Saturday, 5 September 2020

Susan Millar DuMars

Susan Millar DuMars has published five collections with Salmon Poetry.  The most recent, Naked: New and Selected, came out in 2019.  In 2020, Susan received a substantial bursary from the Irish Arts Council to support her as she completes work on her second short story collection, Cameos.  Susan and her husband, Kevin Higgins, have organised the Over the Edge readings in Galway, Ireland since 2003.

What book(s) are you reading right now?
 

A wonderful biography called Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality by Emily Sustein. It was published in1989 by Johns Hopkins, and it takes on Mary as a whole person, not just as her parents’ daughter or Shelley’s wife or a product of her age. Her will and intellect were absolutely extraordinary. I have loved Percy Shelley’s poems since I was about twelve, and I’ve read Frankenstein twice; it’s so much more than any of the movies would have you think. I’m a great fan of gothic, of the theme of transformation, so it’s right up my street. Next I’m planning to read Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, which is among other things a novel about a plague. I can’t think what brought that to mind!

 

A book you loved reading at a child.

 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I read it again recently and it still holds up. It’s about a pre-adolescent girl growing up in New York who spies on everyone around her and keeps a notebook of what she finds out. She considers this research for her eventual career as a writer. Then her friends read her notebooks and get very angry. So it’s about learning when to be honest and when to be, well, kind. And about how hard it is to go from child to young woman. It’s a book writers tend to implicitly understand.

The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.

 

The house is falling down with books, so many that all the shelves are full and there are stacks of books on the floors. I’m in the bedroom, and the shelves in here start with Zadie Smith, White Teeth, a doorstop of a novel which is just a joy, and which I often read from in classes when we’re discussing the uses of dialogue. The story takes place in modern London and the voices, the dialects, to my ear are gorgeous.  They come together like a symphony. Last on these shelves is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and with Others, which is one of my teaching bibles. Pat Schneider was a writer and writing teacher who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts; she died last month. She had the most wonderful approach.  She believed that everyone has a story to tell and we just need to be encouraged to tell it. She was anti-elitist, democratic and empowering. Kevin and I try to come at the ‘Over the Edge’ readings, which we’ve run for nearly eighteen years, with that same attitude. Pat Schneider’s writing has had a powerful effect on me. May she rest in peace.

A book you have read more than once.

 

There are several! I’ve read both Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby at least four times each. With Catcher it’s the narrative voice. It’s honest, it breathes, it’s perfect and utterly convincing. With Gatsby it’s the humour, the lushness and the extraordinary sadness. One of the best and saddest final paragraphs of any novel, ever.  

A book that you started but never finished.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns, which came out in 2018 and won the Booker Prize. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it.  I loved it, but it is written in an experimental style and each time I picked the book up again I’d be at sea, and it’d take me ages to get re-oriented. It was a busy period for me so I eventually gave up. But a friend (Liam Boyle, a wonderful poet) tells me I must get to the end, it is worth the hard work. I trust him, so I will. It’s in the pile by the bed now.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Trish Bennett

Trish Bennett writes about and the shenanigans of her family, and other creatures.  She’s performed at events in Ireland and the UK including Cúirt, North West Words, RTÉ, and BBC Radio Ulster.  In 2019, Bennett’s micro-pamphlet, Borderlines, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press, and she received a SIAP Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

What book(s) are you reading right now?
 

I’ll be killed when my to-be-read pile falls on me. So be it. As far as I’m concerned, you can never have too many books. You need a book for every mood, and these days, there are many  moods. There's a stack in progress at any one time and a whack borrowed from the library on Libby. The daughter has got me into Kurt Vonnegut.  She knew I’d love his quirky satirical style. I’ve just finished Slaughterhouse Five and am now tackling Breakfast of Champions. So it goes.

 

Among my current stack is Selected Stories by Brian Friel. I love the way he said a thing, without saying anything. I find it fascinating to read the short stories that were the precursors to some of his most famous plays e.g. Dancing at Lughnasa.

 

Another one of my favourites in the stack is Imaginary Bonnets with Real Bees in Them, Paula Meehan’s stunning book of lectures from when she was Ireland Chair of Poetry.  Maureen Boyle knew I was a Paula fan, and told me about this book. She said I’d love it, not just for the poetry, but also because I’m a beekeeper.  She was right.

 

A book you loved reading as a child.

 

When I was under ten, the only tablets we had were forced into us under the threat of the wooden spoon.  Books were our escape from boredom on a wet day. I never had a favourite because I read so many, each one became the new favourite, until the next page-turner came along. We got our books from the local library. It was up the street in a portacabin on the grounds of the Primary School and open two days a week. The Children’s section was on the two bottom shelves. It was mostly Enid Blyton. I loved The Magic Faraway Tree Stories. I wanted to live in that tree.  As I pushed towards the teens, I was big into Malory Towers, and The Nancy Drew Mysteries.  I loved solving mysteries.  Dad hid stuff in our yard and gave me notes with clues to solve the puzzle or find the treasure.

 

My favourite of all the detective stories was The Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur.  I don’t even remember the stories now but I still want that cool secret headquarters, a huge trailer filled with gadgets.  There was even a telephone.  When I grew up (in the dark ages), having a telephone in your secret hideout was a big deal. The Investigators den was hidden under piles of scrap in Uncle Titus’s scrapyard with a secret entrance and exit.  It was all so exotic.  I wasn’t even cool enough to have an Uncle Titus.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

 

That They May Face the Rising Sun, by John McGahern. It’s a while since I’ve read this masterpiece of a novel, yet it’s never left me. On a personal level I can identify with the rural area described by McGahern as I grew up in the country lanes of North Leitrim. 

 

It’s a book that takes a slow ramble, the prose is beautiful, poetic… "Happiness can not be sought or worried into being, or even fully grasped; it should be allowed its own slow pace so that it passes unnoticed, if it ever comes at all."

 

A book you have read more than once.

 

I’m currently sitting up in the small hours laughing to myself as I read The Best of John B. Keane, Collected Humorous Writings, a book that I’d bought for Dad years ago.  In my teens, I’d read Dad’s collection of John B Keane books, and saw his plays, The Field, and Sive, at our local Drama Festival. Keane was such a sharp observer of the human condition.  No more my own Father, he could turn anything into a witty story. 

 

Your favourite anthology.

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Nora Ephron ever since my mother-in-law, Moira, insisted I read I Feel Bad About My Neck.  I can identify with a lot of what Nora said now I’m at that age where ‘I remember nothing’:

 

"I have been forgetting things for years—at least since I was in my thirties. I know this because I wrote something about it at the time. I have proof. Of course, I can't remember exactly where I wrote about it, or when, but I could probably hunt it up if I had to."

 

My favourite anthology of hers is The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of snippets from her screenplays e.g. When Harry Met Sally, and her most famous essays.  Nora had a fierce unapologetic wit and left us far too soon. 

 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Ruairí de Barra

Ruairí de Barra
is from Co. Mayo and now resides in Co. Cork. He is a sailor, an award-winning military journalist, and a poet. His creative work has featured with Tinteán, A New Ulster, Live Encounters, Bangor Literary Journal, The Ranthology Anthology, Black Bough Poetry, The Boston Globe, Boston Accent, and all his work can be read on www.paperneverefusedink.com. Follow on: Twitter: @r_debarra @never_ink and Facebook.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

The books that I am reading right now are Shadow Warriors: The Irish Army Ranger Wing by Paul O’Brien and Wayne Fitzgerald, and While Nobody is Watching by Michelle Dunne. Shadow Warriors is great book, telling the history of the Irish Defence Forces special forces, and is packed with history & detail which bring just a little of Irelands elite soldiers into the light. As I personally know and have worked closely with many sailors who have gone on to become Rangers throughout my career, its great to see them being recognised in a book like this. I am also very proud to know and work with both authors. This is one more title in Paul’s ever-growing bibliography, and it also very special in that it is Wayne’s first book.


While Nobody is Watching is the first in a series of thrillers by Dunne, and it introduces a character called Lindsey Ryan and her adventures. Lindsey is a troubled woman, dealing PTSD and trying to rebuild her life. This book is one of those reads which makes you want to race to the end, and then race to the bookshop to get the next one! I was privileged to be a beta reader for Michelle, and it was a real thrill be able to walk into a local store and pick up a copy. A creative wonder woman, who is living and working amongst us ordinary folk on Cobh, our Great Island in Cork harbour. I always have one or two books on the go, and I have just received Origins: 21 Poems by Matthew M C Smith in the post yesterday, so I really am looking forward to reading that. Matthew is the Editor of Black Bough Poetry in Wales, another publication which is worth checking out whenever one gets a chance.

 

A book you loved reading at a child.

 

My favourite childhood book was The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I was a total book worm as a child, and I worked my way through my older siblings collections as soon as I had finished my own. I read The Hobbit for the first time, about the age of 10 or 11, and I was hooked completely. I have always loved Tolkien since, I think I have read almost everything he created from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil to Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth which was compiled by his son Christopher. The Hobbit created my love for everything sword & sorcery and high fantasy. I even have several thousands of words of a draft of my own high fantasy novel, which has grown from a series of short stories I wrote, and which I go back to from time to time.

The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.


I don’t have a bookcase at the moment! But the first and last titles in my various stacks and boxes are A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and the simply beautiful The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson. Bryson’s work is truly special and I find that that I enjoy it more which each re-reading. Henderson’s book is incredible, that’s putting it mildly. Just absorbing and astonishing read, worth every seconds spent in its company! I think it is these both ‘must reads’ for everyone!

 

A book you have read more than once.

A book I return to again and again is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell. Robert Tressell was the nom de plume of Irishman Robert Noonan, a house painter, born in 1870 in Dublin, who worked most of his life in England and who sadly succumbed to tuberculosis before it was published. His daughter Kathleen managed to have an abridged version publish in 1914, and a original version was published in 1955. It is an incredibly simple and hard-hitting book, it captures a working man life and view of the world as the century turned. I am always amazed that I came to this book much later in life than many others whom I now know to be huge fans of it, but the impact that it has had on me was still powerful. Here, captured in the words of a working man, in a time I had only read about, was a story of unfairness and anger, and yet also compassion and sympathy; there is also humour and history. This book is unforgettable, and it is one of those life changing works.

Your favourite anthology (interpreted here to mean a poetry collection).


My favourite anthology is Peacekeeper by Micheal J Whelan. Micheal is truly an inspiration, a polymath of the first rate. He is a historian, author, soldier, father, a good friend, and a very fine poet. I was first introduced to Michael's work through his book The Battle of Jadotville: Irish Soldiers in Combat in the Congo, 1961, which provided my real grounding in Irish military history of this historic battle and wider conflict, long before later books and films, Michael told the story of these forgotten heroes and his writing helped to bring their experiences and their service to life for me. It was a good bit later, when I read Peacekeeper, his first collection of poetry and it was in all honestly a revelation to read such strong poetry from a serving soldier of the Irish Air Corps.

There is an honesty, rawness and beauty in his work. There is so many points of truth within its pages, and it shines a light into the dark corners, where horrendous things have occurred and been inflicted on many innocent people. Micheal served overseas on United Nations Mandated missions, where in countries torn apart by war, he bore witness to the extremes of humanity; from the innocence and joy of children playing in the hills & paths of South Lebanon, to the appalling aftermath of civil war and genocide in hills of Kosovo. This anthology is powerful and moving, it speaks to the unspeakable and yet shows the hope and the goodness of simple, ordinary people, who can do extraordinary things. In keeping with Michaels character, the profits of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the veterans groups – Organisation of National Ex Service Personnel and the Irish United Nations Veterans Association.

Peacekeeper is another book which for me placed a bookmark in my life, its one of the ones I will remember and treasure for ever.


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Anne Casey

Author of two collections published by Salmon Poetry - out of emptied cups (2019) and where the lost things go (2017), Anne Casey is a Sydney-based Irish poet/writer. A journalist, magazine editor, legal author and media communications director for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally and has won/shortlisted for prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. Twitter: @1annecasey

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I usually have a novel and one or two (or more) poetry books on the go at any one time. I recently finished Dervla McTiernan's acclaimed The Ruin – a gripping detective novel set in the west of Ireland where I'm from. It was a real page-turner, so I've just started the sequel 'The Scholar'. In our current circumstances, it is somehow comforting to be amongst Irish names and places on the pages – it takes me home when I can't be there physically.

I'm also reading Paul Munden's brilliant poetry collection Analogue/Digital – "the four corners of the earth/ cradled in your palm/ like an all-purpose gadget" (from the poem 'A New and Correct Map of the World') is quite an apt description of the book itself. It is a series of startling revelations enveloped in inspired eloquence. If you want to fall in love with language all over again, read this.

I am simultaneously slowly savouring Felicity Plunkett's divine new poetry collection, A Kinder Sea, which resonate deeply, for its exploration of loss, its liminal beauty and its love affair with the ocean. "Separated, alone at sea/ for the ten lunar months/ it takes to make a child,/ you discover grief/ like someone diving into a dark/ envelope of undersea rock/ to find a dream's bones."

Meanwhile I am also currently thoroughly enjoying Melinda Smith's ingeniously innovative, highly entertaining, vitally important and deliciously, outrageously feminist poetry collection, Listen, Bitch, which features design translation by Caren Florance. Here is one of it's quieter moments: "and who's to say she did not/ take up, with relish, a pair of Tim's scissors/ and stab and stab, rending the membranes/ (those pale lady-veils), releasing the stinging/ pungence of witch-rage".

A book you loved reading at a child

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass – a combined edition gifted to me by my beloved Aunt Minnie prompted an imaginative epiphany for me as a child. I will admit that I had always been a dreamer, only partly present to the real world (and I still have one foot in the world inside my head most days), but this book set me off on many wild goose chases through the rabbit-hole-ridden local sandhills, so desperately wanting to find that Alice's magical Wonderland. There was always that delicious conundrum of whether you would choose the 'DRINK ME' potion to shrink or 'EAT ME' cake to grow bigger – not to mention all sorts of sage advice, like the Duchess's: "Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend

I have gifted Eleanor Hooker's glorious poetry collection A Tug of Blue on more than one occasion. It is mesmerisingly, hauntingly beautiful and lusciously inventive. When I want to point someone to one of the many exciting things that are happening in Irish poetry right now, I send them here: "On my father’s side/ I am part fish./ When I am dead,/ return me to water./.../That part of me/ which is raven, on/ my mother’s side,/ will submit." (from the poem 'Ablution').

A book you have read more than once

Anthony Doerr's first novel, About Grace, is a book I will return to over and over – not only for its extraordinary story, but for the poetic beauty of its language and its innate wisdom: "All month the ice muttered and howled and whistled. The trees echoed back and forth among themselves. Taken collectively, the sound was of deep wounding, of winter inexorably taking the life out of things."

The impossibility of the central character's protective love for his daughter is heartbreakingly magnetising – a driving force through this captivating journey through nature and its formidable elements, loss, exile, longing and the saving grace of human kindness. Here is one of my favourite passages:

"Our entire bodies, flooded with water, are governed by electricity. Bring any two molecules close enough together and they will repel each other. We cannot ever touch each other, not really. We repel at a distance. Actual touch—real contact—is not possible. A fistfight, one person lifting another, even sexual intercourse—what you feel is only electrical repulsion, maybe a few thousand molecules sloughing off skin. Even our own bodies are not cohesive. Photons pass through our eyeballs, through the webbing of our fingers."

A book with personal resonance

Peter Boyle's exquisite book-length poem, Enfolded in the wings of a great darkness, which recently won the Kenneth Slessor Award for Poetry in the 2020 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, holds me utterly captivated every time I open it. Whenever I hear Peter read from it, I am moved to tears, brimming with the absolute joy of hearing language that transcends the page and transports us to the glimmering edge of everything we know to be real and beyond. 

It is a breathtaking exploration of love, terminal illness, loss and reaching beyond the void: "a moment stretched to the size of the universe", "that we are guests here, that we are summoned — so little of what we are stays in the light", "What does it mean that I am able to offer you parts of myself that even I am unable to name", “Is it the light that emanates from the dead, all this we have no name for?” and "far from the steady light/ she cast, I am again/ descending/ the spiral staircase of the self/.../ stripped/ of all armature/ surrounded/ only by ancient/ bone-words   how old/ this scent of aloneness."


Monday, 27 July 2020

Linda McKenna

Linda McKenna is from Kinsealy in North County Dublin, but has lived in County Down since 1995. Her debut collection of poems, In the Museum of Misremembered Things, was published by Doire Press in March 2020.  She has had poems published in a number of publications including:  Crannog, The Honest Ulsterman, The North, Poetry Ireland Review. She won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing and the Red Line Festival Poetry Award in 2018.

A book you loved reading at a child.

I was brought up on a mixture of "girls’ books" from earlier times (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, etc.) and Enid Blyton and Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School books. I desperately wanted to go to boarding school in Austria or Switzerland! I’m probably among the last generation of women brought up on the same books their mothers read. There were no young adult books when I was growing up, you went from Malory Towers to Pemberley. One of my favourite books though was Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes. I think it’s probably fairly unique among those kind of books in actually talking about money, (money as opposed to poverty or riches, actual pounds, shillings and pence) and how the girls’ earnings contribute to the household. I loved all the stage school bits and the descriptions of clothes. I can still vividly remember the acquiring and making of Pauline’s black velvet audition dress.

A book you have read more than once.

I am a big Dickens fan and Bleak House is probably my joint favourite novel ever (joint top with Kate O’Brien’s The Land of Spices). I reread it and bits of it regularly. I very often read in my favourites as opposed to rereading them in totality. I know people have problems with Esther and she can be irritating but every time I read the novel I find something new in it. At the moment, I am (thanks to my vague ideas about a second collection of poetry), obsessed with keys, locks and their symbols and I love the way Dickens uses Esther and her basket of keys to symbolise so much. I also cry every time over poor Charley going out to wash ‘because of the sixpences and shillings’.

A book that you started but never finished.

I decided this summer that lockdown might be a good time to attempt the Lord of the Rings books. I ploughed through the first one but gave up a few pages into the second. I don’t mind fantasy worlds and characters but it was just too confusing and why did people keep changing their names?! I liked the films except they should have kept Sean Bean alive for longer but the books left me cold. 

Your favourite anthology.

One of my favourite poetry anthologies is a book I picked up in the Chester Beatty Library shop. It’s Haphazard by Starlight: a poem a day from Advent to Epiphany, edited by Janet Morley. It’s a great collection of poems by a very diverse range of poets (from Shelley, Yeats, Tennyson, Hopkins, Eliot, Dickinson, DH Lawrence, Sylvia Plath to Edwin Muir, Elizabeth Jennings, Gillian Clarke). There’s a commentary on each poem linking it to the season and it includes two of my favourite poems ever, Kathleen Raine’s ‘Northumbrian Sequence, 4’ and UA Fanthorpe’s ‘BC:AD’. 

A book yet-to-be-released which you are looking forward to reading.

I have ordered Sasha Dugdale’s new collection, Deformations, (Carcanet Press). I love her Red House collection, especially the Red House sequence of poems with its breathtaking use of language and imagery. Deformations contains two linked sequences of poems, one of which is based around characters from the Odyssey. I’m also looking forward to reading Gaynor Kane’s debut collection of poems with Hedgehog Press and Geraldine O’Kane’s new collection with Salmon Poetry. Lockdown has delayed their launch too so hope to get them soon.


Friday, 17 July 2020

Billy Mills

Billy Mills was born Dublin in 1954. After some years in Spain and the UK, he lives in Limerick. He is co-editor (with Catherine Walsh) of hardpressed Poetry. His Lares/Manes: Collected Poems was published by Shearsman in 2009, and Imaginary Gardens and Loop Walks by hardPressed poetry in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The City Itself was published by Hesterglock Press in 2017. He blogs at https://ellipticalmovements.wordpress.com/ and tweets at @BmillsBilly

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I always have a lot of books on the go because I review on my blog, plus one (or more) I’m reading apart from the reviewing. Currently that is Bob Dylan’s not-a-novel Tarantula, which is actually a re-read after a long gap. I started into it as a result of listening to his magnificent new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. There’s a great deal of continuity across his life’s work, and themes and ideas that were there in the 60s are still echoing around the new songs. It’s not the best book ever written, but it’s interesting. I’m also dipping into Helen Waddell’s Medieval Latin Lyrics, which I picked up second hand just before lockdown. It’s a fine work of scholarship the casts light on a neglected period in European poetry.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

I will recommend any book by Lorine Niedecker to anyone who’ll listen. If you haven’t read her, you should. If you have, you’ll know why. writing from the margins, she condenses an entire world into a handful of words, carefully chosen and placed. The Collected Works (edited by Jenny Penberthy) is a must-have book for anyone who wants to know poetry.

A book you have read more than once.

I reread a lot, poetry needs to be returned to regularly and with the best of it you find something new every time. I recently reread Marianne Moore’s Collected Poems and was really struck by how much in control of her technique she was, the stitching of observation, quotation and wry humour into carefully elaborate syllabic patterns is just stunning. However, the book I’ve reread most often is Ulysses, which is, I think, the best novel in English. All human life is there, and technically it’s incredible. I mean the writing is unsurpassable. I know a lot of people find it off-putting, but I honestly don’t understand why.

Your favourite anthology.

I have a fondness for anthologies that makes it almost impossible to pick just one. Robin Skelton’s Penguin Poetry of the Thirties/Poetry of the Forties, which I discovered in my late teens allows you to read a different history of 20th century British poetry, one in which the pre-war period is not totally dominated by the MacSpaunday poets, where there’s more continuity with the Modernism of the 1910s and 20s, and in which the Movement is more an aberration than anything else. The lack of women poets is shocking, but the books are a window into a number of very fine poets who have more recently begun to find new readers again: Terence Tiller, Kathleen Raine, David Gascoyne and more.  A more recent anthology I like is Black Nature, edited by Camille Dungy. It’s a book that the much over-used term ‘ground-breaking’ can actually be applied to. It’s full of very fine poetry, but also questions the whole post-Romantic notion of what nature poetry is for, what it should look like.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

I’ve written about Desmond O’Grady before. He was a very fine poet whose work is quite unlike any of his Irish contemporaries. He published The Dying Gaul in his early 30s and it’s outstanding. As far as I know, it’s never been reprinted, but it really should be.


Thursday, 16 July 2020

Mel Bradley

Mel Bradley is a spoken word artist, writer, theatre-maker, multimedia artist, actor. An ACNI and DCSDC supported outspoken queer feminist performer with an unhealthy obsession with the Virgin Mary. Has performed at various festivals and venues from the Royal Albert Hall to Body & Soul, Open House and Edinburgh Fringe.   insta: @the_houseofmel   twitter: @meljbradley   facebook

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende. We listened to a podcast that Sam was featured on, ‘What Am Pirates', on our way to a gig, very pre-lockdown days, and I was really intrigued by the concept of the book and that pirates were forerunners in a social democratic ideology. It’s an interesting book. My partner bought it to me for Christmas.

The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.

First book - Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis by Robert Graves & Raphael Patai. Last book – The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

A book you have read more than once.

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier – I love her storytelling and I love the characters in this. It’s definitely one I go back to when I need to disappear.

A book that you started but never finished.

Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet; also And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. Both books are really raw and gritty and create images that I find hard to linger in for any length of time, but have superb writing. The Hippos Were Boiled, I struggle with because I have never taken drugs to that excess.

A book with personal resonance.

The Egyptian Years by Elizabeth Harris. I read this book when I was in my teens and I keep a copy of it on my shelf to remind me that there are always ways around difficulty. I struggled with reading, I have dyslexia and my mum introduced me to the large print section of the library where I found this book. I read it and found joy in reading for the first time. So this stays with me.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Rishi Dastidar

A poem from Rishi Dastidar’s Ticker-tape was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018. His second collection, Saffron Jack, is published by Nine Arches Press. He is also editor of The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century (Nine Arches Press).

What book(s) are you reading right now?

One of my biggest sins is having…. a gajillion titles on the go. Right now, the one that is most determinedly hovering in my eyeline is Friday Night Lights by HG Bissinger, for a sports book club I’m a member of. It’s what the TV show was based on, and I’m a sucker for reading most things about American football, as it is for my sins probably the sport I care most about.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, his verse novel inspired by Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. It’s a tale of yuppies in 1980s Silicon Valley, before it became the cradle of the modern world, for good or ill; it is charming, witty, bright and yet at the same time has a deep undertow of melancholy too. I am incapable of leaving one on the shelf if I ever see it in a charity shop. Most of these inevitably get passed on, though I think I have three copies at the moment, so if anyone wants one, let me know…

A book you have read more than once.

Apart from the aforementioned Golden Gate, I do end up re-reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets once a year. If I could do something like that, I would put my pen down, as that would be me done. It’s a thrilling reminder of what can happen when you’re bold enough to discard form, and follow your nerve.

A book that you started but never finished.

Oh so many… let’s say the one I feel guiltiest about is Moby Dick. Maybe this year…

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

The Fatal Englishman by Sebastian Faulks; it’s a really intriguing biography of three Englishmen who died young, but were exemplars of both how society and an idea of Englishness was changing in the 20th century. I think it’s so overlooked I persuaded John and Andy at the Backlisted podcast to do an episode about it.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Chris Murray

Chris Murray lives in Dublin. She founded and curates Poethead, a website dedicated to platforming work by women poets, their translators, and editors. She is an active member of Fired! Irish Women Poets and the Canon which seeks to celebrate and draw awareness to the rich cultural heritage of Irish women poets through readings. Her forthcoming book ‘Gold Friend’ is due in Autumn 2020 (Turas Press, Dublin).

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami which I spotted via Tammy Lai-Ming Ho’s Twitter and I pre-ordered it. So glad! A beautiful book with gorgeously drawn characters. I am very taken with Kawakami’s drawing of Midoriko’s character. I have not finished the book yet, so I will say no more. I have been re-reading Object Lessons by Eavan Boland (RIP) and some essays by Simone Weil. I don’t tend to read large quantities of fiction, as it doesn’t appear to be my metier. I am drawn to essays, non-fiction, history and biography. I still haven’t got my hands on ‘Making Integral’ Essays on Richard Murphy (CUP), having not been into town for a while now.

A book you loved reading as a child.

I read and re-read a biography of Dame Alicia Markova when I was a child. I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from. I suspect that my mum had bought it at the old music library or at a library sale. I knew every detail of her dances and costumes because I read that book to pieces. I was obsessed with Markova’s world which was a hugely fascinating place to be in.  I love detail. I would go back to books on Markova, or on Mary Queen of Scots because of the exhaustive costume and historical detail, which I needed. The books were worn out when I eventually put them down, or moved into my first place. I have not seen either of the books since. 

A book you have read more than once.

This is a draw! I have read The Secret History by Donna Tartt a few times, same with A.S Byatt’s Possession, and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, A Biography, by Margaret Forster. I think that Dora Van Gelder’s The Real World Of Fairies is a book that would devastate me if it were lost. Not least because it was a final gift from a very good friend, who, before his passing, always knew what book to recommend to me when I visited and who had kept copies of Edith Sitwell’s and Doris Lessing’s books for me in a special shelf in his library. The copies of the Sitwells and Lessings were likely first print-runs, and it was nice to be thought of and considered in terms of the reading that I would enjoy, and not alone as a house-guest and extended family member.

A book that you started but never finished.

I have not been able to bring myself to finish The Letters Of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. I read a lot about the volume in the media, and as I proceed through the book the tortuous inevitability of the ruination of the Plath/Hughes marriage becomes more stark. It is a claustrophobic book. I often find myself headache-y or gasping for breath in VAW scenarios both implicit and explicit. Part of me prefers to read the poems (which I can do again and again) because they are transformative. Separating the art from the life in Plath’s case is almost a necessity, we can watch her create from the raw material of her life, but I find the bruised body, the miscarriage, and the descent of her psyche into her final days unbearably sad. I am not sure if I have the bravery to finish it, maybe it is a way of honouring her - I am not sure.

A book with personal resonance.

I thought about this and there are a few. The Dora Van Gelder resonates, but I am going to say Eavan Boland: Inside History which I contributed to. I wrote the chapter  “A Modern Encounter With Foebus Abierat” - based on Eavan Boland’s translation of “Phoebus was gone, all gone, his journey over” which I felt encapsulated Eavan Boland’s ideas as a woman and a poet. The kernel of the translation is of female transgression against the established order. Eavan asked to meet me and was delighted with the essay. I think meeting her meant so much to me as a poet and we remained in touch over the last four years of her life, through committee work, or meetings, or emails. She picked me up after a bad burn-out and I am very grateful to have known her. We need to talk about her interventions in the areas of equality and diversity. I am linking the poem here.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Colin Hassard

Colin Hassard is a poet from Banbridge. He was Runner Up in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018 and short-listed for the Aurivo North West Words Poetry Competition 2019. As well as winning many poetry slam awards, Colin is a regular poetry contributor to BBC Radio Ulster and has performed his work on Sky One. His debut poetry collection will be released in 2021 with Doire Press.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’ve just started reading Sinead Morrissey’s On Balance. I’m a little behind the times as the collection was released in 2017 – it actually won the Forward Prize for Best Collection that year – but, as they say, better late than never. I’ve also just finished reading Eric Idle’s autobiography Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Even if you’re not a fan of Monty Python, it is a fascinating read, and Idle writes quite candidly about his life from troubled and tragic childhood right through to superstardom and beyond. 

A book you loved reading as a child.

Liked most children I loved Roald Dahl’s books, not just for the wonderfully imaginative stories, but also the illustrations by Quentin Blake. However, if I had to pick a non-Dahl book, I’d go for Dangleboots by Dennis Hamley. It’s about a young boy who isn’t very good at football until he buys a new pair of boots from a mysterious market-stall, which turn out to be magic boots that make him into an amazing footballer. But then, of course, things start to go wrong. It connected with me as I was a boy who wasn’t very good at football and who dreamed of finding some magic boots which, sadly, never happened. These days I’m on the lookout for a magic pen! 

The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.

Just to give you a little insight into my mild OCD, my bookcases are divided into genres, and each genre is an alphabetical order! So, my solitary shelf of novels starts with Colin Bateman and ends with Oscar Wilde. And my poetry shelves start with Maya Angelou and end with Benjamin Zephaniah. Some of the smaller genres, like sport and history are thrown in together but my reading room is basically a smaller version of Waterstones! 

A book you have read more than once.

As you may have gathered from my previous answer, my main genre of interest is poetry. However, there is a collection of short-stories by Irvine Welsh called The Acid House that I read at least once a year. I’ve struggled with Welsh’s novels – although I do love is work on the big screen – but the short stories are brilliant. However, if anyone decides to check them out based on my recommendation, I should warn them that some of the stories are not for the faint-hearted. They may also put you off ever visiting Scotland.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

I only noticed John Fante’s Ask the Dust in a bookstore because, and I realise this is breaking one of life’s primary maxims to not judge a book by its cover, but cover and title had similar art-work and font to some of the Charles Bukowski books I have. I’m a fan of Bukowski and, as it turns out, Bukowski was a huge fan of Fante – even going so far as to call him “my god”. Ask the Dust was published in 1939 and is the semi-autobiographical story of a struggling Los Angeles based writer during the Great Depression. In an interesting bit of trivia, the book wasn’t properly distributed at first because the publisher was embroiled in a legal battle over an unauthorised publishing of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and couldn’t afford the Ask the Dust distribution! So, it wasn’t until Bukowski championed Fante’s work in the 1970’s that eventually lead to the novel being reissued in 1980. Yet even then, Fante’s work is somewhat overlooked as his themes, and arguably style, were used to much greater affect a little later by the Beat generation, and even by Bukowski himself. It’s well worth exploring though.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Guy Le Jeune

Guy Le Jeune is a writer, theatre-maker, musician and community facilitator, based in Donegal. His theatre work is in the area of reminiscence, memory and oral history. He has written seven plays, working with communities and individuals, to celebrate and validate their personal histories. His plays have covered railways, dancehalls, factories, communist priests, and most recently, with The Songbirds, the experiences of people living with a dementia diagnosis. His fiction has been shortlisted for the Costa, Sean O’Faolain and Fish prizes, and he is a Irish Writer’s Centre, Novel Fair winner. He is currently working on the digital history CINE Project, facilitating a coproduction with the community of Inch Island, writing a best practice manual for participatory community engagement, and trying to find time to write a science fiction novel.

A book you loved reading at a child.

Books and childhood - the excitement, the hope, the vicarious daydreams and the choice… oh the choice. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents as a kid. On Saturday mornings, Granny Wag would stuff a tartan shopping trolley with all the books she and my Granda had read during the week – she liked large-print crime novels, the gorier the better, and he would devour cowboy novellas in his greenhouse, thumbing the lurid covers with green fingers. Trolley packed, we’d walk up Cromer road, cross by the roundabout and slip behind the silent glass doors of Lillington library, my eyes grazing the spines. And the sad thing is, I can’t remember any of them, despite that shopping trolley being stuffed with stories. I guess because there were so many and too little time tor rad them in the seven days that followed. One book does stand out, not from the library, but a gift from a friend of my mother. She was younger, a teacher. She handed me The Otterbury Incident, ‘I think you might enjoy that,’ and I didn’t stop reading it. It’s still somewhere in the house, its post-war bomb-sites, spivs and gangs. I think there was a time when I could have recited the entire thing. That’s the thing about memory, somethings just stick.

The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.

Too many bookcases, but the one nearest to the computer will do. First book, a 1912 reprint of The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith, a tiny volume, leather-bound, rizla-thin pages, gilded edges… and when I open’d it, his ‘Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog’ saw the light again.
‘But soon a wonder came to light,
That show’d the rogues they lied:
The man recover’d of the bite,
The dog it was that died.’
The last (there was another one, but I haven’t read it so I figure it doesn’t count) was In Evil Hour, by Gabriel García Marquez… a malevolent presence stalks the streets of the town. Yeah, that is a bit freaky, alright.

A book you have read more than once.

Two. One that fell apart: Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - a journey, a manual, an epiphany; a dark, joyous, profound work, but one that sticks in my mind. The other, still in one piece: Walden, for even if I open it at random, Henry David Thoreau has some words of wisdom and understanding of us and our place in this world. It is comforting, rewarding, moving and spiritual in a way too many spiritual books aren’t. I could happily live with nothing else than the words of Mr. Thoreau. ‘To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts,’ is about as good a philosophy to live by as I can imagine.

A book that you started but never finished.

Easy. Dune by Frank Herbert. Four times. I think. Ten pages or thereabouts, and I get a sudden urge to clear the cobwebbed boxes out of the attic, and I don’t like spiders. Yes, people have said it gets better, but so does a sprained ankle, and I’d rather not go through the actual spraining bit, thanks all the same. And I like Science Fiction, I’ve read a huge amount, and enjoyed a huge amount, but that one is soporific word-salad.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

This is a tough one. By what gauge do you call something underrated? Is it a lack of sales? Reviews? Literary prizes? Whatever about those arguments, here’s one that touched me, that deserves to be read, and you might not have heard of: Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris. It’s a strange book. A little Pirsig, a little Thoreau perhaps. I picked it up in an independent bookshop somewhere. It’s title appealed. I drove across Dakota years ago, inspired by Dee Brown’s work, eventually finding my way to Wounded Knee. The state is strange place. You fall asleep for hours and when you wake, you wonder if you’ve moved at all, and it’s even worse for your passengers - roads as straight as shotgun-barrel, scrub and grass and nothing much else. Dakota, the book, is about that, and it’s not for everyone, but if you want to feel a little calmer, a little more in touch with a simpler world, maybe try it. And I’ll add a caveat here too, I’m not religious, and there’s a fair bit of religion in it, but I guess it’s the good sort.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Maureen Boyle

Maureen Boyle’s debut poetry collection, ‘The Work of a Winter’, published by Arlen House Press, was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Poetry Prize in 2019.  Her poem ‘Strabane’, originally commissioned for BBC Radio 4, has just been published by Arlen Press, with photographs by her husband Malachi O’Doherty. She lives in Belfast.

What book(s) are you reading right now?*

I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety – about the French Revolution - published in 1992. I’ve been reading it for a while since it’s enormous, so I did break off to read a few other things in between but wanted to finish it before I go to the ‘The Mirror and the Light’. I love her writing and this one is extraordinary.  People had told me about it and recommended it and I’ve only managed to get to it now. I read Dickens’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ first and loved it. It’s taken me to get to this age to enjoy Dickens – I think I found him too difficult as a child. But his book assumes quite a lot of knowledge of the Revolution and in some ways it’s more an adventure tale. But the Mantel really does ‘start at the very beginning’ going back to the childhoods of the leaders of the revolution like Robespierre and Danton.  You can see in it the strengths that are so evident in the Wolf Hall trilogy – exhaustive historical detail lightly used. It’s total immersion in this earlier time. This book alone would be a life’s work and yet she did it again!  

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

I’ve just recommended Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day and not for the first time. Hadley came to the Hewitt a few years ago and had a brilliant interview with Emily Dedakis – focused very much on style and method. And I saw her again at Edinburgh last year. She’s just a fabulous writer and this is her most recent novel about how two couples, long married and friends, experience the death of one of the men. It’s a book of great atmosphere – I sometimes remember the atmosphere of a book more than detail when I really love it and that is definitely the case in this one. I can conjure the smells and colours of a London garden in early summer with which it opens. I also love that she is a dedicated teacher. She came to writing relatively late and teaches Creative Writing at Bath Spa and when she was being interviewed in Edinburgh you could really sense both her wisdom and her generosity towards her students. I respect that in a writer. 

Your favourite anthology. (Editor's note: interpreted here as a poetry collection)

Very hard to choose – possibly Seamus Heaney’s Haw Lantern (1987), which was sort of ‘peak Heaney’ for me – I don’t mean I didn’t like what came after but that one seemed miraculous.  It is so much about where you are physically and mentally when the book arrives and that came at a really significant point for me and was full of resonance. Also Paula Meehan’s The Man Who Was Marked By Winter (1992), which was really important to me in coming back to write poetry as an adult and from which I often teach.  

A book yet-to-be-released (at time of writing*) which you are looking forward to reading.

I’m going to cheat if it’s OK and mention a few since I have a veritable wish-list but I’m trying to get through the back pile at least a little first. Two are connected to Joyce. I love it when a book comes along that feels like something you conjured because you wanted it to exist and two of those about to be published are Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught – which is about Lady Violet Gibson, the woman who tried to assassinate Mussolini who was confined in the Northampton Asylum – where John Clare was too – with Lucia Joyce. I’m fascinated by all things to do with Joyce and as well as this treat there is Nuala O’Connor’s Nora about Nora Barnacle. Nuala is another favourite writer of mine – she couldn’t write a bad sentence if she tried – that’s a cliché but in her case it’s true. There is also Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet – another writer I love – and poet Doireann NíGríiofa’s A Ghost in the Throat which is part memoir I think. I should have ordered these before the lockdown but they’ll be worth waiting for.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention. 

I always come back to Des Hogan’s The Icon Maker which I think is a little masterpiece. I feel Des himself deserves more attention and I think there’s a chance that in the future he’ll be recognised as one of our great writers. His is an entirely singular voice and it is really poetry I think. ‘The Icon Maker’ was his first novel published in 1976 by The Irish Writers’ Co-operative in Dublin and it’s fiction but very closely based on his own life. It’s the story of a young gay man who grows up in the shadow of the asylum in Ballinasloe, County Galway – knowing it as a threat to him because of his sexuality – and taking the boat to England. Des was my very first Creative Writing tutor when I enrolled with him at one of his classes at the City Lit in London in the late 80s. I’d been trying to get back to writing but didn’t know what form I wanted to do. There was an older man in the class who, no matter what we were set, came in each week with a polished but somehow dead piece of genre writing. And Des was so hard on him. The difficulty wasn’t the style but that in using the different genres he was avoiding going to any depth. He had a facility for writing but there was evasion in his approach. Des’s whole mantra was about finding and authentic voice. He’s had a hard life in the years since but is still producing extraordinary work with Lilliput.


*This interview was conducted back in April, so some of the forthcoming books mentioned at the time are now available - and we're sure she's finished the Mantel book by now as well!

Monday, 6 July 2020

David Butler

David Butler is a multi-award winning novelist, poet, short-story writer and playwright. The most recent of his three published novels, City of Dis (New Island) was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, 2015. His second poetry collection, All the Barbaric Glass, was published in 2017 by Doire Press. Arlen House is to bring out his second short story collection, Fugitive, in 2020.

An outstanding book you read as a child.

Like most of us, I loved The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia cycle, but the two I still periodically go back to are Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass. I love the combination of logical paradox, semantic games, grotesquery, and wild imagination running through these two mind-trips. It’s a fantastic universe peopled with such wonderful inventions – the Mad Hatter, The Queen of Hearts, Humpty Dumpty, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But it’s also grounded in the bodily uncertainties of the pre-adolescent bamboozled by the arbitrariness of grown-up decrees.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. This is a witty novel in all senses of the word, filled with exquisite miniatures. Moore's descriptions (such as the decaying contents in a fridge) are crafted with both fun and with sensuous care. But beyond her sumptuous, lithographic precision and acid humour, the novel tackles topics as difficult as race and parental responsibility with genuine wisdom. I’ve also given as gifts a whole raft of novels by the wonderful Daniel Woodrell: Tomato Red; The Death of Sweet Mister; Winter’s Bone.

A book you have read more than once.

I’m a compulsive re-reader. Besides pretty much everything by Dostoevsky, I’m going to single out Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the only novel I ever managed to struggle through in Portuguese (having read it in translation twice). Despite its horrific premise – a pandemic of contagious blindness brings society to its knees - this is a novel of breath-taking beauty. The prose is exquisite, the vision of mankind, despite the Breugelesque horror of a descent into filth and savagery, ultimately affirmative. I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks the present pandemic an affliction!

A book that you started but never finished.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I’ve just recently given up on this one (after a mere 260 pages). It’s a fascinating enough premise, but I found the characterisation so thin as to be two-dimensional and repetitively presented. I also found the pace extremely slow (in the hands of Patricia Highsmith the novel might have come in at 250 rather than 650 pages). I have to confess I also abandoned The Goldfinch, that time after only 200 pages!!

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo. Rulfo’s only novel (he also wrote one exquisite collection of short stories entitled El llano en llanos), for me this is the greatest novel of the Latin American Boom. Garcia Marquez could quote entire chapters by heart! Written in haunting prose, it’s a kind of Mexican Cre na Cille, straddling the worlds of the living and the dead in its evocation of a ghost town and its dead caudillo but without the jiggery-pokery of magical realism. A monumental, beautiful work, particularly if you can handle the original Spanish.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Glen Wilson

Glen Wilson is a multi-award winning Poet from Portadown. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing  in 2017, the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 and The Trim Poetry competition in 2019. His poetry collection An Experience on the Tongue is out now with Doire Press. Twitter: @glenhswilson

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I always end up with a few books on the bedside table, they usually include a devotional, in this case Tozer on the Holy Spirit by A.W Tozer who writes so beautifully about matters of faith. I always have a book of poetry as well, at the moment it is The Deep Hearts Core: Irish Poets Revisit A Touchstone Poem (Dedalus Press), an anthology of poets with one of their own poems, this is particularly interesting as the poets expand on what prompted the poem, some background and the importance of the piece for them. It’s a great selection including poets like Pat Boran, Dermot Bolger, Eavan Bolan, Moya Cannon, Iggy McGovernand Anne-Marie Fyfe. And lastly I always have a novel on the go, I usually veer between crime fiction, historical fiction (the Roman period being of particular interest) or sci-fi, at the present I’m reading The Old Republic series from Star Wars: it’s just nice escapism to drift off to sleep!

A book you loved reading at a child.

I always loved Roald Dahl as a child and Danny Champion of the World was a favourite, he is a master of creating a whole world and the sense of adventure of this one has never left me, even just seeing the cover of this book takes me back.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith is a heart-warming series set in Botswana, I would recommend any of the books for anyone looking for a feel-good read. In terms of poetry I’ve recently finished Threading the Light by Ross Thompson (Dedalus Press) and it’s fantastic, search it out!

Your favourite anthology.

I would recommend the Staying Alive series (Staying Alive/Being Alive/Being Human) from Bloodaxe books, there is great mix of lesser known lights and well known classics, a brilliantly curated collection by Neil Astley.

A book yet-to-be-released (as time of writing) which you are looking forward to reading.

I’ve been waiting for The Winds of Winter by G.R.R Martin (as I’m sure many other Games of Thrones fans have) but given the gaps between his previous volumes of the series I could be waiting for a little longer. The television series and the books diverged a few years back so it will be interesting to see which direction the book takes when it does eventually come out. Another book that I’ve been waiting on that just arrived is In the Museum of Misremembered Things (Doire Press) by Linda McKenna which I’d highly recommend; Linda writes such wonderful vivid poems so get yourself a copy as soon as possible.

Niall Bourke

Niall Bourke is originally from Kilkenny but now lives in London, He writes both poetry and prose and has been published widely in magazines and journals in both the UK and Ireland, including The Irish Times. His poems and short stories have been listed for numerous awards, including The Costa Short Story Award, The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, The Mairtín Crawford Short Story Prize and The New Irish Writing Award. In 2017 he was selected for Poetry Ireland's Introductions Series. His debut poetry collection 'Did You Put The Weasels Out?' was published by Eyewear press in April 2018. In spring 2021 Tramp Press will be publishing his debut novel, ‘Line’. He is represented by Brian Langan at Storyline Lit Agency.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Huckleberry Finn (again) and A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume. I’m enjoying both, but the concentration is a little shot at the minute so the going is slow.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

A book I’ve recommended a lot lately (and don’t have a copy anymore as I received it from a friend and then passed it to another) is Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan. An ice-cold sombrero falls out the sky and whoever picks it up will become mayor…It’s got one whole chapter about an avocado sandwich and another called ‘Meanwhile, back in the wastepaper basket’ and an introduction by Jarvis Cocker. Lots to like!

A book that you started but never finished.

Hmm... probably a few I could choose from here but two spring to mind; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.Noy for me.

A book yet-to-be-released which you are looking forward to reading.

I’m quite looking forward to getting my hand on Susannah Dickey’s Tennis Lessons. I’ve read her last few poetry pamphlets and they’ve really whetted my appetite to see what she’ll do in the longer form.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.

Again, probably a few to choose from here too, but Pereira Maintains by Antoni Tabbuchi stands out as a great book I don’t seem to hear much about.