Thursday, November 26, 2009

At Last

I've been trying to post this review for a while but the blog wouldn't let me. Is it because it is a shameless promotion for the magazine I edit (with friends)?

Anyway, it originally appeared on the Western Writer's Centre website. That's in Galway, Ireland by the way.


The Dublin-based Irish journal of alternative and explorative literature, Albedo 1, has broken very new ground by making contacts with European masters and apostles of imaginative fiction and producing an issue which features some examples of their work. Australia hasn’t been left out, either. The Editorial explains all: “We thought about the amount of excellent fiction that must be out there in other languages, even if we’re simply looking at Europe. So we talked to the Poles and the Germans and the French and the Swedes, along with a couple of Americans . . . .” Now it would be hard indeed to get any contemporary Irish literature magazine that would devote this kind of energy to escaping the stifling and unmoving satellite of Irish writing. There are reviews, interviews, short stories, even one by Sarah Joan Berniker, whose work has appeared in Playboy. Notice too of the illustrious French journal, Galaxies ( The cover art is mind-blowing. Submissions and enquiries to Why in God’s name isn’t the Arts Council, who fund magazines whose repetitiveness and predictability make them akin to journals kept by inmates in someone’s guest-house, fund this exciting and richly-diverse magazine? Well, I have a story about the why not of it all, and siffice it to say that the Arts Council of the Republic do not take speculative fiction seriously. They don’t see it as literature, dontcha know. One Arts Council personality some years ago declared it would be more than their job was worth to advance the argument. In fact our Council rather ridicule it, which indicates, in truth, that they’d never have funded Orwell to write 1984 or Stoker to complete Dracula. Yet for years they’ve had the neck to keep a portrait of a famous alternative fiction writer and solid Dubliner hanging in their foyer at Merrion Square. Safe to do so, one supposes, because he’s dead and therefore reasonably unlikely to look for funding.

Albedo 1- Issue 37. €5.95. Pbck with card covers in colour. 2, Post Road, Lusk, Co. Dublin, Ireland. ISSN: 0791 - 8534 63pp

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cheating Scum

This is a post about sportsmanship. anyone not interested in fair play should log off now. Unfortunately those not interested in football will probably also bail out.
However, it's not really football I'm going to moan about, though I will be referencing it... a lot.
Last night Ireland played France in Paris in a (football) World Cup qualifier. We were beaten as usual, And we got beaten by a bad refereeing decision. Sour grapes, I hear you think. Well, yes and no. But the goal that put France through was scored after two, not merely one, handballs, an offside in the run up and a possible foul on an Irish defender. The other two incidents can happen, but a guy handling the ball twice - it hit his wrist then he controlled it with his hand - should never go unseen by the officials. And there are a lot of people who feel it would not have gone unseen had it occurred inthe French box. This is not a claim of prejudice on the ref's part merely that he succumbed eventually to the incredible pressure exerted on everyone concerned by FIFA. They made it very clear with every action that they wanted France to qualify. It was probably not the referee rahter the linesman who succumbed to the pressure. The (Irish) players all thought he had a good view of the incident. But he chickened out. The referee had only just refused (correctly - Anelka, the cheating Chelsea ~~~~ dived) a French penalty claim and disallowed a goal for an obvious off side. But he did't see the hand ball.
It was suggested on Irish TV that the player - one Thierry Henry - might have been asked by the referee if he had handled. In other sports players admit to breaking the rules and will sportingly penalise themselves. Henry glanced fearfully towards the lineman - there's a great shot of his horrified/worried face just as the goal goes in - but afterwards he smeared an enormous smug grin over his self-satisfied mug and even claimed o one Irish player that he had not handled, though he later admitted it, insisting that it was accidental. I've played the game. You know when you've handled and you know that although your hand may be drawn instinctively toward sth eball, when I played you would try to stop yourself. Nowadays the dishonesty is so ingrained in the game that even the pundits have accepted that cheating is a vital part of their SPORT. You hear them all the time. "Oh the lad touched him. He had to go down." No, he didn't. Yes you have to fall down when th eother played kickes the legs from under you. But not if he brushes past in an attempt to go for the ball. Throwing yourself to the floor as though shot by a sniper is called CHEATING, in any man's language. But you feel that if a player didn't throw himself to the floor looking for a penalty - when he's got no chance to score but someone has waved a foot near him - then that plyer's manager and club might just fine him a couple of weeks wages. FOR NOT CHEATING. You listen to the ex-players who are now managers or commentators or analysts (yes the word anal is deeply entrenched in there) and all of them will agree that ifyou're touched in any way when in the penalty box it is fair to look for a penalty. it's not. And it's making people sick of the game. That and the way players treat the game. It is not a sport. They are now entertainers. Superstars. Celebrities. So it's all about money.
In the final analysis, that's why Ireland went out of the World Cup last night. France are a bigger draw on television. Worth more money to FIFA and the TV companies. And reall, that's what sport is all about isn't it?
What happened to the sheer joy of taking part? Very soon football will only be ;ayed for money. There will be no-one left who wants to play for the plweasure of it, or for the exercise, or for the social aspects of the game. Because they (which used to be all-important) are now totally unimportant to the game.
What game?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A river in Egypt

Writing has been much on my mind of late, as always. Unfortunately not much has been hitting the page. Yet again life has jumped up and stolen all my free time. At the moment I’m living a Chinese curse – May you live in interesting times. For me interesting is not the half of it right now.

Three months ago my car was set on fire in the driveway of my home. Somebody carefully places a plastic 7 Up bottle on the bonnet (hood in America) and set it alight. I’m pretty sure I know who it was and the Gardai pretty much agree with me. So far, so bad.

Eleven weeks ago my business premises (a shop called Yellow Brick Road) went on fire. Twice. In the space of three days. The second time the Gardai declared it a crime scene, not surprisingly. Fortunately it was quite obviously an electrical fault that caused both of them. Otherwise I’d be writing this from Mountjoy jail.

So, over the past three months I have done almost no writing. But I have done quite a lot of thinking about writing.

So I got to thinking about writer’s block and thinking about writing rather than writing has to be one of the most effective definitions of writer’s block I can think of. I would love to hear other writers’ definitions and anecdotes as WB is something that every writer must fear, if they think about it at all.

But you’ve got a great excuse, I hear you say. There was the car faire and the Gardai and buying a replacement car and the fires in the shop and putting your business back together and all of that stuff.

And you’re right. All of that is valid. But it didn’t eat up all my available time, it simply swallowed all my head-space. I could have sat down ad wrote a short story or maybe even a book review on several occasions during my interesting times. But the point is that I didn’t. Even when I had the time and a touch of motivation. And I have to take responsibility for that.

I don’t claim to have WB but that may be because I am in denial. What I am going to do, however, is take responsibility for the fact hat I haven’t been writing and say that it is one hundred percent my fault. I am in control of my life. If I want to write I will.

Look, Ma, I’m doin’ it right now.