Recent bits ‘n’ pieces
Banshees launching (Liquor Rooms, Dublin | 29 September)
Some recent things:
And upcoming events:
Finally, as ever, I’m teaching at the Big Smoke Writing Factory regularly: check out upcoming creative writing classes here.
Book review: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here
Patrick Ness – The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Mike lives in a small American town like many others, grappling with normal teenage issues – will my dad ever stop drinking? Is my mom serious about running for political office? Is my older sister going to be okay as she continues recovering from her eating disorder? What’s my younger sister going to do when we leave for college? Will this girl ever love me? What will I do without my best friend nearby – the one person who knows how to help with my OCD loops?
So he’s got quite enough to deal with. But there are also the ‘indie kids’ – you know the ones. The ones with weird names, the ones who never seem to use the internet, the ones who are somehow always involved in whatever latest supernatural crisis is going on. Every few years, there’s something – and the adults just don’t talk about it. This time around, there are glowing blue eyes and indie kids dying or going missing – but Mike’s learned not to get involved.
This is a weird book in many ways – set in an incredibly urban-fantasy environment but rarely engaging with it, and sometimes that can feel frustrating for a reader. The opening of every chapter details what’s happening in the big save-the-world plot – featuring characters and storylines we only catch glimpses of as Mike and his friends just try to survive high school. I adored the premise of it, but wanted perhaps just a little bit more of the two worlds hitting off one another – not quite Buffy‘s ‘The Zeppo’, in which the ‘regular guy’ saves the day, but a few more interactions to remind us that these are teens who do live in a world that is not actually our own.
I also (spoiler alert) felt a little iffy about the handling of mental illness in the book: it’s generally done quite well, but then finishes with Mike rejecting the option of being ‘cured’ by a friend with new god-like powers, because conquering mental illness is about Character and Strength (whereas conquering physical illness is about Taking The Cure). It left me a little unsettled. But I did enjoy reading it, and the chapter-openers were marvellously snarky, and Mike’s voice is brilliantly teenage. One to read, but also to discuss.
Banshee Issue #1 – so, that happened.
So! About a year ago my lovely and clever friend Laura says to me on twitter (we are children of the internet), she says, hey, we should have our own literary journal.
Our super-talented friend Eimear joins in and pretty soon we’re creating GoogleDocs and swapping ideas and coming up with titles.
I can’t quite explain why it wasn’t one of those things that you talk and talk about and that never happens, but it wasn’t. The three of us have thrown around arts-related ideas before. They seemed like ‘one day’ aspirations rather than ‘today’ tasks, maybes rather than possibilities. This was different.
Issue #1 of Banshee, the baby with three mammies, launched in Cork on Thursday 24th September as part of the Cork International Short Story Festival. When our readers read (a mix of newcomers and familiar names in Irish literary circles), or when my co-editors spoke, I actually got chills. We made a thing, guys.
Our Dublin launch is next week – Tuesday 29th September. All are welcome.
From l-r – Laura Jane Cassidy, yours truly, and Eimear Ryan, at the Banshee launch at the Cork International Short Story Festival
The three of us are all writers and shockingly realistic about the terribly niche business that is setting up a literary journal, so it’s been sort of ridiculously brilliant to have been featured in things like articles about the Irish literary journal or to be asked to comment on sexism in publishing. It’s been astonishing to see people on twitter post pics of the journal as it arrives in their inbox, and – this is loveliest of all – to see writers reach out to their fellow contributors to compliment them on their work.
Do join us for the Dublin launch and/or note that our submissions window for Issue #2 (Spring 2016) is open in October. To steal blatantly from our Issue #1 editorial, we love-love-love
that particular thrill of an inbox filled with promise. You open up a submission and read something that a brain and keyboard have made with words, and with the best work comes a rush of excitement. This is good, you think; this is something people need to read.
Send us things. Pick up a copy of Issue #1. Or come along on Tuesday and watch us go, whoa, so that happened – and to marvel at the incredible work that landed in our inbox that we are so delighted, and so honoured, to be publishing this autumn.
Book review: This Is Where It Ends
Marieke Nijkamp – This Is Where It Ends
Fifty-four minutes. That’s how long it takes for Tyler’s rampage throughout the school – first in a locked school assembly, then in the corridors – to begin and end. Meanwhile, a series of narrators fill us in on what’s happening: Tyler’s ex girlfriend, Claire, is practicing with the track team at the time the shots go off. Her younger brother is in the auditorium. She has to find out what’s going on. Autumn, Tyler’s sister, can’t believe what’s happening, but knows that she’s already lost her brother; he’s told their father she’s been dancing again, something he associates with their dead mother and hates her doing. Sylv, Autumn’s girlfriend, has been scared of Tyler long before he brought a gun to school. And her twin, Tomas, is in the principal’s office with his friend Fareed, in trouble yet again, when the first shots go off – and they’re determined to do what they can to help get the students out, even though the police have told them to protect themselves.
Alongside the rotating narrators we get snippets of what’s happening with social media, including a blog from a beloved teacher’s daughter, and tweets from students both in and out of school, as well as idiotic responses from journalists and internet trolls. This is a school shooting as it might well play out, and despite attempts at heroism on the parts of some of the characters, ultimately this is not a day with a happy ending. This is a day where an angry boy has taken a gun to school to punish people.
This is a difficult read: it’s such an accurate depiction of senseless violence. It is sad. It is intense. Out in early 2016.
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy.
Book review: Another Day
David Levithan – Another Day
I adore David Levithan’s work. He writes gorgeous prose about teenagers dealing with love and other disasters, and offers up optimism and hope alongside acknowledgement of the hardness of life. In this book, the companion to Every Day, we see what it’s like to be a girl stuck in a relationship that isn’t obviously abusive but isn’t healthy, a girl who wants and needs love and support but isn’t getting it, and what happens one day when her boyfriend’s body is taken over by someone else: A.
A shifts bodies daily, never knowing whether they’re going to be male or female, black or white, gay or straight, able-bodied or disabled, or a whole range of other things. A has a unique take on the world: but is it possible to love someone just for their mind and not the body they’ve wound up in that day? And is it even fair to the people whose bodies A inhabits to try to make a connection last?
This book invites the reader to think about love, and identity, and souls, and to ponder how much of attraction is to do with the physical body. However, Every Day did all that as well, and Another Day, while a great read, doesn’t feel sufficiently different: this is territory we’ve visited before, and getting Rhiannon’s take on it doesn’t offer up anything particularly new, except perhaps at the very end. We empathised with Rhiannon in the first book, and could imagine things through her eyes; there isn’t much more than we get from the same events related to us in her voice. The opportunity to address issues around the female body isn’t really taken, either, and Rhiannon’s comfort level with A taking over her body for a day doesn’t quite ring true. I would suggest reading one or the other, rather than both: they ask many of the same questions but not enough different ones.
(There is a sequel about A coming soon, which will be interesting…)
Banshee on air
Here’s me talking on Dublin City FM’s The Book Club about Banshee, a new literary journal which you can order the first issue of now. Launching Tues Sept 29th.