May 16, 2010

AWRF10 - An hour with Colm Tóibín

Nick from Readers Services at Central Library recently wrote a recommended list of New York novels. Hearing Colm Tóibín this morning at AWRF 2010 inspired these considerations from him:

I always get one of the best seats in the house at the ASB Theatre because no-one else can see them. They are the aisle seats right at the back, with unlimited leg room, positioned so that your neck doesn't get sore one bit and you don't have to step over anyone to sit down. If they're mic'd up well I never feel the need to get real close to hear writers speak. Next year they should not include the steel mollusc sculptures in the stage design. The palms are a lovely gesture but the shells aren't.


So I went to hear Colm Tóibín in conversation. With Damien Wilkins, who introduced Mr Tóibín by contrasting him with writers who feel they have nothing more to say than what their work already does. Say. This of course was a good thing for the audience, especially for those (including me) who have not read any of his books. He was an entertaining speaker and some of the things he and Wilkins talked about were: How he is gay but sometimes forgets this because he's too busy thinking about semi-colons; how many writers are interested in Cezanne because you can see how he painted in his work and he likened this to putting words on a page; how during his childhood, among his family, being boring was the worst thing; a lot about his newest book, Brooklyn.

This novel began as a short story with the simple intention to create an 'arc' of a storyline, a plot, inspired by Jane Austen's work. Once he started he realised it would become a much bigger thing. It is about a woman, an Irish emigrant to New York in the 1950s, and though it is entirely focussed on her story, it is also the story of Ireland, because, as Tóibín said, every Irish family has someone who left and never came back. Tóibín is from a small town in Ireland, where three of his four grandparents were from. So he's very connected to a place, has a very intimate knowledge of where he is from, and also Irish history in general.

This was a very good talk, even better because it finished with some quite interesting questions (not, "How did you become a writer?"). One lady was interested in how the occasion of Ted Kennedy's death last year seemed to highlight important contributions by the Irish to the USA. Tóibín responded by talking of Henry James's family, who were from an earlier and possibly overlooked wave of Presbyterian immigrants. He felt they were just as important as the Kennedys. Henry James: we just got some new copies of Washington Square, which is also a book of New York.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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