Reputations

With the death of John McGahern in March 2006 and of Seamus Heaney last August, Ireland lost its two most loved writers, McGahern in particular having secured a unique niche in the affections of his devoted readers. Loveability is not, of course, a prerequisite for a writer’s success or standing, and up to recent decades […]

Among many evenings spent in the company of Seamus Heaney, whether occasions of convivial chat over a pint or at events of more earnest literary import, one in particular stands out. It was in the late 1990s, the venue was an elegant upstairs room in Westland Row that belonged to the Royal Irish Academy of […]

Irish Independent, February 23, 2013 In one of his hundreds of sports columns from the 1970s, Con Houlihan paid tribute to the great Welsh scrumhalf, Gareth Edwards, who at that time was at the pinnacle both of his game and of his fame. A fitting subject, then, for a writer who had a lifelong and particular passion for […]

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James Plunkett

by John Boland

Sunday Miscellany, April 2013 Married to my mother’s sister, he was Jimmie Kelly to all who knew him and Uncle Jimmie to us, but to the world outside he was James Plunkett – Plunkett being his middle name – the noted broadcaster and writer who achieved global fame as the author of Strumpet City. However, it’s Uncle […]

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Brian O’ Driscoll

by John Boland

Sunday Miscellany, May 2012 “Oh, my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!” That was Francis Thompson’s recurring refrain in his 1870s poem, At Lord’s, as he recalled the cricketing heroes of his youth. If I were to rewrite this affecting poem today, the subject would be rugby, a sport I love more than cricket, and the refrain […]

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Lecture given to Kate O’Brien Winter School, February 2010 What I want to do in this talk is to celebrate the Irish short story and, in the process, to try to define what makes it so distinctive – and, indeed, to try and tease out what has drawn so many Irish writers to it. But […]

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Pat Kenny

by John Boland

Irish Independent, 2010 When you switch on BBC2’s Newsnight and find that it’s being anchored, not by Jeremy Paxman, but by Kirsty Walk, Gavin Essler or Emily Maitlis, there’s a palpable sense of disappointment – alert and professional as these presenters are, they’re not Paxman and don’t create the same frisson of anticipation in the majority of viewers. […]

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John F Kennedy

by John Boland

Irish Independent, 2011 Such is the power of myth that John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in the summer of 1963 affected people who weren’t even born at the time. Ryan Tubridy’s fascination with the man is proof of that. It meant little to me, though. A teenager who had just done his Leaving Cert, I had […]

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Irish Independent, March 12, 2011 In Colm Toibin’s short story, The News from Dublin, a Wexford teacher in the 1950s is seated in the Dail’s public gallery awaiting an audience with the health minister, from whom he seeks a favour. While waiting, he observes the TDs in the chamber below him: “The Fine Gael people […]

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Lecture given to Kate O’Brien Winter School, February 2010 What I want to do in this talk is to celebrate the Irish short story and, in the process, to try to define what makes it so distinctive – and, indeed, to try and tease out what has drawn so many Irish writers to it. But […]

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Nineteen hundred and nineteen marked the end of an eventful and turbulent decade for William Butler Yeats, both personally and artistically, and the volume of poems he published that year, The Wild Swans at Coole, was its poetic summing-up. His previous collection, Responsibilities, which was published in 1914, had revealed a poet whose range of […]

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William Trevor

by John Boland

William Trevor is Ireland’s greatest living writer of fiction and one of the world’s finest short story writers. He is also very prolific. The Collected Stories, which runs to almost 1,300 pages, was published in 1992 and since then there have been four more volumes, and he has also published nineteen novels. The latter are […]

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Halfway through this eccentric and irritating book, the author lists the sixteen albums that Van Morrison released between 1980 and 1996 and then, dismissing them all as unworthy of consideration, asks rhetorically: “How do you write off more than fifteen albums and more than fifteen years of the work of a great artist?” The short […]

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Dolly Sinatra was a tough woman. A midwife and a back-street abortionist – nicknamed “Hatpin Dolly” and twice arrested for the latter activity – she was a formidable figure both as a mini-Mafia figure in her rough-and-tumble New Jersey neighbourhood and also in the confines of her home, where she inflicted hard love on her […]

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Francois Truffaut

by John Boland

Ever since I was a teenager and saw Les Quatre Cents Coups in the Fine Arts Cinema Club that used to exist in the basement of Busaras, Francois Truffaut has been one of my heroes. It was in that movie – made 50 years ago this summer, though showing no signs of ageing – that […]

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THOSE of us who’ve managed to get through our lives without listening to RTE 2fm — certainly not in the evening and hardly ever in the morning, even when Gerry Ryan was in situ — will be bidding adieu to Ryan Tubridy later in the summer when he moves from his 9am Radio 1 slot […]

Announcing RTE’s autumn and winter schedule a few weeks ago, the station’s new director of programming Steve Carson promised us shows that would “innovate and entertain, inform and initiate,” while his superior Noel Curran vowed that our viewing experience would be enriched by “quality Irish programmes.” Alas, the road to hell is paved with the […]

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Leonard Cohen

by John Boland

Leonard Cohen, can you believe it, will be 73 this September, more cool now than he’s ever been, with the soul of a poet and the soulfulness of the greatest singers. Just as hard to credit is that it’s almost forty years ago since he recorded his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, from whose […]

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David Marcus

by John Boland

I have had many editors in a long career in journalism, but it was the Irish Press’s literary editor, David Marcus, who left the most lasting impression on me. Even before joining the paper at the age of 22, I had submitted poems to its New Irish Writing page and David had published some of […]

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Down through the years, he has retired more often than Frank Sinatra — in rumour, if not in real life. Indeed, in the past decade it became axiomatic that as each successive RTE season loomed, every newspaper in the land would inevitably speculate on his imminent going and publish a suitably sombre and seriously measured […]

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