independent

Monday 23 October 2017

Hundreds take leaf out of Colm's book

DAVID MEDCALF

THE GREAT and the good – along with many ordinary fans of his writing – came to hail novelist Colm Tóibín on Sunday. More than a hundred people participated in the daylong seminar at the Riverside Park hotel where the much-lauded author was at the centre the proceedings in his home town.

The event, organised as part of the Enniscorthy 1500 programme, came as copies of Tóibín's latest collection of short stories, called The Empty Family, was published in Britain. However, he had no copies to distribute to the crowd, who were happy to concentrate on his past works.

Papers on the contribution of the writer from Parnell Avenue to literature were delivered by academics Paul Delaney, Christina Hunt Mahony and Roy Foster. All three were happy to re-arrange their schedules to be sure they were in the Riverside for the seminar after it was postponed because of the wintry weather at the beginning of the year.

The audience was given a great deal to ponder, especially by the Oxford-based historian Professor Foster who made the comparison between Colm Tóibín and his contemporaries such as Ann Enright, Dermot Bolger and Roddy Doyle. He suggested that they have all succeeded in using fiction to reflect Irish identity in new ways.

There was also much discussion during the day of the recurrent themes of exile and return, as well as the importance of place in the novels.

Three of the author's principal works have been set, either wholly or in part, in his native county – The Heather Blazing, The Blackwater Lightship and the hugely successful Brooklyn.

Having spent much of his life away from Wexford, the author confessed that he is now very much at home these days at his seaside house near the village of Blackwater in Ballyconnigar. In response to a suggestion by Christina Hunt Mahony that much of his writing has a poetic rhythm to it, he also revealed that his attention to detail sometimes extends to counting the number of syllables in a sentence, in an effort to create a rhythm in the prose.

He was in charming and relaxed form throughout the day in the Riverside, even during the stress of question-and-answer session that brought the seminar to a close. He is due back in town some time during November as editor of another item in the Enniscorthy 1500 programme, Enniscorthy: A History, which is due to be published shortly.

Attempts are being made to have President McAleese launch the book which is nearly ready to go to the printer. In the mean time, Colm Tóibín is also working on a new play with legendary director Garry Hynes.

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