Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dave Lordan A Question and Answer Session with the Author of The First Book of Frags

March 1 to March 31
Dave Lordan

If you are interested in participating in Irish Short Story Month Year III, please E-Mail me. 

I am very grateful to Dave Lordan, author of First Book of Frags, for taking the time to participate in a Question and Answer Session on The Reading Life.

The Frags in The First Book of Frags by Dave Lordan are really amazing reads, very original, more than a bit demented, and they will for sure make you laugh and at times gasp in a mixture of shock and delight.  There are things to offend almost everyone in these Frags.  There is really a tremendous lot in these works to like and enjoy and they will certainly make you think.  I will concede the ultra prudish might be offended and I think they are supposed to be by how women are treated.   This a deeply creative book.  The frags at times do not have so much of a consciously created feel but seem as if they were dictations from the consciousness of a wired for destruction Ireland.  The frags do exhibit the themes I have talked of this month.  Namely those of the weak or absent Irish father, the escape in drink and now cocaine, the way in which the Irish hide behind the persona of the stage Irish, and the way in which Irish literature feeds upon itself, which is part of why it is so rich.   The stories in here are almost a new form or for sure at least a new development of an old one.  We also see how the Irish use their history to shield themselves from the reality of Ireland.  I hope to read many more frags from Dave Lordan.  I know I will never achieve a right brained grasp of them and I am not working toward that goal anyway. 

My post on The First Book of Frags is here

Author Data 

Dave Lordan is the first writer to win his country’s three major prizes for young poets. He was the 2011 Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award winner and is a previous winner of both the Patrick Kavanagh and Strong Awards for poetry. He has won wide acclaim for his writing and is a renowned performer of his own work, with the Irish Times calling him 'as brilliant on the page as he is in performance'. He has read his work by invitation at festivals and venues across Europe and North America. His collections are the The Boy in The Ring (2007) and Invitation to a Sacrifice (2010), both published by Salmon Poetry ( His poems are regularly broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and he reviews for many publications including The Stinging Fly, of which he is a contributing editor. He teaches contemporary poetry and critical theory at the Mater Dei Institute of Dublin City University and he teaches creative writing at primary, secondary, third, and adult education levels. He blogs on writing at

Q & A Session

 If you had to say, who do you regard as the three best ever short story writers?  James Joyce, Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver.
  1.  I have read lots of Indian and American short stories in addition to Irish and alcohol plays a much bigger part in the Irish stories.   How should an outsider take this and what does it say about Irish culture.   The use of Cocaine plays a big part in some of the Frags, does this sort of signify a higher need for stimulation than drinking can provide? Or is it a switch from a slow depressant to a fast celebratory drug a comment on what is going on in the Ireland of the Frags. I think the point about drugs - among which i include alcohol of course - is the fact that we use them to change ourselves physiologically, spiritually, morally.  Taking drugs allows us to things do we would never do otherwise, though we may urgently wish to do these things while sober as well. Irish people spend a lot of the time doing things they would never do otherwise. In fact the birth rate in Ireland would be zero if it weren’t for drink, as everyone knows. The imagination, with its serotin and dopamine, is a most dangerous , intoxicating chemical cocktail itself and absolutely everyone abuses it. Excessive drug use  obviously has ceremonial-shamanic origins in deep human history. We get out of our boxes to mark important events, like births, wakes, and Friday evenings. Although they themselves are utterly routine, these ceremonious events induce us to imagine we are transcending the doom of normal circumstances. Altered-state ceremonies like ‘the session’ colour our  illusions. The two stories which have cocaine in them in this book are connected with ceremonies, altered states, and illusions, and with the idea of the imagination - our ability to bullshit ourselves and believe in bullshit- as the drug that really fucks us up.
    2.  Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing Irish father and husband?   Do you think he is right and how does this, if it does, reveal itself in your work.  Do we see that in the attitude of the husband in "Dr. Essler's Cocaine" who lets his wife serve drinks naked to Nazi Party members and stands by while she is gang raped? of course he has in mind she will be paid for her services.  My idea really is that there is no father but an imagined one, so to describe him as weak or missing is misleading. Where is Hamlet’s father, for example? Nowhere until we imagine him. Again it's our seeming need to believe in a father, even though there is and can be no father, that does the damage, not the so-called damaging father.  Although I would go along, in irish life anyway, with Lacan’s idea of The Obscene Father - the one who, either through example or inducement,   encourages us to be transgressive, obscene, evil, corrupt, sleazy, self-destructive. This obscene father is a visionary in the sense that he clearly realises that there is nothing beyond the senses to experience or please, but also that it is necessary to cloak one’s lust and greed in romance and poetry in order to better get away with indulging them. This is the IRISH FATHER, as I have fathered him in my imagination.

    3. A character in an Ali Smith short story, asks in a conversation on the merits of short stories versus novels ""Is the short story a goddess and nymph and is the novel an old whore?"    Does this make a bit of sense to you?  Are Frags either nymphs or whores?  will a frag have sex with you for cocaine for free? while a novel will except your Amex Card?  This makes no sense whatsoever to me. I think to attach vicious gender stereotypes to literary forms in this manner is reactionary and cretinous.
     "I think these stories do need to be read in the culture context of 20th and 21th century Ireland and European history and culture.  Maybe these stories are in part a development of these words from the master:  '"Do you know what Ireland is?  asked Stephen with cold violence.  Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow" -from my post-right, wrong, totally nuts?
    I think Ireland is a Vietnamese potbellied pig in the morning, a crow at midday, a snoring goat in the afternoon, a troll at teatime.....Honestly, Ireland is a state of the imagination that motivates and benefits some and fucks up, exploits and discourages the most of us, and that’s all ‘Ireland’ ever was or will be.

    4.  Why have the Irish produced such a disproportional to their population number of great writers? They haven’t. That’s a load of crap invented and sustained by crap irish writers to keep themselves going, literary hacks to fill copy,  and tourism schemers to make money. We have produced maybe three or four great writers. Half a dozen at the outside. By these I mean those writers such as Joyce and Beckett, who sustained an output of genius over a lifetime. We have many other writers who wrote in brilliant flashes, like Hartnett and Kavanagh, but did not sustain it enough, nor indeed transcend their ‘irishness’ enough, to be called great or be really significant other than on a provincial scale.

    5.   (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."  

     Some of my best friends are fairies, and not only that-some of my best friends are fairies who do not believe in humans. And they certainly do not believe in Ireland. And I agree with them. Humans are the truly impossible creatures. And Ireland is not a place, but a proposal. A proposal which, like the fairies, I do not accept. But it’s there alright.

    6.   When you write, do you picture somehow a potential audience or do you just write? I just write. When I’m writing I’m too involved to care or even acknowledge anyone else. It’s when I finish writing and run out of inspiration that I get needy and start looking for an audience.

    7.  How important are the famines to the modern Irish psyche? 

    Judging on the amount of times the famines get brought up in routine conversation they are not the slightest bit important. No one has ever struck up a conversation with me about the famine. Irish people are worried these days about their own lives and security and futures, and that is what they talk about when they stop talking about football and dieting and Desperate Housewives.

    8. Does the character of the "stage Irishman" live on still in the heavy drinking, violent, on the dole characters one finds in many contemporary Irish novels and short stories?  I saw a mocking of this figure in several of the frags?   Are the people in "Christmas Crackers" stage Irish to the max?

    I don’t understand the difference between stage Irish and real irish. Would the real Irish please stand up? I myself have never encountered anything real on my travels around Ireland.

    9..     Do you think Irish Travelers should be granted the status of a distinct ethnic group and be given special rights to make up for past mistreatment?  are the Travelers to the Irish what the Irish were once to the English?  I became interested in this question partially through reading the short stories of Desmond Hogan.

     I think Irish travelers should be allowed any political status they wish. There should be a commission of inquiry into the treatment of travelers since independence. Travelers should have their own TV and radio stations just like settled people do. They should, if they wish, have their own university of traveler culture, knowledge and creativity. I one hundred per cent support the rights of travelers and their struggle for justice, equality and dignity. But travelers are not a homogenous group, no more than settled people are. I support the struggle of traveler women, for example, for freedom and equality within and without the traveler community.

    10.  W. B. Yeats and Lord Dunsany-real revolutionaries or just posers?

      I know plenty of real revolutionaries who are posers. Yeats was certainly a poser who magnificently and self-servingly overestimated his own importance in the Irish revolution. I don’t know much about Lord Dunsany. You better ask the fairies about him.

    11. your bio just talks about your writing career

    -have you had "real world" non-teaching jobs. On farms and in bakeries, factories, buildings sites, pubs, and latterly in schools. I started working part time at 11 or 12 and have been working ever since.

    12.  OK let us close out on this note-what is your reaction these lines from a famous Irish poet?

    I was born to the stink of whiskey and failure 
    And the scattered corpse of the real. 
    This is my childhood and country: 
    The cynical knowing smile 
    Plastered onto ignorance 
    Ideals untarnished and deadly 
    Because never translated to action 
    And everywhere 
    The sick glorification of failure. 
    Our white marble statues were draped in purple 
    The bars of the prison were born in our eyes 
    And if reality ever existed 
    It was a rotten tooth 
    That couldn't be removed. Michael O'Loughlin 

    That’s an excellent verse by an excellent poet who I have long admired. Every word of it rings true with me.

    My great thanks to Dave Lordan for his very interesting answers.   I look forward to read more of his frags.  

    I plan very soon to read his "The Underground" in Long Story Short.

    I again offer my thanks to Dave Lordan for taking the time to do this. I hope to follow his writing career as best I can.

    mel u

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