The Irish comic puts the boot into his nation's literary legends.
Following his ‘staggeringly’ good Fringe stand-up show about alcoholism, Owen O'Neill is out to debunk some of Irish literature’s myths.
The comedian who won the LWT Comedy Writing award for his Fringe show last month, is taking a specially commissioned one-man, one night only performance to Glasgow's CCA.
As part of the centre's season of new Irish literature and performance poetry Dub Lines, O’Neill will perform The Men Who Cried For Ireland. The monologue will shoot down a few of the dominating Irish literary stars.
'Because some Irish writers have always been so revered, I thought it might be a laugh to sort of take the piss out of them,’ he explains.
So who is set to come under the O'Neill invective? ’I'm going to talk about Yeats because apparently he never set foot in the Lake Of Innesfree and he was stung by a bee on the way,‘ says O'Neill. ’And I don't think anyone should ever have read any of his poems, ever. They’re dreadful. And the recording of him reading it is a dirge.’
OK, so that’s Yeats trashed, but surely a figure such as the iconic James Joyce will escape his wrath. Well, no.
‘I reckon Joyce did a lot of editing on Finnegan’s Wake which may explain a lot,’ says O’Neill. ’It's a nonsensical bloody novel and nobody knows what it means. If they've ever finished it.’
O'Neill's views on Beckett, O'Casey and Behan are similarly non-establishment, anti-canonic and pretty funny.
Such slating of the gods may appear churlish and cruel, but O'Neill stresses these figures’ legends have stunted the growth of later writers.
‘It’s about time they started talking about other
people,’ suggests O'Neill. ‘I know Roddy Doyle has been feted in recent times, but there are others such as Patrick McGrath and Patrick McCabe.’
Besides performing The Men Who Cried For Ireland, O'Neill will read his own poetry at a CCA double bill with Rita Ann Higgins the following night but, the stage is not O’Neill's sole stamping ground — he recently appeared on the big screen in Shadow Of A Gunman and Michael Collins. Now he is working on his own screenplay.
'It is about Ronald Reagan's visit to a small village in Ireland,’ says O'Neill. 'l’ll hopefully get a small part myself but it's up to the production company for the main roles. Kevin Costner will probably play a Dublin policeman, though if I have anything to do with it, that won’t happen.’ (Brian Donaldson )
I The i‘vlen Who Cried For Ire/and, CCA, Glasgow, Fri 72 Sep Owen O'Neill and Rita Ann Higgins, CCA, Sat 73 Sep See Book eve/its
The Magician's Wife (Bloomsbury £15.99).
Belfast-born writer Brian Moore has been a Canadian citizen .‘or over 50 years and published seventeen novels, five of which have been made into films and three nominated for the Booker Prize Despite all this, his low- piofiie status shows no of waning.
His latest n’ivel The .‘.'i.ir;rciaii’s V‘Vlft” tackles the loss of Christian faith a recurring theme in his work taking the faith of Islam, as practised in the French~occupzed Algeria of the 18505, as his dramatic counterpoint The story follows Henri Lambert, a French inventor and illusionrst, who has travelled to Algiers \\'Illt his vale to trick the local marabouts thon rneiz)
with magic, and postpone Ni Jihad
against the French tolonial government
lsloore stumbled on the facts of the event by acc ident in the correspondence of Haubert and George Sand 'They mentioned this famous magician named Robert Houdin who inspired Houdini and I looked it tip and found out he was this
famous magician,‘ says Moore 'He'd
gone to Algeria to impress the marabouts and I suddenly thought "this is one of my subjects",
’I’ve never been religious, though I was brought up in a very strict Catholic background, but I've always been fascinated by people who do believe, and those who believe in saints and miracles.’
The story, seen through the eyes of
Lambert's pretty but distanced young i Wife, puts the colonialists under the . microscope. No sides are taken as
Emineline is free of IJTOIUUICO. Ironically, she senses true spiritual power in the approachable chief marabout
‘We tend to think of them all as like Ayatollah Khoinenei, as madmen,’ says Moore. 'But the whole spirit of Islam is not all warlike -— the marabouts were peac‘emakers.‘
Moore's last novel The Statement -- a thriller about the Vichy government was refused publication in France. 'I don't have very high hopes for this one,’ he laughs. ’They don’t like foreigners making complarnts.’ (Deirdre Molloy)
The write stuff
Celebrated poet, translator and writer, Alastair Reid's career began with a ten-line poem sent to The New Yorker.
NAME: Alastair Reid AGE: 71
PREVIOUS JOBS: | only had one job in my life. For four years I taught Latin in the United States, left paid employment in 1955 and then took to writing.
ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: I came out of the navy after the war and this country was very bleak then, so I went to the States and read The New Yorker magazine for the first time and I sent them a ten- line poem. They wrote back thanking me for it with a cheque enclosed and asking me if I had any more. I thought 'this is a great country', and they continued publishing them and I eventually joined the staff. I also translate poetry from Spanish and Portuguese into English. I speak, write and live in two languages and that gives you an extra person to attend to.
DAILY ROUTINE: I get up very early and usually have some translation on the simmer - that's like jogging for me, it's a warm up and then I write whatever it is I'm working on at the time. My writing days are over by 1pm and then life begins.
INFLUENCES: W.S. Graham, 3 little read poet now, moves me the most — I revere his work. The other influences have been mostly Latin American writers.
AMBITIONS: One thing I'm very glad about is that I have, and never have had, next to no ambition. I have found a job which allows me to stay at home and wear old clothes.
FEARS: Having to write anything is fearful. But our life at present is horrendous enough to worry. Should we never get into a Mercedes again? Do we never go to Paris again? I don’t think you can allow too much room for fears.
INCOME: I have an income over the years which would look like a fever chart. You live in troughs hoping for the heights to arrive. I think over the years the chart is evenly balanced. (Brian Donaldson)
I Oases: Prose And Poetry by Alastair Reid is published by Canongate at f 4. 95.
i2 sep——2s Sep i997 THE usrsi