Bernard MacLaverty

1942- ; b. 14 Sept. in Belfast; ed. Holy Family Primary School, Belfast; worked for ten years as laboratory technician at QUB before taking an English degree there in 1974, followed by Dip.Ed.; awarded bursary by Northern Arts Council for his short stories, 1975; moved to Edinburgh with his wife and four children, 1975; taught English at St. Augustin’s High School from 1975-78; published his first story collection as Secrets and Other Stories (1977), winning an award from Scottish Arts Council; lived on the Isle of Islay as a teacher, 1978-81, before moving to Glasgow as full-time writer; issued Lamb (1980), a tragic novel about a troubled boy’s abduction from an institution by the religious brother who cares for him, marked by sacrificial symbols from scripture and mythology; issued A Time to Dance and Other Stories (1982);
issued Cal (1983), a novel dealing with murder, self-inflicted communal violence, and political sacrifice among nationalists in the Northern Troubles, featuring Grünewald’s crucifix as a symbol in the text; later filmed with Stephen Rea acting, dir. by Colin Gregg and scripted by MacLaverty (2003); issued The Great Profundo (1987), a short-story collection; also Walking the Dog (1994), containing 17 stories, each second one being a much shorter post-modernist piece in italics; published A Man in Search of A Pet (1978) and Mochua the Monk (1978), children’s books which he illustrated himself; authored radio and tv plays such as My Dear Palestrina (1980); and a wrote a screenplay of Somerville and Ross’s The Real Charlotte (1989); appt. tutor at Listowel Writers’ Week, 1988;
issued Grace Notes (1997), a novel concerning Catherine McKenna, a scholarship musician who escapes her Ulster-Catholic background but returns for her father’s funeral; the novel strikes a non-sectarian note when she incorporates the Lambeg drum in her latest symphony, in appreciation of its approach to ‘pure sound’; shortlisted for the Booker and Whitbread Prizes; acted as successful broadcaster on BBC3 (classical music), 1998-2000, quitting due to erosion of his writing-time; wrote and directed Bye-Child (2003), nominated for BAFTA ‘Best Short Film’; received the Lord Provost of Glasgow Award for Literature, 2005;
issued The Anatomy School (2001), a growing-up novel dealing with familial distances, school-leaving, friendship, and sexual initiation; wrote a play, The Woman From The North (2007); a story-collection, Matters of Life and Death (2010), was shortlisted for the Internat. Frank O’Connor Prize; scripted versions of his fiction for as plays for radio and TV, as well as screenplays and libretti - viz., “The King’s Conjecture” with music by Gareth Williams and “The Letter” with music by Vitaly Khodosh, both for the Scottish Opera in 2012; also “The Elephant Angel”, with Williams, an opera for schools which toured in Scotland and Northern Ireland; his Collected Storiesappeared from Jonathan Cape in 2013; issued Midwinter Break(2017), in which Gerry and Stella, a Northern-Irish elderly couple review their life together, past and future, in Amsterdam; he teaches on the creative writing programme of the Irish and Scottish Studies Research Inst. at the University of Aberdeen; his papers are held at Emory University, Atlanta. DIL FDA OCIL
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Short Fiction
  • Secrets and Other Stories (Belfast: Blackstaff 1977), Do. (NY: Viking 1984).
  • A Time to Dance and Other Stories (London: Cape; NY: George Braziller 1982).
  • The Great Profundo and Other Stories (London: Cape; Belfast: Blackstaff 1987), Do. (London: Vintage 1997), Do. (NY: Grove 1988).
  • Walking the Dog and Other Stories (Belfast: Blackstaff; London: Jonathan Cape 1994), 198pp..
  • Matters of Life & Death & Other Stories(London: Jonathan Cape 2006), 231pp.
  • Collected Stories(London: Jonathan Cape 2013), q.pp.
  • Lamb (London: Cape; NY: George Braziller; Belfast: Blackstaff 1980), Do. (London: Vintage 2000), 160pp.
  • Cal (London: Cape; NY: George Braziller; Belfast: Blackstaff 1983), Do. (London: Vintage 1998), 160pp
  • Grace Notes (London: Cape 1997), Do. (London: Vintage 1998), 288pp.
  • The Anatomy School (London: Jonathan Cape 2001), 362pp.
  • Midwinter Break: A Novel (London: Jonathan Cape: NY: W. W. Norton & Co. 2017)
Children’s Fiction
  • A Man in Search of a Pet (Belfast: Blackstaff 1978).
  • Mochua the Monk (Belfast; Blackstaff 1978).
  • Andrew McAndrew,written by Bernard Mac Laverty, ill. by Duncan Smith (London: Walker 1989), [80]pp.
  • The Best of Bernard Mac Laverty: Short Stories [New Windmills] (London: Heinemann [1990]), 113pp. [for schools].
  • The King’s conjecture, music by Gareth Williams; libretto by Bernard MacLaverty (Royal College of Music 2008), 72pp. [opera].
Miscellaneous (incls.)
  • ‘Postscript’, in Last Before America - Irish and American Writing: Essays in Honour of Michael Allen, ed. Fran Brearton & Eamonn Hughes (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2001), p.212-13.
  • Introduction to Work - New Scottish Writing [The Scotsman & Orange Short Story Collection 2006] (Edinburgh: Polygon 2006), xiii, 209pp.
  • ‘Just try to write. You can do it better tomorrow’, “My Writing Day” [series], The Guardian (26 Aug. 2017) [see extracts].

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  • Bernard MacLaverty [Writers in Brief, 20] (1986), 1 folded sh.; port..
  • K. Smith, ‘Interview with Bernard MacLaverty’, in Gown Literary Supplement (1986) [Hibernia Books 1996], [q.p.].
  • Joseph McMinn, ‘Literary Clichés Out of Chaos’, in Fortnight 213 (Feb. 1985), pp.4-17; Joseph McMinn, ‘Fighting the Past, Myth and the Troubles in Contemporary Irish Fiction’ [Univ. of Ulster Symp., 1986] (unpubl.).
  • Arnold Saxon, ‘An Introduction to the Stories of Bernard MacLaverty’, in Journal of the Short Story, 8 (Spring 1987), pp.113-23.
  • Stephen Watt, ‘The Politics of Bernard McLaverty’s Cal’, in Eire-Ireland, 28 (Fall 1993), pp.130-47.
  • Philip Hobsbaum, ‘The Belfast Group: A Recollection’, in Éire-Ireland 32, 2 & 3 (Summer/Autumn 1997), pp.173-82.
  • Helen Meany, interview with Bernard MacLaverty [at Montrose Hotel], in The Irish Times (2 July 1997) [see extract]; Michael Parker, review of Grace Notes, in Irish Studies Review (August 1988), pp.216-19.
  • Rosa González, interview with Bernard MacLaverty, in Ireland in Writing: Interviews with Writers and Academics, ed. Jacqueline Hurtley, et al. (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi 1998), pp.21-38 [see extract].
  • Chris Gilligan, ‘Interview with Bernard MacLaverty’, in Irish Post (29 August 1998), [q.p.].
  • Sue Leonard, review of The Anatomy School, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2001, p.289 [see extract].
  • Margarita Estévez Saá & Anne MacCarthy, A Pilgrimage from Belfast to Santiago de Compostela: The Anatomy of Bernard MacLaverty’s Triumph over Frontiers (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela 2002), 96pp.
  • Richard Haslam, ‘Critical reductionism and Bernard MacLaverty’s Cal’, in Representing the Troubles: Text and Images 1970-2000, ed. Brian Cliff & Eibhear Walshe (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2004) [Chap. 3].
  • Richard Rankin Russell, ed., Bernard MacLaverty (Bucknell UP 2009), xiv, 192pp. [see details].
  • Justine Jordan, review of Midwinter Break, in The Guardian (28 July 2017) [available online].

See also James M. Cahalan, Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction (Syracuse: Syracuse UP 1999), 234pp. and remarks in the final chapter of Stephen Watt, Joyce, O’Casey and Irish Popular Theater (Syracuse: Syracuse UP 1991); interview-article on with David Puttnam, Bernard Maclaverty and John Lynch on Cal, in FilmIreland (Jan/Feb. 2006).

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Bibiographical details
Richard Rankin Russell, ed., Bernard MacLaverty (Bucknell UP 2009), xiv, 192pp. 1. Michael Parker, ‘“Made-Up Truths“: Themes,Tropes, and Narrative Technique in Bernard MacLaverty’s Early Short Storie’; 2. Richard Rankin Russell, ‘Parabolic Plots in MacLaverty’s Lamb’; 3. Gerry Smyth, ‘“Join us“: Musical Style and Identity in ’My Dear Palestrina,”’; 4. Richard Mills, ‘’That orange and green dilemma’: Violence and the Traumatised Subject in Bernard MacLaverty’s Screenplays of Cal (1983) and Lamb (1985)’; 5. Richard Haslam, ‘Character and Construction in Bernard MacLaverty’s Troubles Stories: The Great Profundoand Walking the Dog’; 6. Stephen Watt, ‘MacLaverty’s Holocaust: Affect, Memory, and the #147;Troubles,”’; 7. Marilynn Richtarik, ‘The Personal is Political: Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes as a Peace Process Novel’; 8. Michael Rawl, ‘“Moving from one element to another”: Body and Soul in Bernard MacLaverty’s The Anatomy School’; 9. Neal Alexander, ‘Bernard MacLaverty’s Fictional Geographie’; 10. Laura Pelaschiar, ‘Ireland and Elsewhere: The “Non-Irish” in Bernard MacLaverty’s Fiction’; David Holdeman, ‘Afterword: Looking at Art in Bernard MacLaverty’s Fiction’; Further Reading; Index.

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Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘Bernard McLaverty writes with quiet humour and compassion, and above all with a strict concern for craft. “Between Two Shores” is a simple story in essence and develops with deceptive ease. It is an account of an Irishman returning to visit his wife and family. He remembers his loneliness in London, his affair with a nurse, and thinks of his wife waiting eagerly for him. His secret is the syphilis that he has contracted in London and which he has left untreated. “St. Paul Could Hit the Nail on the Head” is an obliquely humorous account of a hardpressed Catholic wife married to a Protestant. Despite the likely consequences, she makes a room available in her home for the lonely priest who comes to visit her in the city. [...].’ (p.68.)

Helen Meany, interview with Bernard MacLaverty [at Montrose Hotel], Irish Times (2 July 1997) [err. 13]; reviewer notes compassionate and sensitive stories in A Time to Dance, &c., with a tone that remains low-key and a style that is spare and clipped ‘with cultivated bareness that mirrors the banality of ordinary life’ and adds, ‘these qualities have now injected with a a linguistic playfulness, an attempt to render into words and images the experience of listening to music’; quotes, ‘the transition from stories to a novel was something that happened without any grat moment of definition. Some of the sotries were becoming quite long and two of them were about the same character, a woman, at different points in her life. I gradually began to expand these, bringing them under the general umbrella of music and religion’; speaks of the loss of a strong Catholic religion and rediscovery of a sense of mystery and transcendence through music; profound joys of childbirth, &c.; quotes, ‘I really wanted to get the female voice right … the women of my childhood in Belfast were extraordinarily strong. My earlier work was full of fathers and sons, but this one is more concerned with the chain of womanhood, from daughter to daughter.’

Elspeth Barker, review of Grace Notes, in ‘Sunday Review’, Independent [UK] (6 July 1997); provides full plot summary and commentary on the language of the novel, here called ‘a marvellous book’.

Bernard O’Donoghue, ‘A Note of peacefulness’, review of Grace Notes [1997], in Times Literary Supplement, 4 July 1997, p.21 [var. 31], remarks on the theme that art has the capacity to assuage suffering and notes that much the most sympathetic characters are the Lambeg drummers. Cites Yeats’s line, ‘what’s the good of an escape, if honour find you in the wintry blast?’, and treats the novel as a story of the musician’s escape from the environment of her parochial and bigotted father into neutral modern space, where she has a child with an English boyfriend, Dave, of whose collection of Irish rock music she is contemptuous; notes her final solitude and cites Arnold (‘we million mortals live alone’). Comments on Heaneyesque language in places, on the ethical quality of the work as making clear Catherine has lost some ‘natural goodness’, while the novelist finds ‘Ulster virtue’ in shopkeepers and Lambeg drummers; notes also the use of punning tags (Linseed Oil/Lynn C. Doyle; Bar Talk/Bartok), and specuates that this echoes ‘Gaeltacht/Gaol Talk’.

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Sue Leonard, reviewing Bernard MacLaverty, The Anatomy School (London: Jonathan Cape 2001), in Books Ireland (Nov. 2001, p.289), calls in a coming-of-age novel in which Martin Brennan, an insecure seventeen-year, is facing school-leaving examinations amid uncertainty vis a vis his peers and an enigmatic and incommunicative family; befriended by the new boy Kavanagh and makes a threesome with Blaise Foley, who hatches a plan to steal the exam paper for a sneak preview; loses his virginity to an Australian while conducting a night-time experiment; quotes, from the exam scene: ‘The moist palms. The incredible difficultyu of beginning the first sentence. The writing until his fingers were sore and the blood seemed ot have drained from his arm. The certainty that he was being processed and graded so that society could utilise him.’

Conor McCarthy, Modernisation, Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000), writes of the film Cal: ‘That Cal was directed by an Irishman (Pat O’Conor) and adapted from his own novel by a Northern Irishman (Bernard MacLaverty) ought to alert us to the degree to which Irish cultural production can be interpellated by traditions or ideologies from outside the island.’ (p.175.)

Christine Madden, notice of The Anatomy School, in The Irish Times(26 Oct. 2002), Weekend: ‘There are different ways to discover the secrets of the human body, as Martin Brenn this book’s young protagonist discovers. one is by dissection (corpses), another is through foreplay (living girl). The first half of MacLaverty’s most recent novel, however, exhibit a Martin in ignorance of almost everything, particularly in contrast to his mates Kavanagh (the charismatic boy perfect) and Blaise Foley (cynical intellectual dissident). As they prepare to undermine the examination system, Martin find himself anxiously juggling schoolboy and civic honour, religious morality and adolescent want, fear and duty. MacLaverty’s ability to craft explosively funny situations and dialogue without caricature, and to retain a beating heart at the centre of each narrative, makes him one of the most enjoyable authors writing today.’

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Cal (1983): ‘[T]he feeling of [Loyalist] community that they managed to create annoyed him and the stronger the sense of community grew the more excluded and isolated the McCluskeys felt.’ (p.9.) Skeffington justifies sectarian killings: ‘anybody who enjoyed this kind of thing would have to be sick. But it has to be done by somebody. [...] it is our responsibility. We have to make sacrifices.’ (p.23.) ‘[After the killing] he felt he had a brand stamped in blood in the middle of his forehead which would take him the rest of his life to purge.’ (p.99.) He plans to write to Marcella: ‘he could write to her and if she replied he could begin to hope. [...] he would write to her and try to tell it as it was.’ (p.153-54). (For summary, see under Notes, infra.)

The question of pessimism’: ‘I suppose that it’s difficult, coming from the north of Ireland, coming from Belfast, to write work which is optimistic. But then I don’t think that everything I have written has been better than that [viz., “My Dear Palestrina” there are some moments of humour, or charm or enlightment, but by and large I would agree that coming from the north of Ireland and having lived in that situation, I think we have a right to be bleak. Flannery O’Connor says that artists have the absolute right to live in the dark. Nobody can argue on the human condition, it’s a pretty black thing, you know. But there are moments of love, and moments of caring.’ (See Rosa González, interview with Bernard MacLaverty, in Ireland in Writing: Interviews with Writers and Academics, ed. Jacqueline Hurtley, et al., Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi 1998, p.32.)

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Just try to write. You can do it better tomorrow’, in “My Writing Day” [series], The Guardian (26 Aug. 2017)

Sometimes I think I am very privileged. Setting my own hours. No traffic jams going to work. Just walk down the carpeted hall to the study. It’s the only room in the house I have as I want. Books pertaining to writing above the computer. Dictionaries of all sorts - Brewer’s, Medical, Scots, foreign words, missals, bibles. The room is through-other. Untidy. Little columns of stuff build up on the wooden floor, never to be moved again. Newspapers with articles that at one time seemed to be of vital interest.
 Occasionally they avalanche. An Old Man of Hoy is built from sketch books and art materials. For me, painting is an exercise in disappointment.
 The desk top has a central clear working space. I use two tables in an L shape. With me in a spinny-round black chair in the elbow. One of the tables was a mistake - I ordered a small coffee table and this big dining table arrived for the same money. I never said a word. Fiction written at this surface is aware of its own deviousness. But it is also true. I remember when teaching, seeking from a class a definition of fiction and this girl saying, “Sir, sir. It’s made-up truth.”
 I don’t write fiction every day but I generally write something - diary, emails, notes towards something. For a time I had a banner above the screen that said this kind of thing was garbage - “Only writing is writing” Then that seemed too hectoring. I replaced it with Wittgenstein’s “in art it is hard to say anything, that is as good as saying nothing” But that was just too frightening. So I ended up with Isak Dinesen’s humane “write a little every day, without hope and without despair”
 I keep a notebook in an out-of-sight pocket - and note down very occasional overhearings. Two girls pass me on the street and there is a sound glimpse, “If I was you...” The basis of all fiction revealed and they are gone.
 To get the day started I would add anything eavesdropped to the computer. Or it could be a phrase or a pattern of words. I was talking at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace [an arts centre in Bellaghy] some weeks ago and a Heaney brother said the audience “looked like a September flight to Malaga” That goes straight in.
 I love new words and am old enough to have to write them down. They bring ideas in their wake. Recent entries from other languages: kintsukuroi - the Japanese art of repairing with gold so that the broken artefact becomes more beautiful for having been broken. Uaigneas - the Irish Gaelic word meaning loneliness, sadness, regret for things past. Ochlokinetics - the study of how people get in each other’s way. The science of crowd control. Some words draw attention to themselves by their ugliness. A computer word like embiggen - as in “click to embiggen” What’s wrong with enlarge?
 Part of my problem is that I am a collector and my wife is a chucker-outer. But this does not apply in the study. Some years ago in Dublin I bought a finger doll of James Joyce to set on the mantelpiece. I loved the idea of entrepreneurs making money from their most famous writer without having read a word. On later visits I bought Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway, to be companions for Joyce above the fireplace. Much later when my grandson (2½ yrs) came to visit he discovered magnets in their heads. So we have devised a game we call “Throwing Writers at the Radiator” As they stick we have to shout their names out. You can say what you like but the wee boy will be better educated than many.
 I have a crowded mantelpiece - geodes or, to the grandchildren, plain stones with glittering innards, awards, a Mexican death skeleton dancer, a geodesic dome, a Victorian microscope from my lab days useless because the eye piece got lost during a house move, a tin of Royal Baking Powder whose label demonstrates infinity to me but makes it no clearer. A chunk of amethyst dug out of a stream on Achill Island during our honeymoon. Beneath the mantelpiece hang wind chimes.
 When I’m at the desk - no music. Music is far too important to be listened to while doing something else. You should be on the edge of your seat listening to music. Somehow nowadays the word “relaxing” gets used about music. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Once when I asked a four-year-old granddaughter what music she liked, she said, “Lee-raxing music”)
 I like to be in the vicinity of the desk in case anything happens. But mostly you have to make it happen. I try to move whatever I’m working on forward a little each day. In the beginning I had targets varying between 500 and 1,000 words a day. But it depends on the genre. If it’s a screenplay you can maybe get 10 pages done a day. If it’s a short story it might be 10 words.
 If there is a stickiness or hesitancy to the writing I kid myself: “Don’t try to make it good. Just try to make it. Tomorrow you can rewrite it better. The thing is, you are writing. Anything can leap on to the page before you know it.”’

Further bullet-points details on number of hours, words per day, time wasted, and drinks (Earl Grey; coffee (instant); coffee (shop-bought); camomile tea in place of Islay whisky [sp. sic.] Notice of Midwinter Break (Cape) in which an elderly married couple in Northern Ireland remember the past and face up to the future.

Available online; accessed 26.08.2017.

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Kevin Rockett, et al., eds, Cinema & Ireland (1988), cites Cal, filmed by Pat O’Connor in 1984 with with John Lynch as Cal and Helen Mirren, John Kavanagh, Donal McCann et al. in other roles. [Note that Blackstaff Press catalogue for 1983 states that Cal is to be fimed by David Puttham, director of Chariots of Fire, for C4 TV in 1984].

Walter ReadeTheatre Program (1994) lists Lamb, dir. Colin Gregg (1985), 110 mins.; bleakly Dickensian reform school in N. Ireland, headmaster (Ian Bannen) uses cruelty and terror to keep boys in line; when a kid (Hugh O’Connor) nobody wants arrives one of the priests (Liam Neeson) kidnaps him away from the school, an act of compassion leading the two into terrible complexities, public and private; Neeson’s performance called faultless, &c. Also Cal ((1984), 102 mins. [as above].

British Libraryholds [1] Title Walking the dog and other stories Penguin c.1995; [2] Walking the dog and other stories Bernard MacLaverty. c.1994; [3] Walking the dog and other stories 1994; [4] The best of Bernard Mac Laverty short stories. c.1990 Heinemann [5] The Mac Laverty collection. 1991 Longman; [6] Cal [trans. into German by] Niklaus Stingl. Berlin Aufbau 1987; [7] Lamb. Longman 1991; [8] Cal, Bernard MacLaverty unit written by Linda Flynn and Sally West. 1989 [9] The great Profundo and other stories. 1989; [10] Andrew McAndrew. London: Walker 1988, Children’s short stories; [11] Cal. 1988; [12] The Great Profundo and other stories. 1987; [13] The great Profundo and other stories 1987; [14] Cal 1983; [15] A man in search of a pet written and illustrated by Bernard MacLaverty. Blackstaff 1978; [16] Secrets, and other stories. Blackstaff 1977; [17] Bernard MacLaverty. c.1982 Glasgow National Book League Writers in Brief, No. 20; [18] Cal 1983; [19] A time to dance and other stories. 1982 [20]; Lamb 1980; [21] A time to dance and other stories. 1985, c.1982; [22] Cal 1984, c.1983; [23] Lamb 1981, c.1980; [24] Bk 4, Storyline Scotland [ser.]. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd 1985; also Cal [Videorecording] directed by Pat O’Connor videocassette/1993 [UUC Lib.]

Hibernia Books (Cat. 19) lists ‘A present For Christmas’, in Short Stories by Modern Irish Authors (Caldo[?] n.d.).

Blackstaff Catalogue (1994): Secrets and Other Stories (Befl: Blackstaff 1977) [0 85640 101 3]; rep. (Blackstaff 1983) [0 85640 195 1]; A Man in Search of A Pet (Belfast: Blackstaff 1978) [085640 116 1]; A Time to Dance and Other Stories (London: J. Cape; Belfast: Blackstaff 1982) [0 8564 265 6]; Lamb (Belfast: Blackstaff 1980) [0 85640 215 X]; Cal (Belfast: Blackstaff 1983; Heinemann Educ. 1988; Penguin 1994) [0 85640 281 8; 014 010810 6]; The Great Profundo and Other Stories (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987) [08564 0 389 X]; Walking the Dog and Other Stories (Belfast: Blackstaff 1994) [0 85640 534 5]; Walking &c. (London: J. Cape [0 224 03681 5]; Storyline Scotland (London: Edinburgh Oliver & Boyd 1987) [0 05003 5 65 7] [Dewey 428.6].

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Cal (1983): The title character is living in predominantly loyalist area with is father Shamie; he is unable to face work at an abbatoir. He becomes involved in an IRA murder, driving the car for Crilly and Skeffington and afterwards feels branded by it. Cal begins to trail Marcella, a librarian, the widow of the victim but cannot bring himself to confess his crime to her. She makes love with him out of loneliness and he fails as a lover yet still yearns to write to her explaining everything ‘as it was.’ (p.54). The IRA man Skeffington justifies sectarian killings and the novel invests attention in the theory of necessary suffering, citing Archbishop Romero and Pearse, while Marcella shows Cal the Grunewald crucifix during their love-making. In these ways the novel, as a whole, underscores the theory of patriotism as sacrifice. In order to save her library from attack, he turns informer. (See also under Quotations, supra.)

Grace Notes: Giraldus Cambrensis wrote, ‘They glide so subtly from one mode to another, and the grace notes so freely sport with such abandon and bewitching charm around the steady tone of the heavier sound, that the perfection of their art seems to lie in their concealing it [...]’ (History and Topography, John O’Meara trans, 1982, pp.102-03; quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture’, Michael Kenneally, ed., Irish Literature and Culture, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1992, p.9-10 [and see Giraldus, q.v.])

Walking the Dog’ is the title of a zany piece of music by Gershwin for a film with Fred Astaire, and here the title of a story about paramilitaries randomly picking out Catholic victims for sectarian killing.

Critic’s choice: Bernard MacLaverty recommends Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (Penguin 1994) as ‘wonderfully argued’ explanation of ‘the origins of the sufferings inflicted by the Church in this area. I have a fantasy of leaving a copy beside the Bible in every hotel room in Ireland’. (Tribune Magazine, Sunday 11 Dec. 1994).

Edinburgh Fest.: MacLaverty read at Edinburgh Festival (Sept. 1998), with Jennifer Johnston, Joan Lingard, Owen Dudley Edwards, Victoria Glendinning, Ardal O’Hanlon, and others; Hayden Murphy reports in Irish Times, 12 Sept. 1998.

Lambeg drumswere played by a cross-community group at a reception organised for Bill Clinton in Washington, and later in Monte Carlo at the Reunion of the Ireland Fund of Monaco (7th Oct. 2000).

Kes who: Capt. Robert Nairac, the “Ultra” assassinated by the IRA, kept a falcon in his rooms at college; one of his birds was even used in the film, Kes. “You might say that he was identifying with the falcons, that he was involved in that kind of objectification of the natural world”, says [Eoin] McNamee.’ (Interview with Roisin Ingle, The Irish Times, 9 April 2004.)

Arundati Roy: Grace Notes was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the year it was won by Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997);

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