Éamon Ó Cuiv TD has had his first tentative piece of literary writing published in the current The Galway Review (volume 4 ). It is a competent piece of writing, and no one would have expected anything less, from the young Lochinvar who rides out of the west to astounding political victories every time. He wrote a review of Daniel Sammon’s Croagh Patrick and Me, Ireland’s holy mountain, which he can probably see from his kitchen window.
He must have been quitely pleased when it was accepted. Éamon is a modest man. He does not like to presume. This time, fearful, for some reason, that he would not be re-elected to the current Dáil, he explored the possibility of an alternative career. He thought he would become a reviewer of books.
I would not have thought that Éamon was given to flights of fancy, but he shows his romantic side here. Daniel mentions the two graces, Grace O’Malley and Princess Grace who are associated with the west, but Éamon politely ticks him off for not mentioning his pin-up girl Maureen O’Hara.
When Daniel mentions Maud Gonne, Éamon loses the run of himself. He tells us a little historical titbit of his own, totally irrelevant to Daniel’s work, but interesting nevertheless. It is to do with the close relationship between Maud’s son Séan McBride and himself. Apparently Séan’s daughter Anna was married to Éamon’s mother’s first cousin Declan White, the son of a sister of Sinead de Valera, who is still very much alive.
But before Éamon could fully develop his reviewing skills, the loud blast of the political trumpet has called him away once more. Once again he charges out of the west to save Ireland, and has shelved his ambitions to be another William Hazlitt or a Charles Lamb for another time.
I wish him well in whatever career he eventually chooses.
‘Writing is rewriting’
Edited by Marie Holmes, Jack McCann and Ndrek Gjini, The Galway Review grew out of the creative writing programmes at NUIG. Now in its impressive fourth edition it has an open door policy to all writers to submit work in progress, or finished, whether it is poetry or prose or something in between.
In praising these lively and entertaining collections, I include the Loughrea Creative Writing Group, who produce an annual anthology. They are important because standards are defined, there are no limits on ideas and styles; and good editing gives new writers the opportunity to have something professionally published.
What is the best advice to give a writer? Ndrek suggests that a talent for writing is not just a gift from God, but a craft that must be worked on for thousands upon thousands of hours. ‘There are so many aphorisms about writing I can co-sign two of them: “ Writing is rewriting”, and “You can’t teach someone to write.”’
Several stories have a European feel about them, which is a welcome move from our obsession with ‘growing up in Ireland’. I particularly enjoyed Donal Moloney’s Homesick, where a lonely German student in Cork meets an untidy Aine who takes him home to her flat.
Many years later, as a mature man, he looks back at that relationship with gratitude. ‘She gave me exactly what I needed at that time: sexual experience. I had slept with a couple of girls at home before, but that was teenage stuff. After the week with Aine, I was ready for the adult world of sexual relations. And a few years later, when it came to seducing my wife, I was drawing on the confidence Aine had given me.’
But Aine has given him something else; and lifelong passion for Mendelssohn’s music. In fact Aine admits the reason she invited him to her place in the first instance was because he was a German, like the composer. After their first night together Aine announced that they were not going to lectures that morning. Instead, ‘sitting cross-legged in the semi-dark’ she finds a ‘coverless CD wedged between a pair of running shoes. She wiped it in her t-shirt and inserted it in the portable CD player.’ As they listened to Mendelssohn’s famous violin concerto, she tells him that when she first heard it, it had such a powerful impact on her that she saw clearly that as her parents’ marriage was breaking up, she would be allright.
After his course is finished he returns to Germany. Years later he becomes a successful businessman, and marries Sabine, a music teacher. They have two daughters Julia and Sarah. But after a number of busy years their marriage breaks down. Our German, an emotional wreck from the misery of the separation, returns for a holiday to Ireland as a mature man.
No he does not meet Aine again, although he’d like to. He reaches the tip of the west Cork peninsula, and takes the cable car to Dursey Island. There is something about Ireland, he says, that brings out the German in him. Looking over the Atlantic ‘I did not think about Ireland on this side, or America on the other. No, my thoughts went back to the centre of Europe, the heart of Germany.’ He remembers a happy day with his wife and girls as they took a steam train into the Harz mountains.
Sabine is ‘wearing figure-hugging jeans and a loose blouse. Her blonde hair streams back from her face, her cheeks are red from the wind. The girls laugh...’
He takes out his MP3 player and switches on Mendelssohn’s octet, composed when the young Mendelssohn, inspired by Goethe’s poem, was only 16 years old.
‘ I have timed the octet to be over just as we reach the top. The music skips and bounds to its conclusion accompanied by whistle blasts. The locomotive draws us upwards and my heart is full. I miss it all so much.’
For a laugh read Seven Years Married by Vincent Holmes, where a guest at a B/B mistakes the innocent greeting kisses from a beautiful young French girl for French Kisses!
NOTES: The Galway Review is on sale in all local bookshops for €10.