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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

John Brady Q and A Session with the author of "The Streets of San Francisco"

March 1 to April 7
Q & A Session with John Brady, author of
"The Streets of San Francisco"

There is much to come for ISSM3, other than just me blathering on endlessly.  I have decided to extend the event until April 7, this will also give anyone who wishes to participate the opportunity.
Please contact me should you be interested.  

I first became acquainted with the writing of John Brady when I read a very good story of his (you can read my post on it here and it  contains a link to the story) in one of my favorite online literary journals, The Bohemyth - A Literary Journal.  They recently had an issue devoted to stories inspired by American Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.  San Francisco was the Holy City of the Beat Generation and Brady's story is about the adventures of a young Irishman, in contemporary America, living out his dreams of the city.

Author Bio (from his webpage)

John P. Brady is an Irish writer, blogger and freelance journalist.  He divides his time between Dublin, Ireland and Sicily, Italy.  His interests include travel writing, social comment and short stories.
He formerly wrote for Dime Zine, an independent publication based in Dublin, under the name Peter Pescado.  He also contributed articles to Irish American News and has short stories published by Roadside Fiction and The Galway Review. He is currently working in Sicily as a teacher and translator.
He is available to write feature articles on social, travel, and comic issues.

  • He has a BA International in Ancient History and Spanish from University College Dublin.
  • He speaks fluent Italian and has studied an additional year of Medieval History in Italy.  He has a strong interest in Italian culture, food and history.
  • He was a music teacher for 3 years.  Areas of interest include Traditional Irish Music, Progressive Rock, Folk and Jazz.
  • He worked in the Tourism business for 7 years.  This experience has helped him to write colourful and effective Travel articles and short stories.
  • He has lived abroad in the USA, the UK and Italy.
Principally a storyteller, he conveys by means of personal accounts and impressions, something of the “other” life that is often considered not fashionable enough to be covered by everyone.
He is from Ireland and when fortunate enough to be back there, spends most of his time enjoying the fantastic culture, music and company of people that can be found in Dublin’s fair city.
He has undertaken sizeable travel to destinations such as:
ItalyRome, Naples, Cinqueterra, Milan, Turin, Genoa, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Rimini, Riccione, Ravenna, Lucca, Viareggio, Livorno, Cecina.
SicilyCatania, Palermo, Syracuse, Taormina, Trapani, Marsala, Agrigento, Ragusa, Messina, Cefalu, Milazzo.
Sardinia: Alghero, Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari.
France: Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, Carcassonne, Narbonne, Rodez, Albi, Lourdes.

You can learn more about his work on his very interesting webpage.

John P Brady is currently working on his first collection of stories. For news on this and other
projects he is involved with, please visit his website and subscribe for updates.

Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing father?  Do you agree with this? 

I have to say that I haven’t noticed this at all.  In terms of short stories, the usual type that features in a collection of Irish short stories or even the few that are published in certain newspapers generally fail to impress me.  They are often concerned with dull subject matters and are usually based in the 1950’s.  The need for modern stories written by modern writers that actually relate to and concern our lives today is immediate and essential.  The only place to find such material today is in online literary journals.  I started Roadside Fiction 7 months ago (under a different name) to provide this necessary outlet for stories that actually have something to say or an event to recount.  I am not concerned with stories which rely on endless description or characters, locations or moods without having any worthwhile event to recount.  This week I will publish the third issue for which I have received a huge number of quality submissions.  The link is here:

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?    

Well we do have Guinness and Jameson, would that have anything to do with it?  We do have a troubled relationship with alcohol in Ireland but so do other nationalities.  Many young Americans for example, go out with the precise intention of getting wasted.  The Spanish regularly perform the ritual of ‘botellon’ and the Germans have a legendary love for pils and weiss beer.  The difference seems to be in the pressure that Irish people put on each other to drink.

Why did you pick Sicily as an Italian place of residence? The stereo type of Sicily is that of place where it would take many years for a stranger to be accepted, is this correct at all?

The Sicilian language coupled with their strange variety of Italian is obviously the first hurdle one must overcome.  It would be like living in Ireland but not having the power of speech.  How would you communicate?  Here I discovered immediately that most people have a low level of English proficiency.  Speaking English therefore was not an option as outside of a few hoteliers and waiters it is not used.  
Some language students have tried to corner me in social situations and attempted to speak atrocious English at me.  There is no option but to pull out this line: ‘Excuse me, I’ll be back in a moment!’  

Even after years here certain people still ask: ‘You’re still here?’ For them the idea of settling in Sicily is beyond incomprehensible.  I have found Sicilians to be great people though, extremely open and friendly.  Those who are less friendly are the more marginalised and uneducated of the community, but as they speak only Sicilian, I rarely get to know them.

I sometimes wonder why such a disproportionate amount of the regarded as great literature of the world is written in the colder temperate zones rather than in the tropics.   How big a factor do you think the Irish Weather is in shaping the literary output of its writers?   I cannot imagine The Brothers Karamazov being written on a tropical island, for example.  If Ireland were located in the south Pacific would the literary output be radically changed?

Look, if the sun is shining I’m likely to go to the park or the beach, if it’s hailing I might write that story I was thinking about.  Aside from that very basic example, dull weather forces us as people to contemplate more and to perhaps brood.  We lack vitamin D and make up for it with stout and a yarn.
Let’s see if this new generation of emigrants can produce anything legible and we can have the answer to this question in ten years perhaps.Your bio data says in your undergrad work you focused on ancient history. This is one of my interests also and I was wondering what areas you were most drawn to? Are you very interested in Ancient Irish history or is it largely unknowable compared to Roman?

I studied the civilisations, wars and works of literature and art from a period of time which has shaped modern life.  Luckily beyond the Roman and Greek histories I also studied some medieval history which explored the fall out after the conquest of Rome by the Huns, Vandals and Goths.  The history of the Mediterranean has more sources and better preserved sites and so is easier to get into than Irish history.  Of course, Irish history interests me greatly, even though it is at times desperately sad.

Are you willing to generalize a bit about the differences between Italians and the Irish? There was a time when Italy was viewed by UK residents almost as the exotic tropics where anything goes-grand tours always included a stop in Venice- are their forms of behavior accepted in one place and not the other?

I can explain by example: If you have been used to drinking a beer or glass of wine inside a bar after work in your home country, you will not do it too often in Sicily.  Here drinking is done standing in the street outside bars or if you are lucky, sitting in one of the few tables they put out.  
Enormous fuss is put into the service of the drink and one may have to wait 5 minutes to be served or even acknowledged.  Often bar staff will stand ignoring their clients while they discuss politics, the weather or their love lives.  This is normal and should not be taken personally even if you are clearly waiting for service.  In the evening they are never in a rush to take your order.
The difference between Irish and Italians is one of the predominant subjects of my blog about Italy.  I have examined this in greater detail here:

When you write, do you picture somehow a potential audience or do you just write?

‘The important thing is to write, not to talk about writing.’ Charles Bukowski.

How important are the famines to the modern Irish psyche?  

I think they are largely forgotten, as is the brutality of our former oppressors.  It lives on in songs such as Ian St John’s wonderful ‘Fields of Athenry.’ Certain parts of history such as 1916 have shaped our country in a stronger way.  But this is just my opinion.
13.  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?

This character will and should be given eternal life.
William Butler Yeats said in "The Literary Movement"-- "“The popular poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats and defeated persons”.    I see a similarity of this to the heroes of the Philippines.  American heroes were all victors, they won wars and achieved independence.   The national heroes of the Philippines were almost all ultimately failures, most executed by the Spanish or American rulers.   How do you think the fact Yeats is alluding too, assuming you agree, has shaped Irish literature

Courage under fire and in seemingly impossible situations is a trait we Irish value highly.  For this reason it has entered the Irish psyche and also our literature.  Yeats is comparing a country that sought to bring peace and religion to its neighbours (through the work of Irish monks etc) with another that sought to invade, conquer and reshape through violence.
"To creative artists may have fallen the task of explaining what no historian has fully illuminated – the reason why the English came to regard the Irish as inferior and barbarous, on the one hand, and, on the other, poetic and magical."-is this right?  Kiberd, Declan (2009-05-04). Inventing Ireland (p. 646).

Throughout history the English have regarded everyone outside of England as barbarous.  There is evidence for their low regard of the Mediterranean and its inhabitants throughout the literature of the 1800’s.  The Greeks coined the term ‘barbarian’
barbaros for anyone who was not Greek, and it was later used by the Romans.  It was often used in reference to tribal societies, as ours was and still remains to a certain extent.  This has nothing to do with Ireland and its people; it is a symptom of empire.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 this is a very interesting question but I am neither a politician nor an anthropologist and therefore cannot answer.  It’s better for me to not speculate on things of such importance.

What is the best three day one city non-Roman heavy duty art and history stop?

Florence is the must see city in Italy.  Everything else is inferior in terms of art.  Lecce is also worth visiting.

What time is "The Streets of San Francisco" set-i tried to date it via the music references which came back to mid 1980s or so?

The story is set in the modern day or rather 5 years ago when I was there.  That was during the US recession, before it really took hold in Ireland.

Do you prefer e reading or traditional books?

I prefer traditional books but increasingly I am reading e-books or being amazed by literary journals online.

When you are outside Ireland, besides friends and family, what do you miss the most?   What are you glad to be away from?

The cliché is true, I miss the craic.  The Irish are just great craic and have a low tolerance for people talking themselves up.  ‘Ah cop yerself on, will ya!’  We are a very genuine people.  I’m of course glad to be away from the weather!

Can you tell us a bit about your work experiences outside of the literary world?

I have taught English, worked in bars, taught guitar and music theory, worked in a Bed and Breakfast and a hotel, worked in construction…there are many other jobs also.  I was quite the factotum!

How do you find Italian schools and students versus Irish?

In Italy the exams are almost all oral and the students study much harder.  They spend weeks preparing for one exam, which lasts 20 minutes.

Flash Fiction-how driven is the popularity of this form by social media like Twitter and its word limits?

Flash fiction probably has the potential to rival short stories in the near future.  Social media is leading the drive towards the short and immediate.

Your story "On the Streets of San Francisco" was in an issue of The Bohemyth-A Literary Journal devoted to the beat generation in America-have you read works like "Howl" by Alan Ginsburg and On the Road?

Yes I’ve read both.  I listened to a performance of Howl which I was very impressed with.  I believe this is the best way to enjoy this form.  

Like Bob Dylan was in the 60’s, I was totally blown away by ‘On the Road.’  When I read it I was 24, a perfect age to read such a book.  I waited a month or two and had to reread it finding it just as enjoyable second time around.  The world needs more books like this and less monotonous work that lacks movement.

Quick Picks

Dining out for dinner with someone else paying-best Irish restaurant in dublin or best italian in Rome-where do you go?

In Italy you must find a restaurant where no one speaks English and where there the menu is not in English.  Some of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Italy don’t even have menus.  They casually mention a few things and you pick one.

City with the biggest literary ego in Ireland?


Italian and Irish mothers both have reputations as almost smothering their sons -which deserves it more?

Italian mothers are totally overwhelming to an extent that is neither natural nor healthy.

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

I’m not given to anti-nationalism, neither am I to depressive self-depreciation.  Therefore this type of poetry, however well written and beautiful, has no place on my shelf!  I prefer positivity both in people and in prose.  Life can be hard at times and art is essentially an escape from this, therefore why not make it positive?
End of Q and A

John P Brady is currently working on his first collection of stories.  For news on this and other projects he is involved with, please visit his website and subscribe for updates.

I thank John Brady very much for the time and thought he put into his answers and I hope to read and post on his first collection of short stories soon.

No comments: