Dublin's bid for the European capital city of culture, Dublin2020, asked me to write a piece for them about Dublin's great writing culture as part of #TeamDublin. Organically, Bloomsday became my inspiration: a tradition begun in 1954 by madcap writers Flann O'Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and Anthony Cronin, who went on a rambling piss-up across the city to memorable sites from Joyce's Ulysses.
It has become a much larger affair today. Three drunken Irishmen have grown into three million drunken Irishfolk (and then some), not just across the capital city but all across Ireland and amongst the ex-pats and Joyce fans across the world. Today is the one day of the year that people take off their running leggings and wear actual clothes. It is also the one day of the year that people eat liver for breakfast willingly, like brussel sprouts on Christmas.
The piece I wrote is a short vignette somewhere between a poem and a short story: a newish discipline that's commonly referred to as flash fiction, perfect for the Twitter era, and your coffee break.
Read it here. Enjoy, and happy #Bloomsday2015.
I have launched into book three.
It's strange starting work on this novel with two unpublished works behind me. It is an exercise in faith; to keep writing into the void, wondering if anyone will ever read it other than my agent.
My first two books were rejected across the board by publishers as they were deemed to be too 'quiet' for the current market. I, personally, love quiet. John McGahern's 'That They May Face the Rising Sun' is my favourite book of all time, and in it, nothing happens. It doesn't even have chapters; it is one long, slow, gorgeous unfolding of the ordinary, that in its deceptive simplicity embraces all the diversity of life. I could read Colm Toibin all day - a writer whose "monkish" style is often seen as lacking in narrative, but, in my view, his work couldn't lack anything less. It is teeming with everyday truth that hits the mark far closer than an epic ever could. Most epics - there are exceptions, of course - tend to gloss over the subtleties and nuances of life. They are loudspeaker brash, entertaining and page turning, yes, but I personally find that works like these quickly fade from memory after the last full stop, whereas the quiet ones - it is always the quiet ones - linger on.
In saying all that, after more than seven years of work with nothing outward to show for it, I am getting a little tired. I remind myself of the many stories of other writers' diversity: Donal Ryan, whose work took years to get noticed, and was - thankfully - saved from the slush pile by an angel; Eimear McBride, whose outstanding debut, 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing', endured nine years - NINE years - in unpublished obscurity before a new publishing start-up bravely took it on, and readers everywhere thank them for that. It is impossible to read these works and not wonder at how they were rejected time and time again when they are so clearly first-rate, but it happens. It even happened to J. K. Rowling - and there are many a publisher and literary agent who are kicking themselves today over that.
So, I'll hold out. I'll keep at it; keep carrying the fire, as Cormac McCarthy advises. Perhaps years down the line I'll still be here watching from the sidelines, holding out for my moment of deliverance, watching other authors debut and move onto their second and third and fourth. Or perhaps, with one or two explosions and some cross-dressing thrown in, it will be third time lucky for me.
Anyway, when it does happen, you're all invited to the launch. See you there. (Fingers crossed.)
Photo credit @ Christina Bivona
You might have seen me talking a bit about a show called The Speech.