The light hand of history

Éilís Ní  Dhuibhne is a shamefully under-rated writer. A true polymath, she writes in English and Irish, and across the genres – young adult, crime, and literary fiction in both the short story and the novel forms. Her second Selected Stories volume, just published by Dalkey Archive Press, demonstrates the range and breadth of her […]

Igniting sparks

  Where do stories come from?  Most of the time, superstitiously, we don’t ask. And usually, it’s hard to say, because the process is so chaotic when it’s happening, and in retrospect seems too random to catalogue. But in the case of  my story, “Lockjaw”, which appears in the latest issue of The Lonely Crowd […]

An empire going up in smoke

A father and daughter joshing for the camera, the father giving the daughter a “go” of his pipe. Not the sort of thing we would celebrate in the politically correct 21st century.  But this is a 20th century image, probably taken around 1913 and the father in the photograph is Tsar Nicholas 11, known as […]

Beating the raw chicken blues

  When people ask me what I was doing when Elvis Presley died  – 40 years ago on August 16 , I can remember precisely.  I was cooking – or failing to cook  – my first chicken.  I had just moved into a tiny bedsit in Tralee, where I was working as a cub reporter, […]

The eyes have it

Is having bad eyesight a pre-requisite for being a celebrated Irish writer?  Certainly James Joyce had his troubles often having to resort to wearing a patch to spare his eyes.  Throughout his life, he suffered from a catalogue of eye-related conditions –  iritis, conjunctivitis, glaucoma and cataracts. Some suggest his eye troubles were a by-product […]

The ghost of the good priest

Must all clergy automatically be distrusted because of the Catholic church’s abominable record of sexual and physical abuse?  What about the good priest? Don’t honorable nuns exist? That’s the question Conor O’Callaghan implicitly asks in his recently paperbacked novel, Nothing on Earth.  (It’s a very pertinent question given the heated controversy of recent days about the new national […]