Caimh O’Donnell: too funny and too Irish

Is that like self-publishing? An exec told us some golden rules, including “never set a sitcom in an office, offices are boring”. Imagine a GAA tournament clashed with a young farmer’s convention and the AGM of the Association of People Called Sean. Usually it takes someone longer to figure that out but I’d unknowingly broken a golden rule. I was getting the sling-yer-hook point a long time before I made it to the door. The publishers in this metaphor are the lovely ladies and the authors are the likely lads. Our little book has briefly hit the top of a couple of charts and I’m now being approached by agents keen for a dance. OK, sure – the 800 years of oppression and the thing with the spuds sucked, but being Irish in the modern world? The ladies hired some bouncers to do their rejecting for them – literary agents. Combining comedy with crime in a novel is like turning up in jeans and trainers. We get a yearly parade just for existing. I don’t mean that the ladies stand bored on one side of the hall while the lads are on the other skulling pints. An exec stood up and said “never ever set a sitcom in an office, because it’ll get compared to The Office and that’s the greatest sitcom ever”. In other words, nobody actually read my book before rejecting it. That’s like being too delicious. I work with an award-winning cover designer from Sarajevo, a formatter from Sydney, one of the most prestigious editors in Britain as well as professional copy-editors and proof-readers. Publishing used be a lot like a bad country disco. A Man with one of those Faces by Caimh O’Donnell is published byMcFori Ink As a lonely author looking for love, you’ve now got to convince one of them to dance with you long before any of the girls will consider it. Even when I tried to hide the comedy, agents could smell it off me. People who haven’t even met you, like you. To be fair, my CV fairly reeks of the stuff. The ladies are so out-numbered, it’s like the film 300 remade as a romcom. Too funny? Being Irish rocks! No, this is another kind of bad. I was at another BBC talk last year. It’s nothing but gravy baby! ADVERTISEMENT The breaking point was when I got a call …

Aladdin review: a panto that puts parents through the wringer

We don’t know if it’s part of Sean Gilligan’s tight direction when there’s a line-fluff and Sammy asks for a script – musical director Ross O’Connor (“a thick from Tallaght”) barely interrupts his hard work to produce one on cue, with a broad grin– but it cracks us up. Tivoli Theatre, Dublin **** Amid a blaze of jewel-coloured costumes, a burst of dancing whirls and a blast of Jai Ho, Aladdin appears – “I’m just Aladdin, like Madonna, Britney or Moses,” Donal Brennan clarifies – and is soon joined by his principal people: unattainable, sweet-voiced Princess Jasmine (Nadia Forde); loyal, acerbic Sammy Sausages (Alan Hughes); and Buffy Twanky (Rob Murphy), queen of dames, with a big welcome for the boys and girls, the mammies and “especially the daddieeez”, and a big promotion for her laundry, Buffy’s Posh Wonder Wash. He grows into his badness as the story progresses, even threatening to build a wall for which the peasants will have to pay. And, Daddy Vinny, we’re sure you were wearing clean trousers. Karl Broderick’s story is threaded with topical titbits, such as when evil Abbanazar (Carl Stallwood) wanders on to the stage having a row with Siri and the sat nav, which bring him to his destiny (rather than his destination). And we marvel at the cast (including some very talented children and the show’s tireless choreographer, Paul Ryder) singing so well while dancing so impeccably, from full-on disco through tap and rap all the way to the perfectly timed mayhem of the lamp-retrieval. “Oh, I’d say you’d like Bold, all right,” she bellows, at which point she has the packed, intimate Tivoli in the palm of her rubber glove. “What’s your favourite powder?” she asks an unfortunate daddy, Vinny, before shaming his filthy trousers. When the daddies are invited on stage, Buffy (in what could be her 10th costume of the night) laments that they don’t have to be dragged up to dance. Brian Dowling sparkles as the Genie, and the chemistry between the lead characters incites hilarious, whip-snappy exchanges about people getting their own catchphrase (“I swurrr on my fur”) and whether you’re allowed to talk through your nose on the telly. ADVERTISEMENT Until January 22nd

Big the Musical review: the harsh side of growing up

The rest of the story is dedicated to stripping away all the illusions of adulthood as being anything worth aspiring to. Unfortunately McGuinness, who amply showcases his acting and dancing talent, doesn’t have a solo number of note. Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin *** What is the appeal of Big for a family audience? In the original film, which starred a young Tom Hanks, the story’s success seemed to hinge on one memorable scene, where the protagonist – a 12-year-old trapped in the body of a man – plays a duet with the owner of the toy emporium FAO Schwarz on an enormous touch-toe piano. As the love-interest Susan, Vickers embraces the challenge of turning cynicism into something special in her solo numbers Here We Go Again and Dancing All the Time, while her duet with Jay McGuinness’s Josh, Stars Stars Stars, is probably the most memorable song in a lacklustre score made even limper by literal lyrics. This stage adaptation of the film, with a book by John Wiedman, is facilitated by designer Simon Higglet, who pitches a revolving set against a HD 3D digital backdrop that evokes the celluloid original and gives spectacular momentum to scene changes. Adults may find a lesson in Josh’s ill-fated journey, but the kids would be better served by staying at home and playing with their toys. ADVERTISEMENT Ends January 7th Big is a cautionary tale for adults watching, perhaps, but a harsh way to initiate children into depressing reality. It says a lot about the limited potential of this story that the company of actors and dancers have most fun in the enormous encore. The songs by David Shire and Richard Maltby offer a hodge-podge of 1980s hedonism that is mirrored in Young’s choreography: soft rock riffs give way to beat-box street styles, while the occasional ballad gives female performers such as Diana Vickers the opportunity to showcase their tremolos. The fundamental message – and the problem for this production from director/choreographer Morgan Young – is that there just isn’t enough fun in the serious business of being a grown up.

Writers need time: here’s how to beg, borrow or steal it

Then you need more time to recover so you can start the process afresh. But writing the next, and the next, and the next? Will I make any work in the time I’ve just bought? Being rejected for any patronage award is awful; it can feel personal and demoralising. In contrast, with university writing residencies, doing your own work is a built-in part of the contract. “It came with an office which was a brilliant workspace. [When] I arrived in Paris, there were signs of commemoration of the liberation of Paris in 1944 everywhere. Great writing doesn’t come out of a vacuum. But I’ve also learnt that the point of any artistic practice is to keep going. As for the money – it was such a relief to be able to look three years into the future and know that I would have an income. Paid €20,000 a year (almost a Normal Person’s salary), his NUIG residency came with four hours’ teaching a week. In 2016, the total figure for English language literature bursaries was €218,350; Irish language writers were awarded a further €44,470. My advances have been modest, and though I do public readings regularly, the fees range from €90-€300, so I’d need to be doing at least eight a month to make a salary. Mia Gallagher is the author of two acclaimed novels: HellFire (Penguin Ireland, 2006), awarded the Irish Tatler Literature Award 2007; and Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland (New Island, 2016), recently long-listed for the inaugural 2016 Republic of Consciousness Prize. I did a joint residency with IADT and dlr Arts Office in 2009-10, and arts officer Kenneth Redmond was invaluable in helping me define my workload. Here I conduct workshops and/or curate events; in return I’m paid a fee. An individual grant will rarely approach salary level – the maximum Arts Council bursary is €15,000. Do I deserve this award? It’s taken me over a decade to realise that doubt is a constant companion for most writers, that no matter how experienced I am, there will be still be times where I’m struggling creatively. Begging, borrowing and stealing time short-change us of these vital activities and drain our bodies of our precious creative energy – yet even writers of great skill and experience are told they need to do this, to an extent that would be ludicrous in any other profession. This allows me …

The view from a pagan place by Kevin Barry

I had decided to live beautifully, without fear or anxiety, and it seemed like the proper place for a ritual re-engagement with the world and its natural things. It was not just a place of entombment: there was a living settlement here also, one of the oldest ever dated in Europe, and you can see the practical sense of the site – you would have been able to see what was coming up the hill at you from just about any direction. Falcons soar often here; hares thump out their runs across paths that must have first been beaten down a millennium ago; that distant drone is the N4 but it is far enough away to be just a rumour of itself. Everywhere in the December of 2015 there is an odd grey shimmering, a kind of low throb of refraction on the air: it is the play of grey light on the vast new pools of sitting water. Kevin Barry’s latest novel is Beatlebone, which won the Goldsmiths Prize 2015. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Listen for their cries in the breeze that moves through the reeds and you might almost convince yourself. Certainly, they have a wonderful aspect – turn a slow swivel on your heel and you can take in views of Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon, and on a clearer day you can see to the mountains of Donegal and Mayo. ADVERTISEMENT I’ve been coming to Carrowkeel, up the long, twisting road by the donkey sanctuary, for the past eight years now. There were beads of stone, bone implements made from Red Deer antlers, and many fragments of much decayed pottery. He opened the tombs in 1911 and was the first visitor in three or four thousand years. Most days it has been too warm to seem like a proper winter but when dusk falls, and what grey light there is starts to fade, a nice evil chill comes up with the evening dampness and there is such a long dark night ahead of us again. The view has never looked quite like this before. There are an incredible amount of swans around, and these are absolutely royal, at once clearly the regents of this watery new realm – a swan sailed across my garden last week and the only proper response was to curtly bow. …

A Funku or two by Kevin McAleer: write one and win!

No panic. (Editor’s note: I have checked with the author and the “n” is pronounced.)The classical form must be strictly adhered to: no titles, a total of 17 syllables in three lines of 5-7-5 formation. It is Christmas competition time again in The Irish Times Books Towers and our non-resident wit Kevin McAleer has come up with another ingenious wheeze. Off to see Peru. Entries should be emailed to bookclub@irishtimes.com by December 31st. A Machu Picchu haiku Waiting to happen. Normal Irish Times competition rules apply. (The television reception is notoriously poor in rural Tyrone and don’t even mention broadband.) The idea is the classical Haiku form seasoned with an ounce of wit, henceforth known as the Funku. Improve on Kevin McAleer’s WB Yeats meme: win two silk kimonos and gazelle* Kevin McAleer: Here’s my ID Happy Brexmas from Kevin McAleer Any extra syllables will be removed and used as Christmas decorations. The winner, as chosen by Kevin McAleer, will receive a signed copy of Little John Nee’s book of haikus, The Apocalypse Came on a Friday. Turbulence shakes the Jumbo. The winning Funku will be published right here as well as a few deserving runners-up. No room in the elephant. Little John Nee does the haiku Dilettante poets Belittling traditional Syllabics. What’s wrong with these people? Ali Bowie Prince Castro Wogan Cohen. Wear loose clothing. Woh, here comes the knight. Her final request: ‘Don’t make a poem of this.’ Another failure. Hi Cuchulainn, man of few words, you left us one Long bloody haiku. Ah those bedroom eyes. McAleer will be signing copies of his bestselling How to Turn your Negative Voices into Imaginary Friends, which has been translated into more than 37,000 languages worldwide. Poor old Van the Man He has taken to the chess. Full details at kevinmcaleer.com ADVERTISEMENT Universally acknowledged as Tyrone’s leading Zen Buddhist saint, he trained for 33 years under the legendary Deepjoy Chakra in Peru, before founding the Institute of Light™ in Strabane in 1972. But on closer inspection Two small single beds. Little John Nee’s book is published by Killaloonty Press, and available to buy from kennys.ie Kevin McAleer’s Saying Yes to Yes tour of the universe begins on January 6th with a sold-out gig at the Black Box, Belfast. J’accuse. No timewasters please. Players for Last-minute substitutions. Wanted. Join spiritual guru Kevin McAleer for a life-changing hour of living fully in …

Remember Ireland at Christmas? Not like this you don’t

For more info on these, or any other items in our collection, please visit us via your preferred chartered helicopter service, or else find us online at twitter.com/rememberireland and facebook.com/rememberingireland We have, however, often thought about what it would be like if we were we to entertain such inquiries from such unwelcome thickos. In this vein, and perhaps to deter people from coming here only to be forcibly removed, we thought we’d offer a little glimpse at our most treasured Yuletide objects, a glance at dear old Ireland from those grand, forgotten days of Christmas past. When people arrive at our humble archive, a common refrain at this time of year is “have you anything Christmassy?”. We are not open to the public, so such questions are met with withering scorn and – more than likely – the threat of physical violence. As the country’s premier library of artefacts from our nation’s past, we here at Remembering Ireland HQ know fine well what place Christmas holds in the Irish imagination. Click here to open the gallery

Destiny and the Republic: Six artists on what Ireland is now

Or perhaps, in this case, an Aisling, Hibernia or Róisín Dubh. The winter light heightens the elegiac mood – the shady corridors, the empty dormitory and classroom, the chipped teacups “used by Patrick and Willie Pearse during the last dinner with their mother”, and the countless other reminders of lives long gone. The document speaks of the Irish nation proving itself worthy “of the august destiny to which it is called” through “the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good”. The Spartan nature of the setting, bare brick and functional metal, dispenses with any sense of luxury or ease. Playing on the idea of the potato print, she has carved letters from the Proclamation into cut spuds, making a metaphor of freshness and decay with particular regard to the historical significance of the potato. Each video questions the “unfettered control of Irish destinies” from the point of view of those whose destinies have brushed abrasively against the realities of Ireland, including, for example, emigrants and immigrants, and others who experience structural inequality in society. The children in question, we realize in following the text and images of her scroll-like creation, include young women who travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies (a recurrent subject), as well as people who are homeless and marginalised in one respect or another. Between both shows, the Proclamation’s aim of “cherishing the children of the nation equally” clearly ranks high in the artists’ attention. You might think, as you arrive in Pearse exhibition space, that an invigilator has wandered off and left their transistor radio turned on. Here, nestled in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, relics of the 1916 Rising cradle frame a show in which six artists recall the aspirations of the Proclamation and measure those aspirations against aspects of contemporary Ireland. Suzanne Walsh, meanwhile, produces concrete poetry assembled from the work of Thomas McDonagh, Francis Ledwidge and online comments from forums on housing, environment and wildlife: broadening the question of who or what belongs. For St Enda’s, the exhibitors had stringent conditions: they should address a particular “vision” enshrined in the Proclamation, and what they proposed must be accommodated in a display case borrowed from the museum. It is as if Coogan monumentally develops this idea in the Lab, where her pram filled with oranges has the hues of the tricolour – white wheels, green pram, oranges for sale. …

Frankie’s List, a short story by Louise Hall

Persevered. She has two non-fiction books published with Columba Press and one with Italian publisher Edizioni Piemme. So scared. “Here,” she says as she hands it to me, “I found this on the floor the other night. Or at least make it feel alright. They’ve been working hard all day serving up meals, and they need to get on home now. louisehall.ie Twitter: @LouHallWriter The names at the top of the page. How life turned out for him or where he was living. Unsure, nervous, frightened. So clear that it’s dancing like a motion picture before my eyes. Rashers is talking quietly to Sadie and they’re both looking over at me every so often. How I was nearly gone. “Come in, buddy,” he said in that same whispering tone that exuded an unnatural strength. The years haven’t been kind. But then, aren’t the rest of us too. “Sadie,” I say as I push my hands deep into my pockets and try not to look at the floor. So, I’m looking around the room, filtering through the faces of the familiar, everyone wearing the same pitiful look as they do every evening at this time, seeing if I can spot the hobbit in his brown dress – the one he ties with a rope – before we’re all thrown out for what will be another night of obligatory stargazing. But I could take the withdrawals no more. But he has a terrible habit – or a wonderful knack – of disappearing when you’re looking for him, or appearing when you want to be left alone. I think it’s Thursday because the usual posh nobs, all suited and booted, are flocking into McPhelan’s pub across the way, jubilant that it’s pay day and that they can savour a well-earned pint. ADVERTISEMENT “It’s good to see you, Frankie,” Vince’s da said before putting his arm around his wife, “but Vince passed away two years ago. “I know he’d love a visit from Frankie.” Then he turned to me with red swollen eyes and said, “You were his only friend.” Four. A heart attack, the doctors said.” Brother Hubie asked if we could go and visit his grave. She stood back from the door and invited me in. Not one bit of it. “You’re a grandfather too, four times over. “The nurses tell me that every time a fancy car pulls into the driveway …