Thursday, April 1, 2010


There’s been a huge recent debate about contemporary Irish fiction – some of it sensible, more of it quite daft. Our precious literature is now in the hands of dedicated parliamentarian Mary Hanafin, recently appointed Minister forTourism, Culture and Sport. Her previous track record adds gravitas to the growing consensus on the importance of the arts economy. Currently we don’t have much else going for us. Our cultural creativity – particularly literature for which we’re lauded worldwide - is hugely important and should be nurtured.

And yet despite being beset by the worst financial flux since records began, wonderful writing keeps emerging from Ireland. Challenging writing is emerging in every genre, particularly by Irish women writers, and audiences are packed for the plethora of literary events, such as Listowel Writers' Week and An Cuirt in Galway, as well as other functions held throughout the country.

Since the 18th century the buyers of works of fiction are mostly women. In a recent interview with Shane Hegarty of The Irish Times, Ian McEwan (latest novel Solar) tells how in 2007 he and his son spent a lunchtime handing out 100 novels to anyone who wanted them. But the only takers were women. He wonders what the future holds for a form that appeals to only half the population.

The book I most want to read: The Long Song by Andrea Levy is the story of a woman conceived by a rape. It is set on a Jamacian Plantation in the mid 1800s. Andrea Levy leaped to literary fame with Small Island.

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