and smallpox-riddled streets of San Francisco in the late 19th century, as seen through the eyes of protagonist, Blanche Beunon.
After this the writer sat down with Edel Coffey to share many insights and anecdotes about her life and work. Of particular interest was the revelation that she uses a treadmill writing desk to both write and exercise at the same time, the logistics of which I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. The room was then turned over to the audience for a round of Q & A, where many an interesting question was posed and answered.
Talking to people afterwards there was a real sense of engagement and enjoyment which was evident by the long line queuing to meet Emma and have their books signed by her. A number of our bloggers were in attendance so expect more considered thoughts on the event very soon. A huge thanks to the staff of The Printworks, our dedicated volunteers and, of course, to Edel Coffey and Emma Donoghue, for making this a truly entertaining afternoon.