Sunday, 17 March 2013

St. Patrick's Day the Irish Way

This post was first published on, 17 March 2013.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, before you don your silly shamrock headgear, dig out your “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirt and go drink yourself sick on green beer, spare a thought for a true Irish tradition: the seanachie.

A seanachie (shan-a-KEE, sort of, Irish pronunciation is problematic in English) is a traditional Irish storyteller. In ancient Ireland, they travelled around the country staying with families and, in return for hospitality, they would share stories. It was a way to keep the old myths alive, to teach history and also to share the news of the day. Naturally, with newspapers, television and the internet, the days of the traveling seanachie have mainly passed in Ireland, but tradition of storytelling and being a storyteller is still strong throughout the country and with Irish people across the globe. Instead of traveling down the narrow country roads to different families every night, today seanachies can be found in the local pubs and at every family gathering. When Irish people meet, the first question we ask is, “What’s the story?” Why say what happened when you can tell the story of what happened?

Many of our storytellers have achieved worldwide acclaim, like William Butler Yeats, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw and other heavy hitters. But these literary giants are not all Ireland has produced. There are currently some amazing writers coming out of the country, making waves across the literary world and their work is well worth a look. Here is my incredibly biased and far from comprehensive, taster list of five contemporary Irish writers who work across the literary spectrum:

Friday, 1 March 2013

Duck as Good as the Pâté

In November of last year I had the unbelievable good fortune to be invited to a talk by one of the people I respect most in the world. Rather a silly claim to make given that I had never met her before and, even now, have only exchanged a few words with her. Still, her books speak for. They speak to people around the world. And, for the purposes of this inevitably self-absorbed blog, they speak to me. I had the privilege and the pleasure of spending an evening with the inimitable, giant of literature Margaret Atwood.