DAVID MEANS AT AUGHAWILLAN HALL, JOHN KENNY IN THE BACKGROUND
I'm attempting to gather my thoughts and write a post about the McGahern Week-end which I went to in Leitrim at the week-end. But the baby is not co-operating with me trying to type. I should turn on the Hoover and park it by my desk. So seldom is it used in this house that she is afraid of it, so it would keep her away.
Today I paid the deposit on her creche place. From September on I will have three whole mornings a week to write. I think I am going to explode with the excitement of it!! Who needs success, money or all the rest of it when one just has time to write?! (Though the rest of it would be fun!!)
DERMOT HEALY IN HENRY'S PUB, COOTEHALL
But John McGahern. I'm a huge fan and have been since I was in my teens. The organisers commissioned an essay from me about Amongst Women which appeared in the Leitrim Observer (I didn't see it) and on Friday night I discussed the novel with Dermot Healy and about a hundred other people in the gorgeously old-fashioned Henry's pub in Cootehall village. There were cameras trained on us which was un-nerving, but the discussion was lively and relevant and we all enjoyed teasing out the whys and what-fors of Moran and his family of 'dismayed pullets'. We talked about food, ritual and the wonderful Rose in the novel, and about Moran's controlling personality. Cootehall is where the barracks is of The Barracks fame.
THE BARRACKS, COOTEHALL
The next day we drove out to Aughawillan where John lived happily with his mother (the house is now gone) but we did see the schoolhouse where his mother taught and John went for a while. Professor Pat Dolan from NUI Galway gave a presentation on McGahern and the childhood development of resilience. It was personal, moving, informative. He read out the passage from Memoir in which John's mother tried to get him to promise not to cry if she was 'taken away'. I had to fight back the tears - so sad and upsetting. Pat concluded that John contributed hugely to our understanding of childhood in this country and he highlighted abuse when it needed to be talked about (i.e. when church and state were colluding like mad men. As they still do...)
Back then to Ballinamore for lunch -another quiet, but surprisingly large, Leitrim town.
That evening we went to Lough Rynn Castle near Mohill for the closing reception. Talk about posh - it's where Brian and Amy got married a few weeks ago. It's utterly fabulous.There we spoke to Danny Denton, a young writer late of Galway, recently moved to Dublin where he is completing a novel.
The mini-series of Amongst Women was screened but with baby in tow, we didn't go. The writer of the screenplay, Adrian Hodges, was there and we had a great chinwag about writing and particularly all the lovely BBC dramas we've enjoyed: Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre etc.
DANNY DENTON AT LOUGH RYNN CASTLE
And to I got to talk to David Means and his lovely wife Geneve. David and I are on the same wavelength about a lot of writerly concerns and I thoroughly enjoyed our chat about the Frank O'Connor Festival, Cúirt, short stories, his work at Vassar College etc. A lovely couple. We met them again later on in The Bush Hotel with John Kenny of NUI Galway's English Dept. and others. It was a late night of chat about books and film and all in all, a very enjoyable end to a great week-end.