If you didn't tune into The Reading Room last Thursday, our virtual event featuring Sinead Gleeson, Liz Nugent, Patrick Freyne and Naoise Dolan, then what were you thinking? Luckily, we've rounded up the authors these Irish writers have recommended for you to read...
In conversation with IMAGE editorial director Dominique McMullan last Thursday, Irish authors Sinead Gleeson (Constellations), Liz Nugent (Our Little Cruelties), Patrick Freyne (OK, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea) and Naoise Dolan (Exciting Times) discussed all things literary in lockdown.
During the hour-long event, which was in partnership with An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards, we found out where some of our leading writers draw their inspiration from, what it was like publishing work during a pandemic and how they think the current climate will impact literature of the future.
We also asked them who their favourite authors were, so we could share the recommendations with you, the IMAGE reader, so you can enjoy your own Reading Room.
Sinead Gleeson recommends...
"For loads of reasons I always say Maggie Nelson, because she's so mercurial. She writes poetry, cultural critiques, non-fiction novels - she's brilliant. A book I always say, because it's got my favourite opening line of all time, is Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, a phenomenal woman of colour who was completely forgotten until Alice Walker of Colour Purple fame, found her pauper's grave and resurrected her, metaphorically. Their Eyes Were Watching God is a brilliant book about race, inequality, slavery and I'm always buying it for people.
"My third writer is Anne Enright, because I think she led the way for so many writers in Ireland, particularly women. She still goes out of her way to champion others and speak up for female voices. She's incredibly funny and somebody who writes brilliant non-fiction, incredible reviews, her novels we all know are wonderful."
Patrick Freyne recommends...
"My favourite writers change every few years. I think my brain rewires as I get older and sometimes things I read when I was younger I didn't get. At the moment my favourite novelist is probably Muriel Spark, because I only read her for the first time a few years ago and I was just blown away by how beautifully cold she is on the page. I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori and The Driver's Seat in a row. I've also come to the conclusion I really like short books. These are really short books that feel like epics, which I think is an amazing act of compression. I love writers who can compress so much information into short amounts of prose.
"I keep reading books I should have read years and years ago and somehow missed. I recently read Nuala O'Faolain's Are You Somebody?. which I know I should have read when it came out 20 years ago and I know I should have read it before I ever picked up a pen and wrote anything memoir-related. It was like I haven't done my ABCs when I read that book, because it's just such a beautiful, ridiculously honest book about somebody's life and it's painful to read and that's actually one of the big things I've learned from the recent wave of - usually female - essayists, is that you need to have something at stake when you're writing personal. It can't just be light and frothy all the time."
Liz Nugent recommends...
"My memory is so bad I'll probably just tell you the last three books I've read! I know I'm coming to these books late, because they were all published last year, but I really enjoyed Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other. It was a stunning examination of black women's experiences - black British women in particular - and how it all ties up in the end is just so cleverly done.
"Anne Enright's Actress. I listened to that on Audible and Anne performs it herself and, my God, does she have the acting chops to do it. It's such a pleasure to listen to and she really gives it socks, it's great.
"Sebastian Barry, A Thousand Moons, I thought was wonderful and Donal Ryan's forthcoming Strange Flowers. I loved Sheena Kamal, a Canadian-Asian author whose written a book called No Going Back, it's a gritty crime thriller set in the glitzy and gritty side of Vancouver."
Naoise Dolan recommends...
"I recently wrote a gushing column about Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman and it's the book I recommend to pretty much anyone who claims they don't enjoy reading novels. I'm trying to think of the right adjectives, I just really love it.
"I love Zadie Smith, she's a thorough education in everything. I think it's apparent in anything you read of hers that she's consumed and synthesised a huge range of other literature, taken the best of it and packaged it for you. I think there's an argument that if you're only going to read one Anglophone writer, make it Zadie Smith.
"And Elena Ferrante, what I find fascinating is that I read an article on her translating process where an Italian speaker was arguing that the original Italian 'wasn't as good' as the translation. I don't speak nearly enough Italian to comment on that but if that's true, what that suggests to me isn't that she's a bad writer, but that her strength is her quality of her emotional dynamics and stuff beyond the mere wording. That's definitely what I take from her books. You just get swept up in the feelings."
An Post in the sponsor of the Irish Book Awards. Follow The Reading Room on social with #ReadersWanted. For more on IMAGE's virtual events, see here.
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