Monday, 20 October 2014

DLR Library Voices 2014
Ian McEwan in Conversation with Declan Hughes

dlr Library Voices was delighted to have Ian McEwan appear as part of the autumn series, in the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire on the 19th of October. Mountains to Sea Book Festival we had Joseph O'Neill in conversation with Sínead Gleeson at the Pavilion Theatre, last night. This was the third event in the dlr Library Voices series for Autumn, featuring Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry), Joseph O'Neill and Mary Costello.

Few novelists encapsulate moral dilemmas in fiction as adroitly and eloquently as Ian McEwan. His novels dramatise situations of extreme ethical ambiguity which provoke in his characters and in his readers the need for nuanced responses. In his new novel, The Children Act, a leading High Court judge renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity is called on to try an urgent case in which a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life. Should a secular court overrule sincerely held faith when a life is at risk? The clash of religious beliefs and adult responsibility are delicately explored in this new novel by one of the finest writers currently working in English.

'As a novelist whose critical reputation translates directly into sales in the hundreds of thousands, Ian McEwan is virtually unique among his contemporaries. Part of McEwan's popularity with readers is his canny gift for tight and surprising plotting, and in the advance buzz around The Children Act, it's been widely reported that his 13th novel presents a reckoning with irresponsible religious belief - an anathema to an atheist like McEwan.' GQ Magazine

Tickets are still available for the final event with Mary Costello at the Pavilion Theater box office on (01) 231 2929 or at
Thanks to Ger Holland Photography

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


For book clubs and readers with Mary Burnham

21st of October in dlr LexIcon

dlr Libraries have organised a series of workshops for book lovers of all persuasions. Whether you read as a solitary pleasure or are part of a group of like-minded readers, this is designed to suit your needs. Mary Burnham, from Dubray Books, Dun Laoghaire, will be our host and she will take you on a literary journey of the delights to be found in a good book. Mary keeps a close eye on all the latest releases and specializes in matching reader and book for maximum enjoyment. 
We will be recommending a book to go with each session, starting off with The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout. This novel paints a vivid picture of life in America around 1860 when young men and women ventured far and wide to claim some land for themselves and their families. Read and come to our first session in dlr LexIcon on the 21st October at 7pm.
Admission is free but booking is essential at 214 7970 or by emailing

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Colm Tóibín: the literature of grief

Nora Webster, Tóibín's new novel, draws on his memories of his father's death – in doing so, it joins a rich tradition of writing about loss, from Sophocles to Joan Didion
Colm Toibin
'Grief makes its way into a work in the way that waters from a flood may be channelled into a stream' … Colm Tóibín. Photograph: Kim Haughton
When I came to Dublin as a student in 1972, the writer Mary Lavin was a familiar presence in the city. I watched her as she moved with a sort of stateliness between the desks in the National Library on her way to the main desk, or as she sat in a small cafe known as the Country Shop, or as she drank coffee in Bewley's in Grafton Street. She was usually alone. She wore black. Her hair was parted in the middle and pulled untidily into a bun at the back. Her gaze was kind and sad and oddly distracted, but it had a funny strength to it as well. She had spent her life describing others, and finding strategies to create versions of herself; it was not easy to categorise her or ever be sure about her just from looking.
I have no clear memory of how I knew that she had been left a widow with children at a young age, but I certainly knew it before I came to the city. I was interested in the word "widow" and I would have paid real attention to a writer, or anyone at all indeed, who was a widow, since my mother was one. It may have been when we studied a story by Lavin in school called "The Widow's Son".
I had read a good deal of her work by the time I saw her. Some of her stories meant nothing to me. The scenes of upper middle-class life in County Meath, north of Dublin, were too rarefied. But the ones that dealt with the life of a widow were almost too close to the space between how we lived then in our house and what was unmentionable – the business of silence around grief, the life of a woman alone, the palpable absence of a man, a husband, a father, our father, my father, the idea of conversation as a way of concealing loss rather than revealing anything, least of all feeling – for me not to have read her with full recognition. The recognition was so clear, in fact, that I do not remember recognising anything. I was reading with too much rawness.
But I must have sat up when I came to this passage in Lavin's story "Happiness": "When Father went to hospital Mother went with him and stayed in a small hotel across the street so she could be with him all day from early to late. 'Because it was so awful for him, being in Dublin,' she said. 'You have no idea how he hated it.' Maybe I thought this would be in other books in the future – such a precise image of what had happened to us – but I never found it again. It was only there. It is in the novel I have written, Nora Webster, but it took me a long time to find a dramatic form for those words.
In Lavin's stories about solitude and widowhood, her characters live in a twilight time. They barely manage. One of her stories about grief and its aftermath, controlled grief, is "In the Middle of the Fields". In the first sentence, she establishes that her heroine is alone in an isolated rural place. And then the next sentence reads: "And yet she was less lonely for him here in Meath than elsewhere."
The loss is complex, or it comes in a complex guise. People think she wants to talk about her dead husband, or be reminded of what she has lost. "They thought she hugged tight every memory she had of him. What did they know about memory?" She hopes for a time when she had "forgotten him for a minute". It is clear that the grief does not have to be named as "grief", or brought out for inspection. All she knows is that how she feels is not stable, it cannot be trusted. It is wayward.
In Lavin's stories about loss the newly widowed woman has to remake the rules for herself, including the most ordinary rules of behaviour. Emotions dart, fresh longings emerge; what her characters do can easily become irrational and hard to explain; they often do the very opposite of what they intend. Being unmoored by loss affects their every thought, even when they are not thinking about loss, and, indeed, affects their every action.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

DLR Library Voices Series presents;

Rachel Joyce In Conversation with Nadine O’Regan. Tuesday 14th October at 8 pm 

Meet Rachel Joyce, author of the two million-copy worldwide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, discussing the heartrending parallel story, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
When Queenie discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, she is shocked. Her note to him had explained she was dying from cancer. How can she wait? A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was just the beginning. For anyone who loves Harold and his world, hearing more of Queenie's side of the story will be a mouth-watering prospect.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Joseph O'Neill in conversation with Sínead Gleeson at the Pavilion Theatre, 24th September 2014

Hot on the tails of dlr Mountains to Sea Book Festival we had Joseph O'Neill in conversation with Sínead Gleeson at the Pavilion Theatre, last night. This event kicked off our dlr Library Voices series for Autumn, featuring Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry), Ian McEwan and Mary Costello.
Joseph O’Neill’s brilliant last novel, 'Netherland' won the Kerry Fiction Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and established the New York-based Irish writer in the first rank of international novelists. His first novel since then, 'The Dog' is led by a brilliantly entertaining anti-hero. A New York attorney accepts an old college buddy’s job offer in Dubai. Haunted by a failed relationship and hoping for a fresh start, he begins to suspect that he has exchanged one inferno for another. Imprisoned by his own reasoning and by the ethical demands of globalized life, he is fatefully drawn towards the only logical response to our confounding epoch

Tickets are still available for the three events featuring Rachel Joyce, Ian McEwan and Mary Costello at the Pavilion Theatre box office on (01) 231 2929
Thanks to Ger Holland Photography

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Joseph O'Neill: 'It's not my fault if every time I sit down to write, something big happens!'

The Irish-born, New York-based writer on post-9/11 novels, big global events, Barack Obama and finding sudden fame
Joseph O'Neill: 'It’s naive to say that a book which describes the situation of rich people must be a book which celebrates that situation.' Photograph: Ryan Pfluger
Joseph O'Neill is a writer of Irish-Turkish descent, born in 1964, who grew up in the Netherlands, worked for several years as a barrister in London and now lives in New York. He has written three previous novels and a family memoir. His last novel, the critically acclaimed Netherland, about cricket in New York, was praised by Barack Obama. O'Neill's new novel, The Dog (Fourth Estate £16.99), is about an American lawyer who, following a break-up, moves to Dubai to manage the wealth of a rich Lebanese family. It has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize.
How much research did you do? Why did you decide to set your new novel in Dubai? 
I think it's my ongoing connection to England. Around 2007, every time I was talking to English people, they all seemed to be commercially orientated towards Dubai. It's on the European map in a way it isn't for Americans. And Dubai is a kind of California. It's the future for the so-called sophisticated west. We're all headed to Dubai, not just culturally but on matters such as labour organisation and the hollowing-out of the nation state.
I took two trips out there of just over a week, to meet people and get some stuff I couldn't get online.
Netherland was often described as a post-9/11 novel. The new book, which opens in 2007, is obliquely about the financial crisis. How conscious are you of being a writer who tackles big events? 
I don't sit around waiting for these things to occur. It's not my fault if every time I sit down to write, something big happens! But I suppose I am more interested in global events than in what's happening, say, in Galway or Pittsburgh. It's my background. I don't have home turf, so I have no choice but to float around on these post-national currents.
Your fiction often focuses on corporate elites. Do you feel a pressure to write about the other end of the social spectrum? 
I think it's naive to say that a book which describes the situation of rich people must be a book which celebrates that situation, or that there's a path of novelistic virtue in describing what happens to the poor. My experience is that the more privileged the reader in question, the more readily they demand that people write about stuff that doesn't resemble their lives.
The Dog's language is interesting. There are lengthy passages of legal/philosophical argument, in which the narrator justifies his behaviour. Then there's quite a bit of satire of Dubai-style capitalism and of social media. Why this particular collision? 
There's a way in which the discourse of the Enlightenment, of reason, is coming under enormous stress from technology and consumerism and the strains of self-righteousness unleashed by social media. Nowadays, if you say anything that is clearly true but upsets people, it starts to lose validity. You see this in US politics very clearly. There's a comedy in the way the narrator tries to use arguments that no longer have much value. He's tilting at windmills with his powers of reason.
With Netherland, you suddenly went from being an unheralded writer to being well known. How did that affect you?
Unheralded is putting it mildly. Family and paid readers came into contact with my work and no one else! But yes, the success of Netherland had a huge impact on my life because it enabled me to carry on being published. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't found some readers.
What's your writing routine? 
I don't have a routine. I've got too much going on in terms of getting through life. What I do is go away for two weeks at a time about twice a year, and I do most of my writing there. This book is 60,000 words and took five years. I have no urge to write journalism; I write so slowly it makes no sense. In fact, I just wrote something for a magazine which was about 1,000 words and it took a month. And it wasn't even that good!
Obama famously endorsed Netherland. Have you read his books? 
I think I pretended to have read one of them at some point, but no I haven't. I felt uncomfortable with the whole Obama thing. I'm sure it sold books, which I'll take. But he's now been in office for six years and they're still force-feeding people in Guantánamo Bay. So it's kind of problematic to have that name on your jacket.