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Read about WALKING ON RIPPLES in The Irish Times: https://lnkd.in/dDB4Zz5
Hilary Mantel’s much praised short story collection THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER first saw light of day in September 2014, but I only got around to reading it recently. Like many others I was drawn by the intriguing title story and could no longer resist reading it. Who would not want to discover how Thatcher gets her comeuppance, or at least be mildly curious about how such fictional death is achieved? My opinion of Mantel’s collection is now up on the Book Reviews page above and that review might also be broadcast on the radio over the coming weeks.
The perilous state of publishing came to light again at the end of last month in an interesting Irish Times article by Fiona O’Connor. The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society states that writers’ incomes have taken a nosedive. Average earnings of established professional authors amount to £11,000, down by almost a third since 2005. The average for all writers comes in at less than £4,000 and has been declining annually. By contrast, book output is rising. In 2014/15 the British and Irish publishing turnover was £4.6 billion, up from £3 billion in 2013. So how come turnover is up and incomes are down? You figure out the maths, but clearly writers are being squeezed by the corporations and conglomerates that have taken over the industry. Consider the following: You cannot compete with gold-embossed titles and big names. You are non-commercial. Your only option is to be a one-man (or woman) publicist, distributor, agent, stockist, marketer and Jack-of-all-trades. You will have to interface with the increasingly hostile retail trade. Disappointment may be in store, if you’ll pardon the pun. As for the chains and bigger stores, genuine book-loving people who work in these palaces of neon-lit, gaudy-covered, best-selling covers no longer have the authority to make decisions about what to put on the shelves. It’s all homogenised, stultifying, hive-minded, moneyed titles coming down on high from faceless men and women in suits, marketers and accountants. Big bookshops have become like commercial radio-stations with ever-constricting and predictable play-lists. It’s all about turnover and product. When did I write that? Ten years ago. Those italicised words of mine were first published in a March 2006 article. Things have obviously got worse since then.
The Roscommon reading of WALKING ON RIPPLES draws near. The book will feature in Mattimoes of Boyle, on Tuesday week, July 28 at 4 pm as part of the Arts Festival. The first draft of what might turn out to be the follow-up book, a new novel, is now complete and at second draft stage. A lot of hard work still to be done on it, which is great for taking the mind off bad weather and bad politics.
The people of Greece, who democratically elected an anti-austerity government, and then copper-fastened that decision by overwhelmingly rejecting austerity in the recent referendum, are now having austerity rammed down their throats by the EU – so much for democracy in Greece. What does the ‘E’ in EU stand for? It all smacks of Empire, doesn’t it, trampling over the expressed wishes of a small peripheral country. Our pale excuse for a finance minister, a citizen of another small peripheral country on the far edge of Europe from Greece, yesterday described the holding of that Greek referendum as a ‘disastrous political decision’ – so much for democracy in the EU. The neo-liberals are in charge of the asylum and they are shrieking. Enough politics, back to the writing …
Why am I not one bit surprised by our government’s harsh approach to the current economic crisis in Greece? The Irish leader and his finance minister have both adopted a hard-line attitude against the democratically-mandated Greek government’s bid to engineer a debt write-down for its people, many of whom are living through a humanitarian crisis in their homeland. But then, our finance minister is the same man who, in 2011 when speaking of what ‘we’ owed to the bondholders in the middle of our crisis, said that the Irish taxpayer (ie us ordinary Joes) would ‘honour their debt to the last red cent’ – the debt being what was owed to the bondholders and the EU banks by our out-of-control and unregulated financial institutions. One would hardly expect our government to change tack now. That would put credibility at home and (more importantly) in Europe, in danger.
To hear these two poodles cosy up to the ECB, the IMF and Angela Merkel by touting this über-capitalist viewpoint, is worrying. It confirms that our governing party in Ireland is one that backs big business and the interests of the wealthy above the welfare of the common people. After all, the Greeks had the temerity to suggest imposing taxes on commercial stakeholders and the well-off rather than making the ordinary citizen fork up to bail out the bondholders and the banks. That goes against the grain of our government and the EU, both of which clearly have no real social concerns at heart. The self-interest of big business and making money are their priorities. What we (and the Greeks and the rest of the EU) badly need is a more socially aware, and humane, approach. But we’re hardly likely to get that any time soon. We live in a time, and in a culture, that is dominated by greed and the generation of profit at the expense of more important values. We are all expected to sing off the same laissez-faire hymn-sheet, to be good lap-dogs just like our leader and his minister.
Bad weather can be a good thing, especially if you’re a writer. The delayed arrival of our summer (if it ever comes at all) has meant that, instead of outdoor pursuits, I’ve been going full tilt at a new book. A novel. Not science fiction. Mainstream. Irish. Set partly in the nineteenth century though most of it is present day. About three quarter ways through the first draft at the moment. Looking at the forecast makes me think I’ll have plenty of indoor time to tackle the rest of it.
Another reading coming up next month: Tuesday July 28 to be exact, in Mattimoes of Boyle, County Roscommon. The time of the reading is set for 4 pm. The event is part of Boyle Arts Festival. With the Tuesday being in the middle of festival week plus the fact that a lot of people will be on holidays anyway, I’m hoping a good crowd will turn up to be regaled with various extracts – from WALKING ON RIPPLES, of course!
Great to hear that the old Seven Towers Last Wednesday readings & open-mic nights have been revived, and named the Sunflower Sessions in honour of the late Sarah Lundberg. The next event will take place upstairs in Jack Nealon’s pub, 165 Capel Street Dublin, on the last Wednesday of this month – April 29 at 7.30 pm. I’ll do a reading from WALKING ON RIPPLES in Nealon’s and will also read from that book at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine taking place this year from May 15-17. My reading spot at the East Cork event is scheduled for 12.00 pm on Saturday May 16 in the Garden Tent. As well as a general reading I will of course include the book’s one and only secret recipe – delicious instructions on how to prepare and cook a salty sea sprat.
The promised Seascapes interview goes out on RTE Radio One between 10.30 and 11 pm on Friday night March 27. All to the good as far as WALKING ON RIPPLES is concerned – the broadcast should help get things motoring in terms of spring sales (twice in January the book entered one of Amazon’s Top 30 lists, but only for a brief visit each time). A further boost now would keep things ticking over nicely. Seascapes will be available as a podcast on the RTE site for those who miss the broadcast. On a related note, the LMFM interview (all of nearly twenty minutes) is still available for download on the LMFM site. Just go to the Late Lunch podcasts and click on the December 15 show.
Another excellent review, this in the Spring 2015 issue of Irish Country Sports & Country Life magazine, under the sub heading WALKING ON RIPPLES is NOT your average angling book – dip into it and you’re caught like a fly in a spider’s web. The article, spread over a generous three pages, contains a number of extensive extracts from the text accompanied by these kind comments: “… we glide between fact and fiction and cannot help but wonder where, if anywhere, is there a crossover point. Yes, this chapter is fiction, we know that. But what a tale is woven; we are wrapped like a spider’s fly. Only an angling thread reminds us that this is an angling book; we use that thread to move from what might be an uncomfortable world into the light again. An allegory for angling itself? After a while I forgot to separate the fact from the fiction; I didn’t care as the writing is addictive and, like a well-taken fly, I was hooked.”
The book should also feature on RTE’s Seascapes programme one of these Friday nights. An interview, conducted by Marcus Connaughton, is already in the can so should go out soon.
A good review of WALKING ON RIPPLES has appeared in the January 2015 edition (#466) of the renowned UK magazine Trout Fisherman, where Jeffrey Prest writes under the heading An Engrossing Stroll Through Irish Angling:
“Irish short story writer David Murphy applies a literary flourish to angling in his homeland, in this eclectic book that mixes real-life essays on game and saltwater fishing with several short stories. The book’s flap-notes have it spot-on where the overall effect of this blend is concerned –“part fiction, part memoir, part travelogue – this is not a dry fishing manual full of technical jargon but a lyrical tribute to the angling life.” It’s a book upon which I seized with particular relish because I have unfinished business where the defining book on Irish fishing – the soul of it rather than the mere technical nuts and bolts – is concerned. I thought Dennis Moss had come up with it in IRISH RISE four years ago but the wording and image on its cover proved deceptive; this was a nuts and bolts job, albeit a very good one. Would David Murphy be the man to convey the mood of what it means to fish ‘across the water’? Almost, it turns out. Certainly, you get a sense of place – I know now that Tramore is the Republic’s Skegness (“vinegar-strewn chippers and gougers on the loose for their annual week”) or that Donegal loughs are “the most alluringly beautiful and stunning of Ireland’s fishing secrets.” All the book lacks is more characters – a genuine cross-section of men and women whose words and thoughts collectively offer an insight into what makes Ireland’s anglers tick. But that’s just my bias and not one that should deter you from buying one of the better angling books I’ve read this year. Murphy has a vivid turn of phrase (“Great to be back in sacred, spiritual places where … ghosts of history abound, trout rise and sons and daughters speak”) and his short stories are masterly, their darkness gradually unfolding, like a cinematic villain stepping slowly from the shadows.”