Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yiyun Li interviewed by Patrick Cotter

In four parts, in low resolution. Followed by a DVD quality source. If your computer does not have a good enough speaker you might do better listening on earphones.

At the 2008 Frank O'Connor Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, interviewed by Patrick Cotter, Yiyun Li touches on how she develops character, about her family background, dealing with political interviewers, her experience of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her love of Irish writers and much else. 26 minutes in total.

Watch Yiyun Li interviewed by Patrick Cotter in Travel & Culture  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Bodega Gets Its Groove Back

The Bodega has its groove back! It was shut for a long time and then reopened with the decor of a nouveau richeist's Italian villa. Service was not the best. I came across acquaintances who decided to leave after waiting 45 minutes for their order. That was about six months ago. Today I'm writing this blog from the Bodega, courtesy of the welcome free wi-fi. The staff have been most courteous and attentive. The people-watching has generally improved with a drift-back of the original clientel-types, although, the more ambient light and my weakening eyesight detract from that. The music is not so loud so that it disuades conversation.
The quality of attracting arty-types of all ages and stages of life development is the great attraction of this pub. People can bring their kids in the afternoon and hang out with no hassle or friction alongside young and old singles.
The potted plants are gone and so too the original sculpture pieces. But there are new pieces and the chandeliers look like they've been designed by Jeff Koons on sedatives. But many of the references to be found in my "Bodega Sequence" no longer apply.
It makes the perfect writer's hangout again, with plenty of powerpoints around for laptops and no one staring at you as if the book you are reading is a second head.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Lore of Place

I’m excited by the upcoming Cork Spring Literary Festival February 17th to 20th (which I’m curating). The theme changes every year. In the past we’ve done love, politics, spirituality, migration and this year we are featuring writing which explores sense of place. Dinnseanchas or the lore of place is integral to the Irish literary tradition and the late Sean O Tuama has written that while place features in every literary tradition, the writers of no other European country are as obsessed with place as have Irish writers been.

We’ll have Jennifer Johnston who will be enjoyed not only by the regular attendees of literary festivals but also those bourgeois types who drag themselves out solely for a name familiar to them from the broadsheet review pages and TV culture programmes. I’m contemplating a scheme where entry to the Johnston gig will be free to anyone who regularly attends the other events but will cost 15-20 euro for those who just come to see her. Reading with Jennifer will also be an exciting young American and near namesake Adam Johnson who has published short story collections, a novel and who teaches in the writing department of Stanford. Sharing the stage with Adam and Jennifer will be Denyse Woods who has published a number of literary novels with Penguin and some potboilers under the pseudonym Devlin. Denyse has just been appointed as Artistic Director of the West Cork Literary Festival for 2010.

Other fiction writers featured this year will be Conal Creedon whose plays were recently received with glowing reviews in New York and Mary Leland who has published two novels, a story collection and who was just recently shortlisted for the Davy Byrne’s Award.

I like to feature mostly poets during this festival because of our concentration on fiction during the Frank O’Connor Short Story Festival. Derek Mahon, Paula Meehan, Bernard O’Donoghue, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain and Desmond O’Grady are all being featured, teamed with Cork City resident authors. Featured Cork authors with recent new books include Eugene O'Connell, Thomas McCarthy whose The Last Geraldine Officer has received rave and considered reviews from Maurice Harmon and Bernard O’Donoghue; Martina Evans whose Facing the Public continues to mine the Macroom of her childhood for literary gold; we are honoured that Theo Dorgan will be launching with us his first original full-length poetry collection since the last century Greek – featuring poems all of which focus on Greece and Greek culture.

Other out of town poets of note attending include big guns such as Ciaran O’Driscoll, Gerard Smyth, Patrick Moran, Mary O’Malley and Michael Coady who has just published a substantial new collection.

The younger generation of writers is being represented by such names as Matthew Geden, Liz O’Donoghue, Louis De Paor and Billy Ramsell.

Last but not least we are featuring one of the USA’s most famous of contemporary poets (one who has yet to be exported as successfully as some others) Martin Espada who has been described as the leading Latino poet writing in English. He has published in Southword a brilliant essay on sense of place. His work is noted for its political commitment without being polemical. He is very much influenced by Pablo Neruda and other Iberian-language poets. For my money, he is the only foreigner who has written successfully about Ireland in poetry without sounding like a tourist.

A timetable can be found here . A fully-downloadable programme should be available next week.