Once I Wrote a Play about George Yeats and Her Husband

William Butler Yeats and Wife Georgie
W.B. and George Yeats – from http://yeatsthoorballylee.org/

I once wrote a play. Not only wrote, but directed and produced it, with help from quite a few of my classmates in my Master programme with clothes and props. This took place in 2002-3. It was a one-act play of 40 minutes duration, about W.B. Yeats’s disastrous honeymoon in Kent in 1917, and his new wife’s discovery that on that very occasion he was writing anguished love letters to Maud Gonne’s beautiful, fey daughter Iseult. I could relate very strongly to the bookish, awkward, overlooked Georgie, twenty-four to his fifty-two, and her feelings of rejection and pain when she realised she had been used as a rebound in response to an astrological imperative. “Georgie” she was called before he recast her as “George”, even making her alter her name. She kept him by her side, she diverted his interest by means of automatic writing, and later bore two of his children – but truly she made a bargain with the devil that night on his honeymoon when first she distracted him by grabbing a pen and going into a trance. Continue reading “Once I Wrote a Play about George Yeats and Her Husband”

“A Bravura Performance of Effortless Elegance” – White Feathers Review in Irish Echo in Australia

White Feathers got ANOTHER review which was sent on to me by the publishers this morning and if you read it, you will see why I am grinning from ear to ear. Regrettably it is not available online, but I enclose an image of it below. Here is a bit I am really pleased got highlighted:

The second half of the book is a brutal account of some of the actions in the war, particularly the criminal incompetence of the top brass of the British army…[who] had also used their men as human fodder.

Why yes, my novel challenges authority. And even be it a hundred years back, on its publication and reading, it became clear that certain people – not the British Army, I hasten to add – didn’t like that. Certain people didn’t like that one bit.

And here’s a quote which made my morning 🙂

Though this is an intense love story it would do it a disservice to describe it solely in just a way. It is anti-war and anti-patriarchy without ever saying so …[and] leaves the reader genuinely hoping the author will take her characters through the next stages of their lives. For the second time in less than a year I applaud O’Brien Press for taking on a relatively unknown writer. Susan Lanigan has won praise for her short stories, but this is her first full-length novel. It is a bravura performance of effortless elegance that beautifully imitates the speech and manners of the era. More please.

Thank you very kindly, Frank O’Shea of the Irish Echo, Australia! I’ll do my best to keep ’em coming! Full review beneath the cut – fair warning, it’s an image file and also quite a bit of discussion of the plot, though less of the second half. Continue reading ““A Bravura Performance of Effortless Elegance” – White Feathers Review in Irish Echo in Australia”

“I don’t give a cheese sandwich about the anxiety of influence of Joyce” – Interview with me on American Author

Novels are harder. You can relax a little, every sentence doesn’t need to be investedwith heavy meaning like a raindrop straining to fall off a leaf, but you need to get yourself some project management to plan the thing to the end. You need to undergo a journey with these characters and allow them to get so far under your skin that they’re in your bloodstream.

Along with her earlier review of White Feathers, Liz Maguire at American Author also sent me along a couple of interview questions. (She does a series of interviews with authors and I must say I’m in very illustrious company – check it out!) But anyway, here is her interview with me, where I wax lyrical about the inspiration for writing the novel, my opinion on short stories vs novels (sensitive souls might find my opinions controversial, but I actually love the short story form when it hasn’t turned Moebiusly up its own fundament), express my preference of coffee over tea, and who gets to play which character in the film version of White Feathers.

But of course there will be a film…someday 🙂

Read the whole interview here. And thank you so much for your support, Liz, it is much appreciated. And that long, cool, refreshing glass of Coke does indeed look enticing. I necked down a few when I was south of you in Seville!

“A symbol not of cowardice but of bullying” – Review of White Feathers on Izzy Reads

Like men and buses, reviews take their time then all come along at once 🙂 Izzy Reads has kindly provided this review of White Feathers on her blog.

My grandmother didn’t have a lot of time for the women who handed out  white feathers during the first world war. To her, it was a symbol not of cowardice but of bullying with the distributors often failing to take into account the personal circumstances — age, disability, mental fragility — of the young men they victimised. Her description has stayed with me through the years so when I spotted the title of Susan Lanigan’s novel, White Feathers, my interest was piqued.

More here.

I’ve always felt that this very human aspect of the conflict, the way it created smaller, lethal wars between people, is an important aspect. To many this is still a live issue, even though the last veterans have gone beyond the sunset. Describing the protagonists as “not typical romantic characters”, while her review is a bit more qualified than the last one, it is a thoughtful and interesting read. Thanks very much Izzy for reviewing the book and for anyone who is interested in following her reviews, she can be found on twitter here.

Rhodes, revenge, rage; what use is literature?

Reblogging this important post by Helen Finch because historical fiction never works in a vacuum from actual history – it’s constantly engaging, disengaging, re-engaging and flat-out arguing. And we forget to “keep it real” at our peril as writers and human beings.

Helen Finch

I already knew about the Rhodes protests before I left Leeds. I had been sent an email by our South African colleague, telling us that the University of Cape Town was alive with student activists protesting at the slow pace of transformation twenty years after the fall of apartheid, and demanding the removal of the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes, who presides over the campus looking north to the rest of the continent. I’d also been forwarded the email communication from the VC of Cape Town, which seemed to me measured and respectful, acknowledging the justice of the students’ demands and promising accelerated action.

We were in South Africa as part of a series of projects, principally a project generously funded by the British Academy, ‘Contemporary Literature from Germany and South Africa: Critiquing the Narrativization of Trauma as Nation-building’. This also chimed with other projects – Performing the Jewish Archive…

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“Rain lashed the glass beside me while I read and read and read” – New Review of White Feathers

A few months ago I put out a review request to the book blogging community. Liz Maguire, who blogs at American Author, was happy to oblige and has done a great write up of her experience reading White Feathers. My favourite paragraph was this one:

I set about reading White Feathers as spring opened the skies in Dublin. In the window seat of my favorite cafe, perched above D’Olier Street with the novel open on my lap, rain lashed the glass beside me while I read and read and read. White Feathers was so intense and addictive that my tea went cold and unnoticed—perhaps the greatest sign of enthralling literature.  I found White Feathers well written and well paced.

Full review here.

What part of that response could not delight the heart 🙂 Liz has also interviewed me for her blog, a post which she will be putting up in the near future and which I’ll link to when it’s up. She also subscribes to a new service called Booktube where people discuss their book choices – it’s like vlogging Goodreads I guess – and she discusses White Feathers some more there. I smiled at the admission that she had neglected life responsibilities reading the book. I guess that’s a good sign as long as they get tended to in good time eventually! (Someone else tweeted to me that they were at a crucial part of the novel and had forgotten to walk the dog. The dog whined and eyeballed until they were duly reminded!)

Worth noting that Liz also reviewed The Rising of Bella Casey shortly after White Feathers and her review can be checked out on her blog right after mine. I was very moved by the tragic symmetry of the novel and tight dramatic integrity of it.

And lastly, after having seen the celebrations of Holy Week in Southern Spain, I’d like to wish you all a happy Easter if you celebrate.