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A story about Joyce I’d never heard before

One story about James Joyce I hadn’t come across before – even when I was growing up in Cork – concerned a business trip he carried out to the ‘real’ Capital back in 1909. In league with some Trieste-based businessmen, Joyce had come searching for a suitable place to open a cinema. Finding no suitable premises in Cork however, he returned to Dublin where he subsequently opened the ‘Volta Electric Cinema’ in December that same year.

Sadly, although he displayed a level of entrepreneurship ahead of his time, Joyce’s lack of gritty business acumen meant that Ireland’s first commercial cinema was a failure, closing down in April the following year and sold at a loss a few months later.

I came across this story through a link to Cork’s Crawford Gallery where they’re marking the centenary of Joyce’s Ulysses with an exhibition called ‘Odyssey’ that examines Joyce’s connections to Cork and – more vaguely – a consideration of how odysseys or journeys have been portrayed in art over the years. The exhibition includes artworks from over thirty artists, including works of historical figures like James Barry and more contemporary artists such as Brian Maguire and Aoife Desmond.

The exhibition is centred around a six-minute documentary call James Joyce: Framed in Cork. This follows an investigation by a Department of English lecturer at UCC (University College Cork) of Joyce’s connections to the city.

You can find a link to the exhibition here at Joyce Exhibition and it’s on until the third of April). Even if you have no interest in the exhibition, I highly recommend the teas rooms for a catch-up friends.

As Joyce himself said:

What is better than to sit at the end of the day with friends – or substitutes for friends.

Night View

The night view of Wellington City from Matiu Island – a small island in the centre of the harbour which is owned by the local iwi (tribe) and protected as conservation estate.

I was privileged enough to spend a night out there recently and finished the last chapter outline for Liath Luachra: The Metal Men that night (and wrote it over the next two days). I’m pretty sure it affected the mood of the piece.

Pilgrimage

I watched the movie ‘Pilgrimage’ (2017) again last night. Set in 13th century Ireland, it does a decent job of capturing the events in Ireland at the time (monks, Norman lords, Irish tribal resistance etc. etc.).

It would have been nice to have a few more Irish actors in lead roles (although to be fair, a lot of the lead roles were ‘Norman’ roles) but it’s still a decent adventure movie watch.

You can find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPDIbTvoYXk

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men is done

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men (4th book in the Irish Woman Warerior Series) is now complete. I’m currently working with the artist to get the final covers sorted but all looks good for the planned release in March (patrons will get it earlier).

I’m really pleased with the final result.

The new back cover blurb is below.


“Everything the Hungry People devour has the taste of ‘more’”!

As the harrowing pursuit of a mysterious raiding party draws to a close, the woman warrior Liath Luachra prepares her war party for one final onslaught.But out in the Great Wild, even the best laid schemes rarely go as planned.

The south-eastern forests hide threats more dangerous than raiders, Liath Luachra’s alliances are foundering, and her own personal history risks upending her existence forever.

Just as she faces a challenge her world has never encountered before.


Liath Luachra: The Metal Men is the fourth book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series and continues the story of the traumatised woman warrior’s ongoing efforts to survive in the brutal, world of first century Ireland. The main character – Liath Luachra – is based on a 12th century reference from Ireland’s famous ‘Fenian Cycle’ mythology.

A Gentle Seismic Shift

I have two books coming out this year which I’m hoping will create a gentle seismic shift around Irish culture and how Irish mythology is understood and portrayed. Both, however, are very different.

The first (Liath Luachra: The Metal Men) is ‘historical fiction’ but it’ll be taking Irish mythological fiction narratives to a place they haven’t been taken before (and hopefully amend some misconceptions along the way).

This will be released on 16 March 2022.

The second (the working title is ‘Irish Mythology:The Fundamentals) is non-fiction and is intended to be the definitive book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works and should be utilised. This one is anticipated to create a lot of reaction. The proposed release is October 2022.

One way or the other, I suspect this will be an interesting year.

The Púca

I was intrigued by the furore around a sculpture by Aidan Harte based that was based on the mythical Púca back in Clare last year (it’s called the Púca of Ennistymon). The sculpture – paid for by Clare County Council – was originally intended to be installed in Ennistymon, but after feedback from the community, those plans were scrapped.

Given that it’s already cast (i.e. paid for), the sculpture’s since being offered to other towns around Clare to see if anyone wanted it.

The most interesting things about this topic is the way the story was carried by the media with a lot of national and overseas media trying to dramatize the story by giving the impression the opposition was the result of some (unnamed) priest denouncing it from the altar as a ‘pagan’ idol. That was also picked up by various Pagan social media groups who were outraged that they were being oppressed by the Catholic (presumably) Church.

If you actually go back to the original releases however, its’ pretty clear the opposition to its installation in Ennistymon was primarily because people thought the sculpture was really ugly. Given that it’s two meters high, constructed from bronze and not linked to any local stories, I can understand their reticence, particularly if they’re paying for through public rates.

It all seems such a wasted opportunity though. If the Council had linked an appropriate artist to local cultural experts from the start, the resulting joint venture could have been amazing.   

The Irony of an Irish Literary Icon

You’ll see a lot of publicity around the centenary of James Joyce’s Ulysses tomorrow (it’s a hundred years since it was published) but I’m already growing a little cynical about the inevitable over-the-top lauding of its praises and self-congratulatory hoo-balloo.

When Ulysses was first published in 1918 (for context, this was just two years after the Easter Rising), it was serialized in parts via an American Literary Journal until 1920 before being published in its entirety in 1922. The book was subsequently blacklisted and banned from publication due to its ‘obscenity’ (although there were many pirated copies) until the mid-1930s.

Joyce had already left Ireland by then however (in 1902) and he was very much an ex-isle by the time his ‘success’ kicked in. It certainly seems that he didn’t have much patience for much of Irish society at the time. He despised the Catholic Church, he was openly contemptuous of the various political movements (and there were a lot during that period) but he seems to have reserved a particular level of scorn for the Irish literary sector, most particularly for the romanticised (and very anglicized) Celtic Twilight representation of Irish culture as pushed by W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and other members of the Irish Literary Renaissance.

Joyce was essentially pilloried in Ireland for two decades by the established hoi-polloi and literary gatekeepers of the time but, in a sense, he had the last laugh. His huge success later in life means that today, it’s that exact same group of government-sponsored literary organisations who’ll be out there telling everyone what a literary genius he was. Most of them, will probably not even have read the book.

I’m sure if he was still alive, he’d appreciate the irony.

Awakening

She woke to the weight of that dream pressing on her chest.

That and a blanket.

And pain. Always pain.

Lying on the roundhouse floor, unable to rise, the memory of the owl lingered in her head, but she made no attempt to dismiss it. Dreams had their own distorted logic, a logic that had little application in the waking world, nevertheless she’d recognised some veiled half-truth in its twisted reasoning, something she sensed was of personal relevance to herself.

The Seeking was done.

That realisation made her wince inside, rousing the melancholy she always associated with the completion of a Tasking. Although such events should have provided a sense of accomplishment or achievement, in her own case they’d never heralded more than the removal of purpose, a lingering sense of helplessness and the dreaded prospect of a return to Luachair.

And the ghosts awaiting there.

[Segment from Liath Luachra: The Metal Men – 2022]

Image ref: Segment from ‘Lonely Girl’ by Luis Royo.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill: A History of a Legend

This is a recent interview/discussion I did as part of a panel on ‘Talking History‘ – an Irish radio show presented by historian Patrick Geoghegan and which specialises in exploring some fascinating topics. I was invited on as that week’s show was focussed on the development of the lore of Irish mythological hero Fionn mac Cumhaill.

The panel for this discussion included some top-notch academics, including Dr Kevin Murray (University College Cork), Dr Sile Ni Muhurchu (University College Cork), Natasha Sumner (Harvard), Dr Jim MacKillop (Editor of  the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology’) and Dr Joseph Flahive (Royal Irish Academy). I’m quite familiar with most of their works and it was nice to be included in such a line up.

I can promise you that the knowledge/information on Fionn and the Fenian Cycle revealed over the course of this one hour discussion will excede twenty-five years’ worth of blathering from self-declared authorities on You Tube.

You can get to the show by clicking on the image above or clicking the link HERE.

The Music of What Happens

Once, as they rested during a hunt for wild deer, Fionn mac Cumhaill and his men debated what the finest music in the world might be.

“Then tell us what it is,” said Fionn to Oisín, who’d started the discussion.

“The cuckoo calling from the tree that’s highest in the hedge,” cried his son.

Fionn nodded. “That’s a good sound,” he admitted. “And you, Oscar? “What is finest of music to your mind?”

“The finest of music is the clash of a spear against a shield in battle,” the warrior exclaimed.

“It is a good sound,” said Fionn.

Working his way through the party, he asked each of his men what they thought and each gave their answer: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack of hunt hounds heard somewhere in the distance, the throaty song of a lark, the happy laugh of a gleeful girl, the whisper of a loved one in the darkness of night.

“These are all good sounds,” said Fionn.“

So, tell us, a Fionn,” one of his men ventured finally, for there was genuine curiosity amongst them.  “What do you think? What would your answer be?”

Fionn considered the question for a moment.

“The music of what happens,” he said at last. “That is the finest music in the world.”

Note: This is a segment I’ve adapted from one of the ‘old style’ Fionn mac Cumhaill stories, in this case from a book called ‘Irish Fairy Tales’  by James Stephens. Stephens actually adapted it from the 12th century Macgnímartha Find [The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn] back in 1920. This is how a lot of the Fenian Cycle (and other Irish mythology) works.

Irish Imbas Projects for 2022

The nice thing about a decent holiday is that it gives you time and space to think outside the rut, to consider new possibilities or the need to change existing circumstances. Like everyone else, I think I’ve been pretty burned out from work and social stress since the emergence of the first Covid strain in 2020. That was something that cut the legs out from under a full year’s work on a potential tv series (while also dramatically escalating my freelance consulting work) on top of all the writing.

Fortunately, sitting in the sun and blobbing over the holidays, does wonders for the soul, in terms of planning what I can realistically achieve over the forthcoming twelve months, at least. Here are the projects I hope to work on over 2022.


Liath Luachra: The Metal Men

I’m currently on the last leg of this story – which turned out to be far longer than I’d anticipated due to the disparate plot threads. I don’t want to finish on another cliff hanger so I’m just going to slog through on this to a close-to-final draft at the end of January. I’m hoping to make this available to Patreons sometime in February and it’ll be available in all the ebookstores sometime on 16 March 2022.


Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán:

The next book in the Fionn series will have clear overlaps with ‘The Seeking’ and ‘The Metal Men’ and Demne/Fionn takes a more active role in the narrative. I’m provisionally working to a release date of June 2022, but I now suspect this will be later.  


Untitled Liath Luachra Short Story:

This short story will be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


Non-fiction Irish Mythology Book:

This is a book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works. Most of it is already written but I’m trying to work out how to best get the information across. The plan is to release this sometime in the latter part of 2022. I’ll probably do a small ‘fantasy-based’ spin off on that as well to guide fantasy writers on what to consider when dealing with other cultures and mythology.


Liath Luachra: The Great Wild:

A short Liath Luachra series novella. This will cover an adventure prior to Liath Luachra joining Na Cinéaltaí. The story will initially be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


How to Save the World

Not the usual stuff I publish, this is a non-fiction ‘white paper’ based on the freelance consulting work I’ve been doing over the last 20 years, predominantly for Government Departments. Over that time, I’m come across patterns and behaviours that need to change in New Zealand (and overseas) if the planet and its occupants have any chance of surviving the next fifty years. Normally, I’d write something like this as part of a project for a government agency but, as they’re part of the problem, I’ll need to write it independently. I’m trying to set this at a level that journalists and the general public can utilise.


Obviously, that’s a substantial amount of work (and major breadth) on top of the Vóg newsletter and additional content I’ll be providing for my Patreons). Interest is also rising once again on a potential screen version of the Liath Luachra series so, as always, these projects need to be flexible in terms of responding to events that might occur throughout 2022.

If you’re keen on following this particular journey, feel free to subscribe to my Vóg Newsletter or if you’d prefer more up front and personal updates and woudl like to support the work I do, you might want to join my Patreon Group).

Best wishes to everyone for 2022.