Lisa McInerny, Sally Rooney and Joanna Walsh @ Manchester Literature Festival
Irish writers Lisa McInerney, Sally Rooney, and Joanna Walsh introduce their new writings. Each different, yet all beautiful disturbing and intensely funny.
Lisa McInerney spoke about her new novel The Blood Miracles, which takes a character from her prior novel The Glorious Heresies. The Blood Miracles is occupied with the loneliness of being outside of a tribe. It addresses the criminal underworld: a novel full of pathos, verve, and electricity. Ryan, the novel’s protagonist, is described by McInerney as ‘a bit of a scut’. He’s 20, a drug dealer, and a part of a gangster circle. The novel follows his life and the lives of several disparate individuals in modern day Cork. We all know a Ryan, and we all love and hate a Ryan at the same time. He’s a geezer, a bit of a gimp; a lovable fuck-up. In this sense, it is a realist novel. Gritty, but also beautifully hilarious. It’s full of warm humour, a kind of crude laughter you’d have with your friends. There are moments when you feel as though you’re Ryan’s sister, then his friend, his mother or partner. McInerney invites you as a reader into Ryan’s world, a world which by the end of the novel you recognise as your own.
Sally Rooney introduced her first published novel Conversations with Friends. Told from the perspective of Francis, a character Rooney described as alike McInerney’s Ryan in some ways, the novel explores friendship, love, and youth. It is set in the modern age which we are all trying to live in and, through the character of Francis, Rooney explores the condition of being a young, gifted, but self-destructive woman in this new-age. It is a story which reaches out and connects itself to so many young women of today. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, artist, doctor, lawyer, or officer, Rooney explores the fundamental aspects of life we as young women all face. Through the struggles young Francis faces, the story she unfolds is completely heart-warming. We can all see a part of ourselves in Francis. Her friends are just like your friends. Some we love, some we find more difficult; but all we each encounter at some time or another nonetheless. The novel is composed of beautifully crafted language, one which at the drop of a line can turn from warm to cold.
The last of the three writers to speak was Joanna Walsh. A style slightly different to the other two writers, Walsh’s novel tackles the short attention span of the modern reader. Her novel, eloquently written, is one about relationships and communication and how communication is the thread which knits together relationships. It is a novel about the evolution of communication: about the complexity of words, grammar, language, and how they can fog up what people are trying to say. Walsh quotes that ‘words failed us a while ago’. Her new collection of stories Worlds from the Worlds End, is a beautifully crafted linguistic critique.
One thing which brought these three female writers together was language. The anxieties surrounding language as communication, but also the necessity of it. What each novelist’s protagonist tries to say to the other characters, but also what they don’t say. In each novel there is an underlying fear in each speaker that language will not fulfil what they want to say. Within this theme, each writer has an occupation with technology, and how modern communication is influenced by technology. How now, in the modern day, we communicate over text and emails, thus allowing our impulse to control and overthink spiral. We can spend hours writing and re-writing an email to get it ‘perfect’. Language is no longer spontaneous, so many of us has a fear of speaking on the phone or in an interview. A fear of ‘off the cuff’ speech; speech that we haven’t had days to prepare. Anyone can give a talk, but it’s the question and answer session that we all dread: what if someone asks a question new we haven’t got an immediate answer for!?
Each of these three female writers has a unique story to tell, stories which discuss all aspects of survival in the modern day. If you are interested in any other events at the Manchester Literature Festival, a chance to hear authors explain and discuss their new writing, head to http://www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk/ for the events timetable.