Posts Tagged ‘ W.B Yeats ’

Be Who You Want To Be, Not What Society Expects You To Be

lgbt

On the 2nd of November 2013, in the Lone Star State of Texas, as he has done for many years, the incredibly talented Oscar Award Winning Screen-Writer and LGBT activist Dustin Lance Black encouraged people to “tell your stories and you can change minds”. I am a heterosexual, 22 year old student from Dublin and I am ready to speak out. I am ready to express my disgust at some of my fellow citizens.

My story begins nearly 54 years to the day before I was born. On the 1st of July 1937 the people of the Irish free state decided with an
overwhelming majority to accept the provisions of a new constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann, that would set Ireland free and open up a new window of opportunity by giving Irish people the chance to succeed.

However, we are still awaiting the full enactment of the constitution. The constitution states that “all citizens, shall as human persons, be held equal before the law”. That simply is not worth the paper it’s written on. People will give me the spiel about Ireland being a democracy but I would not be writing this today if that was the case. A democracy is not just a country in which people can vote but in which people can live and not just exist. Of the group I will talk about today, the LGBT community, people, my fellow countrymen and women, find this community or group of people, hard to comprehend, hard to accept. How can people who engage in that sort of activity actually exist at all? People make choices in life and in a so called democracy they have the right to live their lives as they and only they wish to do so. Continue reading

A Poetic Month In Dublin: ‘One City One Book’

dublin

Yes, it’s that time of the year again in Dublin’s fair city when we are all encouraged to read one book with a Dublin theme. ‘One City One Book’ is one of my favourite cultural events of the year so I cannot let it go by without a mention. This year for the first time since its inception in 2006, the organisers have plumped for a poetry anthology rather than choosing a novel. The collection is entitled If Ever You Go: a Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (Dedalus Press) which was created by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth especially for this event. Moreover, this poetry collection is heavy on contemporary writers so that the Dublin on the page will be one that many of us will nod in recognition at seeing in print. Continue reading

Literary Parks In Dublin: Writers And Walks Galore

dublin

A leaflet that I picked up somewhere inspired the topic of this ‘out and about’ in Dublin post. I think I might have mentioned before that I tend to be a bit of a magpie where leaflets and brochures are concerned. Being on an email list is just not the same; the random quality of picking up stray information leaflets appeals to me more.

To return to the leaflet in question: produced by Dublin City Council and Dublin UNESCO, it highlights city parks with a literary connection. Now assuming that the wind and rain ever stop, this would be a great idea for strolling around on a weekend. A couple of the parks have obvious literary glitz (I will come back to those) but I did not realise that Sandymount Green had a W.B. Yeats connection. I used to go to Sandymount quite often a few years ago but obviously failed to spot the memorial bust erected in the park. Yeats was born at 5 Sandymount Avenue hence the sculpture in the green. Perhaps there is a house plaque too; I must check that out as well next time. Sandymount Village is a lively and attractive location to visit and is handy for a beach walk too so this could be a more strenuous literary pilgrimage than most. Continue reading

Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit Of Lance Armstrong By David Walsh

laOn October 22nd 2012 Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and he received a lifetime ban from cycling.  The International Cycling Union (UCI) accepted the findings of the 1,000 page United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report and issued sanctions banning Armstrong from the sport and stripping him of his seven tour titles.  One man knew Armstrong was a fraud from the start and here is his account titled Seven Deadly Sins.

For David Walsh, chief sports writer for the Sunday Times, the curtain came down on this saga on the day his son John would have turned thirty – October 22nd.  However, John died seventeen years before in a tragic bicycle accident.  He was aged only 12.  In his short life John inspired his father with his inquisitive nature.  John asked questions about things that others took for granted.  Walsh spent 13 years in pursuit of the truth about Lance Armstrong and he frames this quest as one that honours his son’s memory.  The crusade went on longer than John’s short life but Walsh’s determination never wavered.  From 1999 to now, he painstakingly sought evidence to build a case that started out as a gut instinct. With this book, Walsh has written his definitive take on the story that has dominated his life since Lance Armstrong crossed the finish line to win the 1999 Tour De France.  On that day, the Sunday Times correspondent kept his hands by his side refusing to applaud this fairytale comeback.  By then he was no longer a ‘fan with a typewriter’ he had seen cycling’s drug-fuelled dark side and he knew that Lance was its greatest incarnation.  So Walsh devoted himself to the task of debunking this sporting messiah.  By doing so he “put himself in Armstrong’s bad books, the library from which there is no escape.”

Walsh got this book to press with a similar speed to the Peleton descending from the peaks of the Alps during the Tour.  He has obviously had the bulk of it written for a number of years, at least in his head.  He gets across the story with an ease that speaks of a life immersed in the topic.  Walsh juggles a large array of characters throughout the book and is determined to acknowledge the major role they played in unveiling the deceit.  Over the years he has picked up various insiders who have put their professional lives in jeopardy to go on the record and tell their stories.  He manages to jump deftly between these characters without losing his reader, “Here’s Betsy Andreu.  She was on the inside.  Now she’s on my side.” Walsh witnessed the determination of those who had been close to Armstrong and their willingness to go on record with their accounts and risk their livelihoods, which were more entwined in cycling than Walsh’s, and this convinced him that he was doing right.  In order to repay them for the risks that they took and the slander that they endured he names and gives them a voice in this gracious account.

In the book we see Walsh acknowledge his beginnings as a naïve observer before morphing into the sceptic who is unwilling to ignore sports biggest pharmacist in the room – it’s a journey for the sportswriter who is determined to be more journalist than fan.   Initially his innocence is seen when he is unable to question his hero Sean Kelly after hearing pills rattle in his pocket moments before a race. In hindsight it was seminal; his first glimpse at the reality of professional cycling and the shedding of his blind fan-dom.  But he still wrote an unquestioning biography of his then hero and he failed to raise questions that that moment should have posed.  Walsh looks back on that with dismay seeing a fan unable to see the obvious.  Through watching his friend Paul Kimmage’s brief and unfilled stint as a pro cyclist he was awoken to the effect that drugs would have on riders who choose to ride clean.  Kimmage never stood a chance in a cheaters’ race.  The cycling careers ruined by a dirty peloton acted as a spur.  He began asking questions.  Guys like Kimmage and Christophe Bassons whose dreams never soared because of the prevalence of drugs in their sport buoyed Walsh for the long-haul fight.

During the book Walsh gives insights into his profession.  One is an anecdote of how he convinced his then editor Vincent Browne from the Sunday Tribune that Kimmage was a perfect fit for journalism.  Kimmage had been dictating his thoughts to Walsh who would compile a column from them but soon it became clear that Kimmage thought in fully formed pieces and once Walsh managed to impart this to Browne he then offered Kimmage a job the next time he touched down in Dublin.  Browne was responsible for giving many young sports writers a start as editor at the Tribune.

Walsh uses W.B. Yeats as a device to tell his story.  It mostly works but at times he succumbs to terribly simple clichés and that is something that should be eradicated from sports writing when the transition is made from column to book form.  It can be somewhat forgiven with deadlines looming but a definitive account of cycling’s biggest scandal should have been freed from this by an editor.   Twice Walsh mentions that “things had changed, changed utterly.”  I’d like to say that the ‘terrible beauty’ that Yeats ushered in with that line in the poem ‘Easter 1916’ was the birth of the most used sports writing cliché.  Perhaps the race to press hampered this as it’s the only complaint one can have about the Walsh’s writing.  He uses Yeats more aptly in rounding up the book as he sees his debt as naming and giving a voice to those that he has worked with over the thirteen years to uncover the scandal.  The closing pages allows them to give their final words on a huge chapter for each of them.  Armstrong has silenced them for years with his legal machine and bullying tactics but now they can tell their stories more freely as before these revelations Walsh was the only one listening.

Walsh’s account is not about Lance Armstrong, although he is the frame, instead it is about those that pursued him.  It is a look at sports journalism itself and the role that Walsh and his colleagues play in cycling’s drug scandal and drugs in sport in general.  It is about power and the questioning of it from a man who has done so for his whole career.  On October 22nd Lance Armstrong became “history, another ageing story of cheating and lying and doping and bullying and sport that wasn’t sport.”  For Walsh, this book is more personal than that – it’s for John.

The Irish Film Industry Needs an Injection of Fresh Enthusiasm

There can be little doubt about it that when compared to our British neighbours, our film industry is pretty far down the pecking order. Ireland as a nation has traditionally been renowned for the arts over the decades, particularly with the likes of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats and Bram Stoker hailing from these shores. But when it comes to the film industry, we are inconsistent and somewhat incompetent.

Roddy Doyle’s “The Commitments”, released in 1990, certainly put us on the map as the film was a hit over in the States. And for a while, it was looking good for us. “The Commitments” shattered any foreign delusion that Ireland was a place full of beautiful valleys, white horses, cottages and fighting leprechauns. Abandoning us in the dark-heart of recession-crippled 80’s Dublin, and riddling us with a dose of Doyle’s realism and dark comedy, the film was an instant success and gained world-wide attention for show-casting some of the most poverty-striken areas of Dublin at the time in all their bitter glory. Doyle penned two sequels to complete what would become known as “The Barrytown Trilogy”, and they were adapted into lesser sequels which proved to be successful at home, but abroad, they are virtually unheard of. And this is partially 20th Century Fox’s fault, as they owned the rights to “The Commitments”, which also meant that the family name Rabbitte was subject to copy-right. Subsequently, in the low-budget sequels, the family had only two children in “The Van” but were back to it’s full-house in “The Snapper”. Oh, and to make it all the more confusing, only one character maintained their role through all three films, and that was Colm Meaney as Jimmy Snr in “The Commitments” and “The Snapper”, but as Dessie Curley in “The Van”. Naturally, this generated a certain feeling of alienation with the films in regards to connection. However, the lesser-known sequels are equally as good as their triumphant older brother “The Commitments” who had cast an immense and oppressive shadow over them.

With the right funding, and the right minds, I sincerely hope that this country continues to produce the talent and films that we all know it’s capable of. We are a distinctive people on the frontier of Europe; the first-stop for the US on the way to this continent. So instead of losing our talented actors and directors to Britain and the US, the Irish film industry will hopefully receive a hefty dose of fresh enthusiasm with new young minds of this generation. With this in mind, I’d like to draw attention to a low-budget and unheard of film made back in 1998 called “Crush Proof”.

Now, it’s a pretty bad film, however, what I want to highlight here is what the film makers were trying to do, and how they almost managed to pull it off. In this brutal urban drama, 18 year-old Neal gets released from Mount Joy prison after spending a year behind bars. He heads to his girlfriend’s flat to see the baby boy he hasn’t held yet, and when she doesn’t let him in, he attempts to break the door down and she calls the Guards. Neal’s not even out half an hour and already it looks like he could be going back in, and when he robs a mobile phone, he only makes things worse. He rejoins his gang of horse-loving misfits and thugs and after killing the drug dealer who ratted him out and got him locked up, the gang goes into hiding in the Wicklow mountains where they’ll confront the situation, and themselves, head-on. It’s a very grim and realistic depiction of modern-day Ireland. However, the dialogue is surprisingly bland and the script has plot-holes the size of the Grand Canyon. The editing gives off the impression that no care was taken in the editing room and the scenes were all just mashed together in parts. But at the heart of it all, we have some very rough, and realistic performances. Darren Healy – where did he ever go? – is superb as Neal. It’s such an anger-driven performance. He’s the epitome of adolescent angst, social isolation, and essentially a sad testimony as to when people generally get stuck in a rut, so to speak, many just continue to spiral downwards towards self-destruction. The title is derived from a speech made by Neal in the pub when he describes the North-Side Dubliners as the original breed and ‘Crush Proof’.

We are a nation socially built on verbal abuse and banter, and this generally rings through in many of the dark comedies that have hailed from here in the past ten years. “Intermission” and “The Guard” are two fine examples of brilliant modern Irish film making. “Intermission” exhibited some of the finest Irish acting talent available in 2003, with Cillian Murphy, Colm Meaney and Colin Farrell in lead roles. It was a charismatic and pulsating directorial debut from John Crowley, who was genius in his employment of Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” tactics as we have a motley crew of characters in the film portraying their lives and the events which shape them, and subsequently interlinks them with the other characters. We have a corrupt cop, a violent scumbag, two losers who work in a supermarket, a pessimistic young lady with a moustache, a bank manager who has left his wife for a younger woman, and his aforementioned wife in search of a bit of excitement following him abandoning her. “Intermission” is a sharp, honest and inglorious look at Irish culture, and the characters that exist in every society. It’s a fast-paced film; very brutal and absolutely hilarious.

“Intermission” was probably the best dark comedy Ireland had to offer until “The Guard” in 2011. Brendan Gleeson – who was a teacher before picking up acting in his thirties – plays a corrupt, acid-licking, pessimistic, whore-loving, overweight and crude Guard living in the immense wilderness of Connemara, Co. Galway. Don Cheadle stars as the FBI agent sent to Ireland to instruct the authorities on a suspected international drug-ring operating from within Connemara. Unfortunately for him, he is paired up with Gleeson in a poor man’s “Lethal Weapon”. We’ve had our share of horror films as well – and pretty bizarre and unique ones at that. “Isolation” (2005) set on a rural Wexford farm, was as gruesome as it was welcoming. And 2008’s “Shrooms” set in the Wicklow Mountains was pretty good too.

Despite these examples – there are many more, of course, but hopefully I’ve named some of the best – there does indeed appear to be a certain lack of consistency and drive within the Irish film industry at the moment. Films that are made on these shores tend to have little, if any, major publicity. Irish film makers need to be concentrating on low-budget productions, in my opinion. And I say this in regard to the indie boom in the US during the 1990’s. A pandemic that continues to this day, in which many cult favourites today are destined to be classic-status in a few decades time. Irish film-makers need to be aiming for this.

Maeve Binchy dies at the age of 72

16 Novels, more than 30 years of writing and endless fans is the legacy that Maeve Binchy leaves behind. The wonderful and much loved Irish author died on Monday after struggling with illness throughout most of her adult life. But even at 72 she had a  much younger spirit and loved life, saying that after a brush with death in 2002 she lived every day as if it were her last.

Her best known works are possibly Tara Road and Circle of Friends as Hollywood turned them into films, but all of her stories, no matter if in short form or packed up into the parcel of a novel, are about real life, no hyped up glam or only beautiful people fill her pages, but the struggle of everyday life, joy, love and friendship overflow from her work into the readers minds and heart.

She didn’t start out as a writer but graduated UCD (University College Dublin) and became a teacher. But Maeve wanted to see the world and in her long summer holidays she would travel, her shipping guide always at hand telling her which ship was going where. Wanting a change she gave up her secure teachers job and pension to become a free-lance writer and soon was called to be a woman’s editor at the Irish Times. With a steady flow of work coming in from London Maeve moved there in the mid seventies to the Irish Times office in Fleet Street and started working on her first novel Light a Penny Candle. Setting herself strict deadlines and word-counts she would get up at 5am every morning to write before work and her discipline and structure paid off when in 1982 her first book was published.

At the age of 37 she married children book author Gorden Snell and with the invention of fax and emails they both moved from London to Dalkey, where Maeve had grown up, and would sit side by side in their upstairs office and write for several hours every day. Very disciplined her motto was “if you want to write just do it” and shelves filled with her work all around the world prove her right.

Inspired by Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, Maeve Binchy created a whole new form of literature. One filled with women who learn to be strong and independent, who begin to trust in themselves, be who they want to be and love life, friends, family, home and most importantly themselves.

Outselling other great Irish writers like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, Samuel Beckett, W.B Yeats, Maeve was quietly proud always encouraging others to write as well. She paved a beautiful path for other female writers to follow and was always generous in sharing her experience with her colleagues.

Maeve Binchy will be missed, not only by the Irish nation but by her fans across the world, but she has one final gift to her readers, her last book has just been finished and will be published later this year.

She will be cremated in a private ceremony following removal on Friday morning to the Church of the Assumption, Dalkey.

“I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy with one of her two beloved cats in her home in Dalkey