Tuesday, 7 October 2008
FRANK O’CONNOR FESTIVAL 2008 #2
MARY O'DONNELL, CORK 2008
I owe it to the other writers I heard at the festival to make some attempt to finish the posting about the FOC 2008, I feel. I’m finding it hard to sit at the computer for long with my sore neck but I’ll try, however briefly, to report on the rest of the fest.
Rachel Trezise is an extraordinary Welsh writer – billed in the programme as a ‘young Welsh iconoclast’, which she is. I heard her read at the FOC in 2005 and bought her collection Fresh Apples then. Her stories are raw, modern and packed with truth, and she didn’t disappoint again with a story called ‘But Not Really’. Rachel is a casual and convincing reader and the story she read is about a woman called Jackie whose father is also her Sugar Daddy. Jackie lives in a Welsh valley where ‘poverty surrounded you like a neck brace’. This is authentic, bang-up-to-the-minute short fiction, beautifully read. Am I the only one who could listen to the Welsh accent 24 hours a day?
The regal Mary O’Donnell read on the same bill with Rachel; the title piece from her new, FOC longlisted collection Storm Over Belfast The story is about an Irish language teacher who drives to Belfast to visit Lettie, his ex-girlfriend. Lettie’s mental health is suffering and she has let herself go, and soon her ex- can’t wait to get away from her. It’s a poignant story and Mary delivered it gorgeously, complete with a Belfast accented Lettie.
Mary Leland read a very moving story about the death of a husband; many audience members were wiping at their eyes. It was a pleasure to hear Mary read, never having done so before. I think we need a Mary Leland revival.
Wena Poon, an FOC longlistee from California via Singapore, gave an animated reading of her story ‘Addiction’, about a gay Singaporean student in England, who is trying to perfect his English accent. The story concerns his parents’ high expectations and his own burgeoning desires. Wena acted much of the story, which seems to have been a bit of a theme over the festival’s readings.
Julie Orringer, the current writer in residence at New York Public Library read a shocker of a story about the cruelty of children called ‘Pilgrims’. We were left collectively gasping. She is a very impressive writer and woman: stylish, calm and honest.
Bernard McLaverty of these shores has published an impressive five collections of short fiction; that must be about the most by any Irish living writer? He mentioned three writers who made him want to write: Frank O’Connor, Michael McLaverty and Hemingway. He read a story about a man visiting a diabetes clinic which people found very funny.
OK, my neck is stating to unhinge so that’s it for now...