Look Away Now… It’s Irish Writing Kryptonite

Sheep in the rain

The sheep know a fraud when they see one

Tell me. Have you breathed any air, lately? Got up in the morning? Smiled, any time in the last 6 weeks? Yes? Well, pull up a pew, then, because you need to listen to this.

I don’t want to be the girl who cried wolf, here, because that could possibly ruin my cheap and nasty reputation; but I have just realised something, and it would be remiss of me not to make you all listen to it. (This is an extremely serious matter, so pull your chair a bit closer, there.)

An extremely dangerous virus has reached our shores. And the future of Irish writing is in jeopardy.

A dangerous streak of optimism (Futurus Maximus) has been spotted in certain pockets of the country where it had previously  been entirely unknown (mainly Leitrim and Louth; but also any county with a vowel).

Certain mutations of this strain of optimism have been known to wipe out entire waves of success in golf, stand-up comedy, football, big stadium bands, rugby, and river-dancing. And lately, it has been licking at the fringes of Irish literature.

I myself came down with a woeful bout of it, last weekend. At one point, during the Blog Awards, I was wearing a permagrin you could have strained soup through. On Sunday, I was heard singing in the shower (Spandau Ballet, I believe it was).

The problem is, I haven’t been able to write a thing since.

Not Failing Better

What is an Irish writer, without misery? What is literature in this country, without downtrodden, hopeless, damp, grey and scabby existences; without hope of salve or salvation? Where would all our greatest writers have been without the pestilence of addiction, poverty, desperation, anger, bitterness, along with the tendency to pretend that things are worse than they are, and that they care less than they actually do?

They’d be on the slush pile – that’s where. A thousand literary giants lurking on desks, never to be published because nobody wants their stories of bunnies and kittens and empowerment and enlightenment and happy childhoods and fulfilling careers, that’s where. Sure, half of them wouldn’t have written a word in the first place. They’d have been too content.

Generations of great Irish writers have successfully combined a putrid existence with ironic irreverence for misery in order to produce great works of art. They knew where the money was (it was in poverty. Or failing that, pugilism), and they followed it. And all the best writers had dank tales of denigration. Real success didn’t sit well with them at all: no sir. Great accolades were welcome only after death.

But with all this talk in the country of positive economic outlook and new jobs and hopes for the future; what with this making people think they might be on some sort of creative right track by handing out awards willy-nilly to bloggers from the West of Ireland without so much as a thought for what it’ll do to their genetically ingrained pessimism, we can kiss goodbye to artistic success.

This is what success does to Irish writers

This is what success does to Irish writers

You mark my words: unless someone dunks this country under a cold shower very soon, there will never be another Irish Costa or IMPAC winner, Hozier won’t take over the world like we planned (thus wasting three years’ hard graft by six government quangos, and Bono), and the Football Association of Ireland will be forced to join up with the Faroe Islands in order to field a team. And I won’t be able to write another word.

Oh, there’s the rain, now. Batin’ off of the window like a long grey streak of pain. Thank God.

  35 comments for “Look Away Now… It’s Irish Writing Kryptonite

  1. October 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

    That reminds me–I must leave a four star review on Goodreads for Brendan Behan’s Other Island–one of the comic masterpieces of the last sixty years.


    • October 9, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Only 4 stars, eh?! Well, your mention of Brendan Behan has reminded me to finish my second bottle of whiskey before midday. Just after I finish this fight. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 9, 2014 at 11:53 am

        Ah, Jaysus, I give five stars to very few. Three means “I like it” and four says, “This is special”.


        • October 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          Now that’s a review system I can get on board with! I hereby give 4 stars to your reviewing system, which is a very good mark I must say


  2. October 9, 2014 at 11:39 am

    LOL – LOVE IT Tara 😀


  3. October 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    If YOU are:
    (a) An Author
    (b) Got ANY Irish in you at all
    Pay Attention to what Tara is saying and get busy being MISERABLE so your creativity returns LOL 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. October 9, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Very good Tara – having lived in Louth and needed a passport to get into Meath for several years I can appreciate the oft heard term “When will it stop” which seemed to apply to the weather rain or shine or any other event that might occur. I am Irish on my mother’s side with my ancestral roots in deepest Cork – my husband is a full blood Celtic warrior from Waterford and I must say I felt inspired when the grey dome of clouds encompassed the whole of the country for weeks on end. It is still the only country in the world that I have lived or travelled in where you can walk into a pub and be friends with everyone within half an hour. Great place to moan about in!!


    • October 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      You mean to say the clouds here inspired you?! I’m not sure if they’re inspiring as much as so debilitating that every poor creature here ends up writing a book just to escape from themselves for a while! Come back soon 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Let me get this straight…. This warning only applies if you’re “q-Celtic” and not “p-Celtic”? (Look at all those names in Wales that look like they don’t have any vowels, at all.) Has anybody warned Seumas Gallacher that his ancient Hibernian DNA puts him at risk? And what about those of us who haven’t any Irish, but who hail from the continental Celts, like 1/2-Gallic me? (Caesar said, “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” Does it matter which part you come from? Like, maybe Pas-de-Calais, hm?) Since my Irish novel is doing so poorly in rankings at A Major Online Retailer, am I protected? What’s the HSE doing about all this? We can’t afford to wait for results from another judicial-commission-tribunal inquiry – we’re depending on you, Tara!


    • October 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      Haha!! I think the only thing needed to qualify for misery is an Irish accent. Therefore the rest of you can be as you were, merrily skipping through fields of blossoms, safe in the knowledge that no depths of despair or HSE-facilitated torture are required for the making of your literature. Then you go and kick some Major Online Retailer Ass.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks, Tara. I’ll get down to misery just as soon as I can. We can’t have this optimism ruining a perfectly good record, now can we?


    • October 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Good grief, no, Richard. Just remember, if you’re stuck, misery is one of Ireland’s biggest exports now, and I know where I can get you some. Cheap.


  7. MF
    October 10, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Ah, you Irish (and other Gauls?) are funny. I laugh at your misery…in a good way!


    • October 10, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Misery is no laughing matter. Unless you’re drunk when you’re telling the tale, of course.


      • MF
        October 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm

        Yep. I was drunk when I read your post. Love that whiskey (but I drink bourbon, not Irish whiskey. Sorry.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. October 10, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Sorry, Tara, but you brightened my morning with this post! So, let me get this straight…misery is to you Irish like failure is to us Scots? Inspiring? Ah! Got it! So, if I stop trying to succeed, I’ll maybe earn a bob or two with my writing. Hmmm…..
    Great post. Love it 🙂


    • October 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Yes, you have that straight – but here, now. I’m just going to have to pack this in entirely if I’m raising people’s spirits, aren’t I? Next thing you know I’ll have moved to sunny Spain or something and listening to dance music. Seriously, if November wasn’t on its way – and you Scots know all about Novembers – I’d be worried. At least we have darkness and storms to look forward to.


  9. October 10, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    My Irish eyes are smiling, but of course the rest of my face is in a frown


  10. hilarycustancegreen
    October 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Very good! I think you can always rely on the rain.


    • October 10, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Oh yes. You definitely can. (Unless, I suppose, you live in a frozen tundra)


  11. Ali Isaac
    October 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I have always thought that misery, suffering and poverty were the pre-requisites which sparked artistic endeaver, but I didnt realise it was an Irish thing… must be those Irish genes inherited from my nameless great-granddaddy I never knew I had till I came to live here coming to the fore… nature versus nurture, I guess!


    • October 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      It’s the genes, without a doubt, Ali – combined with the 224,031 clouds which pass over your head every day in this country. You didn’t have a chance, it was coming at you from both sides!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. October 12, 2014 at 1:47 am

    You make a big fist of a blog!. In Heinrich Boll’s “Irish Journal” he wrote of Irish rain: “The rain here is absolute, magnificent and frightening. To call this rain bad weather is as inappropriate as to call Scorching sunshine fine weather”

    I have walked through Irish rain. Not for a while now. So what if the famine has passed, the troubles largely diffused and the property bubble popped ? – there’ll always be the rain to water the discontent in the hearts of the curmudgeonly optimist who secretly relishes the Irish pain.

    I shall be reading your stuff……………… until you give up of course.


    • October 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      A true Irishwoman could never give up on misery! So I think I’ll scribble awhile yet. Thanks for your kind words.


  13. October 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Lovely Sunday morning reading Tara. I’m stuck too, if that is any consolation. Even the weather is great today. I haven’t a chance of writing anything. (Is that smoke coming from the kitchen?).


    • October 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      If that was smoke, I hope you capitalised by hanging some fish in it. Yes, today is dreadfully sunny and bright. I made things worse by going for a disgustingly lovely walk by the sea. If your kitchen’s still on fire I might come out and burn my manuscripts in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. October 13, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  15. October 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I’m going to come to Dublin and write a book entitled, Murdering Puppies, and it will sell like cheeseburgers and coke. And you’ll all be saved, but the title will still make you gloomy, and a new wave of anxious creativity will be born. No, really, don’t thank me. It’s an honour. Is that a puppy you’re hiding there….


    • October 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      “Anxious creativity”… Now why don’t they teach that in university?? Hmmm? [Down, Fido!]


      • October 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

        They don’t teach it, they just induce it. Generally the day before an essay is due.

        Liked by 1 person

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