Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dublin Writers Festival Flash Fiction

'Dark business' and 'unsettling' are two of the responses to my piece, Insomnia

Dublin Writers Festival has a flash thing going on on its blog/facebook. Prompts are provided by facebook fans, and the challenge is to respond with a 1000 word piece of fiction - so don't blame me; blame the prompt!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Synesthesia, Nabokov, and Me

I finished Langrishe, Go Down recently, published in 1966, and reached for the next long promised read, Tim O' Brien's The Things They Carried. Set during the Vietnam war, it is as much concerned with the art of telling stories as it is with the stories themselves; I came away edified.

On then to the long avoided Speak, Memory, foreword written by Nabokov in 1966. I'm decades behind with my reading, but catching up...

Why avoided? For the simple and superficial reason that the edition we have has an ugly, dense font that's hard to read. But I'm reading it now. It might take a while because, aside from the print, every sentence demands proper attention - sometimes a couple of readings, and definitely no skipping! I'm off to the dictionary regularly (which always annoys me when English is not the writer's first language). More edification, then.

One of the many things I didn't know was that Nabokov was a synesthete ('the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body'), the details of which he admits 'must sound tedious and pretentious to those who are protected from such leakings and drafts by more solid walls than mine are.' Not to me; I have the same 'condition', in that I've always seen the letters of the alphabet as having an associated colour. Learning to read was a synch. I often wondered if it was some primer or alphabet-learning toy that caused the associations, but apparently not. Nabokov realised this long before the scientists did when he was only seven:

'I was using a heap of old alphabet blocks to build a tower. I casually remarked to (mother) that their colors were all wrong.'

It turned out that his mother was also a synesthete; scientists now know that it's genetic. And by the way, the colours in the alphabet blocks above are all wrong!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Langrishe, Go Down

Recommended to me not once but twice in the space of a week, and only a lifetime (mine) since it was first published, how could I not put Langrishe, Go Down to the top of my tbr pile?

I'm a Kildare woman, and I've spent quite a few years studying English literature, but I had never heard of Aidan Higgins. I don't know why; I don't even have any theories. But when I opened it and began to read it felt as if my DNA was resonating along with the Kildare vowels.

—Grand evening, Helen said.
—Tis indade, grand, thanks be to God
—Not a-tall, M'am. Yarra, not a-tall. Sure you have it all to yourself. The gate's open for all them that want to.
—...All you do hear all the year round is the birds and the Shinkeen flowin by.

The old people who lived around us, Miss Hickey and Paddy Loughman and Jimmy Loughman and Leo (Leo who?) came alive on its pages. Even the house had a name almost identical to the one in which I grew up. Given that it's a book about the demise of a house, and a family, it sent a shiver.

The prose is sublime. 'The pure architecture of his sentences takes the breath out of you,' Annie Proulx says on the cover. I wonder again why I never heard of Aidan Higgins, and how Annie Proulx did! I let it go, let the language surround and imbue me, a 3D Word Picture of Kildare.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Spoiled For Choice: Cúirt and DWF

Eleanor Catton, Rachel Kushner, Donal Ryan, Julian Gough, Sebastian Barry, Eimear McBride, Colin Barrett, Emma Donoghue, Anita Shreve... 
There's a fantastic line up of names for Cúirt (Galway) in April, and the Dublin Writers Festival (DWF) in May. Tickets are on sale for both. Time to get scheming.