Thursday, June 30, 2011

Man 1 Bank O - Patrick Combs

David versus Goliath tales always appeal to me. The little guy overcoming the apparently insumountable.

When the apparently insumountable happens to be a bank, and the little guy is standing on a stage, like a modern day Seanachai (Irish language for storyteller), then the tale is especially appealing.
In the style of a stand up comedian, Patrick Combs,Oregan, USA, belted out his playing-a-prank-on-the-bank story last night to an engaged, banking-crisis-weary audience in Dunamaise Arts Centre, Co Laois (Ireland)

From the opening riff of Dire Straits classic "Money for Nothing," we are treated to hilarious enactments of repeated phonecalls to the bank to confirm he's $100k in the black after lodging, for a joke, a "Sample," junk mail cheque for $95,000, attempts to read up on his legal position from "monster" tomes on bank law (the money became "legally" his) and the reaction of the public when he eventually goes to the media-"Vive la Revolution!"

Watched by an Irish audience who are paying extra taxes for reckless banking practices,

Combs' stranger-than-fiction story of getting one over on (the now defunct) First Interstate Bank was received by all with the glee, helpless laughter and hearty applause it deserved.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Something Sensational to Read on the Train

The best thing about reading a wonderful short story, such as Men and Women from Claire Keegan's award winning collection Antarctica, on the train, is that you are making two journeys at the same time.

The train leaves Newbridge and you are with the ten year old (girl) narrator in the run up to Christmas, her doubts about Santa Claus and the shadow of her parents' pressurised marriage.

You travel with her through the comforting mundanity of daily farm tasks and the segregation of work by gender - her brother, "the brains in the family, sits in the sitting room and pretends he's studying," while the narrator cooks and serves his meals.

By the time the train pulls into Dublin,

the narrator's mother, whose trapped state and dependence on her husband, illustrated in her thwarted longing to learn to drive the family car, has made the small but groundbreaking victory of jumping into the driver's seat,driving the car home, leaving her husband behind in the falling snow.

Forty five minutes of pure pleasure.

What do you like to read on the train?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Dublin

Ever since Fintan O'Toole declared in his Irish Times column that anyone who hasn't heard of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera must be "Living under a rock," I've been striving to scramble from beneath my stone roof and skulk off to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) for a look.

Unsurprisingly, cameras not allowed in the exhibition hall so I had to make do with a sneaky snap of the view of IMMA gardens and beyond from an upstairs window.

Not only is the exhibition a feast for the eyes,

with its deep colours

and forensic detail

but the compelling, personal story of prolific Frida Kahlo,(1907-1954) wife of fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera,(1886-1957)

is as absorbing as her artwork.

Ill health due to childhood polio and horrific injuries sustained in a train accident that saw her undergoing thirty five operations, a volatile relationship with husband Rivera, ambivalent sexuality, and an inability to bear children - all inspiring the 143 paintings produced in her short but eventful forty seven year lifespan.
The pain and desolation of miscarriage, a subject rarely openly discussed by women of her era,

chronic ill-health

and ambivalent relationships

are firm themes.

An artist who truly wore her heart on her canvas.

"I never painted dreams," Kahlo insisted, "I painted my own reality."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blood Brothers

As someone who has been touched by adoption, a story about separation at birth and the pull of blood ties has long been on my must-see-sometime list.

Blood Brothers a musical by British dramatist and composer Willy Russell

evoked the full gamut of emotions in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin yesterday.

The impoverished mother who sells one of her newly born twin sons to her rich, childless employer, their pact to never tell the boys they are brothers and the subsequent meeting of the two boys and their instant friendship despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks, left me both laughing and wiping away a tear.

For me, it was the erosion of Mickey's (the poorer brother) innocence - he starts out a bouncing, game playing seven year old - by the knocks of unemployment, early parenthood and depression, that stood out. Especially, as it is played out against the success of his richer adopted brother,Eddie, who himself envies Mickey's free spiritedness (and also falls in love with Mickey's girlfriend, Linda) and grows up to offer Mickey financial help, which the latter rejects out of pride.

An ominously narrated running theme of superstition about the separation of twins,together with a haunting musical score, move us through the story without flagging and make it easy to understand why this award winning musical has been running for a breathtaking 27 years.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lucinda's List Launch

When a member of your writers' group reaches the Holy Grail and lands a publishing deal, you can't help but bask in the collateral glow.

Clane Writers plus friends, together with Olive Collins' fans, swelled the seams of
Barker and Jones bookshop, Naas, Co Kildare (Ireland) this evening to help launch the witty and fabulous Lucinda's List(Book Republic).

Kildare based, award winning writer and artist (and Clane writer)Eileen Keane did the honours, reminding us that holding your published book, is like holding your baby for the first time. You've longed for it, waited for the moment and now you're thrilled beyond words it's yours.
Eileen read us excerpts from "Lucinda List" demonstrating Olive's skillful weaving of the dark - Lucinda's suicide attempt following a failed love affair, with the irresistibly zany -the antics of wild child Alice and her exotic boyfriend, nicknamed 'The Sickly Prince'.

I headed proudly off with my signed copy of Lucinda's List.

and couldn't help but ponder on how things are supposed to happen in threes and because this is the second book deal in Clane Writers in recent months (Debbie Thomas' Dead Hairy)

(spotted in Hodges Figgis, Dublin, yesterday)

Could we make a hat-trick in Clane Writers'? list

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bargain Books and Sadness

Signs such as these often make me sad.

Yes, I know.

A bargain is a bargain.

Amazon and Book Depository discount prices anyway.

A book is a saleable item subject to the vagaries of supply and demand like any other.

The author has reached the writing Holy Grail: his/her book has been published.

Mine is the tainted perspective of a writer who struggles to get words out, who knows how hard it can be, who dreams of one day finishing THAT novel.

Yes, I know all that.

Yet, whenever I see a bin filled with unread, unopened books at sinfully low prices or a bargain shelf offering irresistible value, I don't find myself going: "Hooray, bargains!"

All I can think of is the amalgam of dreams, sweat and tears invested in getting each of those pieces of art (irrespective of genre or so-called writing standards) into a manuscript

the long journey of negotiating with agents and publishers, the thrill of the book launch, the pride of holding the finished product in the hand.
Then to be sold off at bargain prices.

And of course, in spite of all I've just stated, I BUY bargain books.

Tons of 'em.

But that doesn't stop me feeling sad when I see travails of creativity hit by the ruthlessness of commerciality.

Do you ever feel like this?