Friday, 28 October 2016


I’m in poteen country. 

No I’m not.  Not really. There’s no such thing as poteen.
But, as I sit on my Ottoman and gaze out the window, I have learnt a beautiful new word –

the view from my ottoman

According to Wikipedia - Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron and Alfred Jarry were all known absinthe drinkers. 

Did this result in their Absenting themselves from their families?

On Saturday last, former literary editor of The Irish Times and eminent author John Banville told Kathy Sheridan, who was interviewing him for the said Irish Times, “I have not been a good father. I don’t think any writer is. You take so much and suck up so much of the oxygen that it’s very hard on one’s loved ones.”

This quote – particularly the six words ‘I don’t think any writer is’, has made writers go a bit mental on social media….
This has in turn provoked Martin Doyle of the Irish Times to gather no fewer than 23 pieces from writers on Monday 24th in an article entitled, ‘Do writer’s make bad parents?’.

Walsh’s Love Letter from her Scriptorium

The first and most moving piece is by Triona Walsh.  Hers is a veritable love letter to her husband and children. She has ‘four of the beautiful, unique, fascinating little creatures,’ and she describes, ‘It is not just the pram in the hall that is the enemy of good art but also the nits in the hair, the mouldy kit in the sports bag, the 2am vomit on the bedroom floor, the squabbles in the living-room, the ketchup on the ceiling, the house phone in the toilet bowl.’

As you read her struggle to write alongside her fascinating little creatures you know, and you know she knows, and you know that John Banville rightly knows too, that none of these things are the enemy of art.

O’Connor's Reflections from his Ottoman

The funniest piece, by Joseph O’Connor, is a mock conversation between a teenager and father:

Father: Mmn?
T: It’s me, dad. Your daughter. I’m at the door of your office.
F: Term it my scriptorium.
T: Your, er, scriptorium. Sound. Can I come in for a sec?
F: Enter.
T: I’ve brought your absinthe.
F: Leave it on the ottoman.

Funny though - when I went back to my ottoman and read the John Banville article, it was six other words that jumped out at me, written when he was asked to contribute to a collection of six-word ‘stories’ –They were: ‘Should have lived more, written less.’ ”

So - what epitomises Banville?

Banville went on to tell a story that, according to his interviewer Kathy Sheridan, perhaps epitomises him.

B: “I tripped one day and fell in the street, and about six people were around me almost immediately, and I thought they could not have been more kind,” he says. “And my second thought was that in different circumstances they would be herding me into a cattle truck going to a death camp. ”

S: Really? That’s what you were thinking as people helped you up?

B: “We are an appalling species. We are capable of the most glorious things. For every Hitler there are two Beethovens, but for every two Beethovens there is a Hitler. So every silver lining has a huge black cloud around it.”

There is so much in this Banville interview, so much profundity, so much vulnerability, so many quotable quotes, one cannot help thinking that it is the choice of headline that provoked the furore.  But that’s another story.

So anyways –the two articles taken together have made me resolve to shirk on the Absinthe to make for a clear head.

Because now I must be sure to read all of these great writers - starting with Banville’s ‘Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir.’ So thank you Irish Times for all this provocation.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post Abitinclined! I love your view of the world :)