The Literary Tent (supported by the Arts Council) has fast become a beacon of fascination for Picnickers drawn to Stradbally’s very own Latin Quarter: the MindField Arena. This year’s line-up promises yet another charismatic mix of interviews with ground-breaking contemporary authors, not to mention some deep discussion of classic literature beautifully complemented by live music performances. Known for its pairings, the Literary Tent has some remarkably fresh alliances this year, from the effortlessly eloquent and fantastical Will Self and Carlo Gébler, to the actor Aidan Gillen and Peter Murphy on Joyce’s ‘The Dead’. We also have some inspired trios, merging together to form a medley of voices that will chime and resonate far beyond our little MindField nook.
Will Self’s 2012 novel, Umbrella, received unprecedented acclaim on its release (many felt it should have won that year’s Man Booker Prize), and is considered Self’s masterwork. The follow-up, Shark, has just been released, and continues Self’s exploration of the complex relationship between human psychopathology and our technological progress. He will be in conversation with Carlo Gébler, whose intensely moving memoir, Father & I (about his relationship with his father, Ernest Gébler, and his mother, Edna O’Brien), is a classic of its kind.
Julian Cope may be better known as a post-punk revolutionary but he has also just published his debut novel, One Three One. The ex-Teardrop Explodes frontman and world authority on Neolithic culture will be in conversation with Faber’s creative director, Lee Brackstone, the publisher responsible for (among numerous other volumes) Beck’s wonderfully innovative Song Reader.
Eimear McBride, author of one of the most garlanded books of recent years, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, will read alongside Paul Kingsnorth, whose own crowdfunded novel The Wake has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Both authors have pushed at the boundaries of language with their challenging works: McBride with her stream-of-consciousness interior monologue that reinvents modernism; Kingsnorth with his ‘shadow-tongue’, a language ‘intended to convey the feeling’ of Old English through borrowed vocabulary and syntax.
This June, McBride was one of fifteen authors chosen to re-imagine one of Joyce’s stories for the inspired (and inspirational) volume, Dubliners 100, a magnificent homage in itself to the master’s consummate collection in this, its centenary year. Peter Murphy will deliver (as only he can!) his ‘cover version’ of ‘The Dead’, preceded by the actor Aidan Gillen who’ll read extracts from Joyce’s famed original, considered by many to be the greatest short story of the twentieth century. In what promises to be spine-tinglingly special, the singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill will reprise ‘The Lass of Aughrim’, a ballad sung to such remarkable effect by Frank Patterson in the film version of Joyce’s masterpiece.
Keeping with the short story genre, we have two of Ireland’s best practitioners of the form: Donal Ryan (whose Spinning Heart has become a contemporary classic) and Colin Barrett (winner of the lucrative Frank O’Connor Award, and whose debut collection Young Skins has just been nominated for the Guardian First Fiction Prize). Joining Donal and Colin will be a very special musical guest.
Words and music go hand in hand for most Picnickers, and the Literary Tent has earned a reputation for matchmaking authors with musicians to create some of the most magical moments of the festival. Perennial favourite, Roddy Doyle, returns to the Literary Tent this year to read from his classic novel The Commitments. Joining him will be members of the legendary punk outfit, The Radiators from Space (aka Trouble Pilgrims), playing such favourites as Under Clery’s Clock and Kitty Ricketts, both penned by the late and much lamented, Philip Chevron: sometime Pogue and all-time gent.
Armagh-born poet, Paul Muldoon (described by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War), will join forces with our most esteemed native language poet, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and The Gloaming’s Iarla Ó Lionáird, a peerless practitioner of the Sean-nós tradition.
Joining us from the US will be celebrated novelist, Amy Bloom, a National Book Award nominee and longlistee for the equally prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. Her latest novel, Lucky Us, considered ‘an exquisitely imagined novel’ by no less than Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine, is already a bestseller in the US, and has just been released in the UK and Ireland.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Brendan Behan, and we’ll be making our own salute to his passing and legacy, with, among others, filmmaker Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) and the actor Peter Coonan (Fran in Love/Hate, and the young Behan in the Gaiety’s forthcoming production of Borstal Boy). Joining Jim and Peter will be a very special guest.
The Arts Council's Literary Tent is once again curated by Raymond Bell, editor of Possessed of a Past: A John Banville Reader, and the forthcoming twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Banville’s Booker-shortlisted novel, The Book of Evidence (Picador Classic).
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