Archive for May, 2010


Friday, May 28th, 2010

We could all do with a bit of encouragement at times. Often things aren’t as bad as we think! Recently, I was driving my son for a dental appointment and (a) one tyre seemed so low I wasn’t sure if we’d make it to a garage (b) my fuel gauge showed I was almost empty and (c) my car mechanic told me to check another wheel hadn’t come loose. In fact, I discovered there was plenty of air in what had seemed like a flat tyre – I’d parked it on an incline with the weight of the car bearing down on that wheel, distorting my perception. I’d enough fuel to get my son to the dental appointment and, when I checked the other wheel, it was secure.

So, a little example of three worries that came to nothing. Continuing the theme of the ‘three’, I’ve three chapters written of my new book. I dared to show the first two to my wife and she liked it. I also sent one chapter to my US agent who was delighted to hear from me and was excited I was working on a novel. And I sent the three chapters too to an Irish publisher.

Then I read my third chapter myself. I’m my own worst critic and I could see it wasn’t at nearly the same state of completeness as the first two chapters.  A bit like that day in the car, I felt a bit overawed at the mountain I had to climb to raise it to the standard of the rest of it. But then I started working on it and having fun with it. Sure, it needed improving but my awareness of that catapulted me into a fun time creating satisfying dialogue and moving the story forward. Like with the car, it wasn’t as far off the mark as I’d thought. Things weren’t as bad as I thought. In fact, what I had was a rich draft to work with. I had a good skeleton and now I’m putting the flesh on it, bringing it alive. One character is really growing on me. I was going to give him an early exit but no way is that going to happen now. He’s much too much fun for that!

On the same vane, when I was tweaking chapter two a wonderful new character announced himself. I love this guy. And I very much expect him to stay with me too until the end of the book. I’ve close to a third of the book written. It’s a bit like a mosaic or painting, where you keep working on its texture, adding bits, feeling invited by a character to come this way or try that. And the narrator too is a bit of a trickster. He’s doing stuff in chapter 3 that I really didn’t expect. Now, time for me to get back to it…!

M3 cycle

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I admit it: I cried  just before the start of the M3 Cycle yesterday. What triggered it? They played ‘Human‘ by The Killers. It just got to me. There were something like 1,400 cyclists lined up ready to cycle the as yet unopened M3 motorway from Clonee to Kells. The starting point: the toll near the Dunboyne roundabout.

That song was the one which was the musical theme of my recent jump from a job I was finding unsatisfying, my leap into the unknown. And here they were, one month later, of all the songs they could have played, kicking off the cycling event with that. And I was lined up to do the 55 km (although methinks it was more like 48km).

I did it in less than an hour and three quarters, averaging 28 kph, not bad for a 48-year-old! Myself and two guys (both of whom went on to come first and second) started off well. Until I felt I should play my part in leading for a while! I should’ve accepted I was near the half-century and let them lead. Well done to both of them. Donaha who teaches in Trim and is a serious swimmer to boot. I reckoned when I saw his shirt with Triathlon on it it could be smart to try to keep up with these guys! Their average speed was 31 kph. Thanks too to Joe, teacher in Ratoath, and the other guys I cycled with along the way.

Well done to Aisling Group International (M3 Cycle), P.O. Box 26, Bradan House,  CYWS, Navan, Co. Meath, for organising the once-in-a-lifetime event: the only time we’ll ever get to cycle on the motorway and before cars get to do so! See also

Step up to the plate

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Living today as if it might be your last needs to move beyond a cliché. Let us stop suspending what we want to do. There is no tomorrow! This is the day to live your life to the full. It’s May 2010. It seems like a blink of the eye since the turn of the century and here we are a decade into it already. How many years must we waste before we wake up to the transience of life?

Since resigning from a job recently, I have been doing what I’ve wanted to do for ages: writing for a living. It’s what I have done for the past 15 years, but I got sidetracked into a  gig that substantially reduced my writing time. Now, I’m finally completing a book I’ve been writing, on and off, for the past 20 years!

As I wrote in these pages before, realising that my dad had a stroke and a heart attack at my present age has served to focus my attention. Time and mortality have ever been the two things that nudge me to action. If you’re not doing today what you want to be doing, what the blazes are you waiting for?

The fear of daring to believe in yourself can keep us from living the life that’s there for us. Step up to the plate! Accept the personal challenge you face. Take responsibility. Go do what you were born to do! Could you do it? Yes. Would you do it? Yes. When would you do it? Today!

Joshua Ferris: Then We Came to the End

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Next club night, in June 2010, we’ll be discussing Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End.

J.G.Farrell: The Siege of Krishnapur

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Members loved J.G.Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur. It’s one to read and to keep. It’s hilarious. Excellently written. It had one member in stitches of laughter. A work of genius, so well-observed. It shows, doesn’t tell. Ten out of ten.

Some books we’ve read in Wise Owl book club

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Ali, Ayaan Hirsi:         Infidel

Amis, Martin:              Experience

Ashworth, Jenn:         A Kind of Intimacy

Barbery,Muriel:            The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Bayley, John:              Iris

Barry, Sebastian:          A Long,Long Way

Ben Jelloun, Tahar:        The Blinding Absence of Light

Browne, Dan:               The Da Vinci Code

Capote, Truman:            In Cold Blood

Carey, Peter:              Theft

Carter, Angela:            The Magic Toyshop

Cervantes:                 Don Quixote

Chandler, Raymond:         The Big Sleep

Change, Jung:              Mao: the Untold Story

Chekhov, Anton:  The Lady with the Little Dog & Other Stories

Dickens, Charles:          David Copperfield

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor:       Crime and Punishment

Doyle, Roddy:              Oh, Play That Thing

Edgeworth, Maria:          Castle Rackrent

Eugenides, Jeffrey:        Middlesex

Farrell J.G.:              The Siege of Krishnapur

Faulks, Sebastian:         Birdsong

Ferris, Joshua:            Then We Came to the End

Fitzgerald, F Scott:       The Great Gatsby

Flaubert, Gustave:         Madame Bovary

Ford, Richard:             The Granta Book of the American Short Story

Forster, E.M.:             A Passage to India

Franzen, Jonathan:         The Corrections

Franzen, Jonathan:         How To Be Alone

Gallagher, Mia:            Hellfire

Gardam, Jane:            Old Filth

Gray, Simon:               Smoking Diaries

Hamilton, Hugo:            The Speckled People

Hawthorn, Nathaniel:  The Scarlet Letter

Hemmingway:                For Whom the Bell Tolls

Holtby, Winifred:           South Riding

Homer:                     The Illiad

Homes, AM:                 This Book Will Save Your Life

Hornby, Nick:              Juliet Naked

Hosseini, Khaled:          The Kite Runner

Irving, John:              A Prayer For Own Meany

Ibsen, Henrik:             A Dolls House

Joyce, James:              Dubliners

Joyce, James:              Ulysses

Kafka, Franz:              The Trial

Karr, Mary:                The Liar’s Club

Kennedy, AL:               Day

Lee, Harper:               To Kill a Mocking-Bird

Llosa, Mario Vargas:  The Feast of the Goat

McCann, Colum:             Dancer

McGahern, John:            Memoir

Monk Kidd, Sue:            The Secret Life of Bees

Nabokov, Vladimir:         Lolita

Cruise O’Brien, Maire:     The Same Age as the State

Obama, Barrack:            Dreams of My Father

O’Connor, Joseph:          Star of the Sea

O’Connor, Joseph:          Ghost Light

Orwell, George:          1984

Plunkett, James:   Strumpet City

Proulx, Annie:             The Shipping News

Raisin, Ross:              God’s Own Country

Remarque, Erich Maria:     All Quiet on the Western Front

Rubenfeld, Jed:            The Interpretation of Murder

Roth, Philip:              The Plot Against America

Salinger, JD:              Catcher in the Rye

Sebold, Alice:             The Lovely Bones

Smith, Zadie:              On Beauty

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander:   One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander:   The Gulag Archipelgo

Stephens, James:           The Crock of Gold

Steinbeck, John:           The Grapes of Wrath

Stockett, Katherine:   The Help

Swift, Graham:             Last Orders

Tartt, Donna:  The Goldfinch

Thackeray, William M:      Vanity Fair

Toibin, Colm:              Brooklyn

Toibin, Colm:              The Master

Tolstoy, Leo:              Anna Karenina

Tomalin, Claire:      Charles Dickens: A Life

Twain, Mark:               The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

William, Trevor,:          Felicia’s Journey

William, Trevor,:          Love and Summer

Trollope, Anthony:         Barchester Toweres

Voltaire:                  Candide

Voynich Ethel:      The Gadfly

Williams, John:            Stoner

Williams, Niall:     History of the Rain

Wolff, Tobias:             Old School

Woolf, Virginia:           Mrs Dalloway

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz:        Shadow of the Wind