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Adam Wyeth Biography

A book reviewer and essayist, Wyeth has written articles and features for several newspapers and literary journals, including The Irish Times and The Irish Examiner

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Reviews Adam Wyeth

A book reviewer and essayist, Wyeth has written articles and features for several newspapers and literary journals, including The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, Southword and The Cork Literary Review.

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The Thing With Feathers (Dublin Review of Books)

Adam reviews Nuala O’Connor’s novel Miss Emily

Adam Wyeth reviews Nuala O'Connor's Novel Miss Emily

for the Dublin Review of Books

Miss Emily, by Nuala O’Connor, Sandstone Press, 350 pp, €8.99
ISBN: 978-1910124550

Nuala O’Connor’s novel Miss Emily is more than a portrait of a poet executed with exquisite precision. It offers a fresh, enhancing approach to Dickinson’s inner life, showing a woman with zest and independence of mind.

One of the big mysteries that continues to dog Emily Dickinson critics and biographers is why one of America’s foremost poets spent most of her time indoors, never married and indeed hardly left her childhood home till the day she died? Was she depressed, agoraphobic or bipolar? While there is no conclusive evidence that she suffered from any such condition, this hasn’t stopped critics from drawing a myriad of conclusions. While speculation is well and good, the level of scrutiny and diagnoses in recent years has often tended to be reductive, taking from the work and the poet herself. So it is refreshing that in Nuala O’Connor’s meticulously honed new novel Miss Emily the story avoids any labels and instead offers a fresh, enhancing approach to Dickinson’s inner life – showing a woman with zest and independence of mind and an artist absorbed in her work and art.

This is not to say that Miss Emily doesn’t explore deeper and darker aspects. Everything in the novel is touched with a darkness that recoils and simmers under the surface of everyday life. While Miss Emily is fiction, O’Connor’s research on the poet is extensive and we get a strong sense of Dickinson’s true personality. Enthusiasts will recognise many poetical strands and biographical titbits woven into the narrative. As an accomplished poet herself, O’Connor is well versed in metaphor and telling the truth slant. Indeed it is her lyrical gift at skilfully lifting daily domestic activities into something almost mythical, rich with resonance and suggestion that makes Miss Emily such an engrossing read.

The novel opens in Amherst, Massachusetts. Homestead, the Dickinson family home, is in disarray after their long-term Irish maid has left to create a family of her own. The smell of burnt potatoes presages another Irish maid to follow. Each chapter alternates between Emily Dickinson and her maid-to-be Ada Concannon. We first meet Ada, on a sunny day in June, aged seventeen, soaking herself in the river Liffey, against her parents’ wishes. The bucolic image linked to the river goddess is the first of many interlaced mythological symbols. The river also signals a longer journey to follow across the water to the New World.

Despite the upstairs-downstairs scenario, Emily and Ada immediately strike up a close friendship, both sharing a sense of mischief and a love of baking. Although the American poet and Irish maid may appear to be poles apart the dual point of view creates some intriguing parallels and insights. Dickinson describes Ada as having, “a superior, petulant face, but when she smiles, she glows like a window opening on a bright day. I want to make her smile.” Does the final line offer a slight hint of something else desired, as well as friendship? The hidden suggestion also extends to the intimate relationship Dickinson has with her sister-in-law. Miss Emily loves to spend time with Ada and says how she admires the Irish, “ … how they spin a narrative around every small thing. I feel somewhat Irish in my core.” However, Emily’s brother Austin is less enamoured of Ada and offers the more common prejudicial attitude towards the Irish. “Do not be fooled by her mellifluousness — all Irish people lie … You have to understand that there is a certain island madness about the Irish; they are unhinged and vicious.”

At times the intimate friendship and psychological drama that unfolds have intimations of a Strindberg play. In fact, Strindberg’s similarly titled haunting masterpiece Miss Julie takes place in one domestic setting, mostly in the kitchen – as does Miss Emily – between the lady of the house and her servant. No doubt the author is more than aware of this relation and the similar title is a nod in the play’s direction.

It takes a writer of keen perception to portray and capture a life in a whole novel within a confined setting; O’Connor does so with remarkable tenacity and panache. Her sheer relish for rendering nineteenth century American domestic life and her gift for finding the mot justebrings the Dickinson home to life. “I am in the habit of this house, and it is in the habit of me,” Dickinson says. Homestead becomes almost a character itself. In Freudian analysis the home is a symbol of the self. Thus every item and room of the house can be seen as a different part of the poet’s psyche.

Exquisitely detailed descriptions of home care and cooking ripple and steam off every page. Every domestic moment is magnified with the crisp artistry of a Vermeer painting. But the level of intense, sensory detail displays more than just atmosphere. As well as conveying Dickinson’s intense and piercing perception, each description lends itself to an ever-deepening tapestry of patterns and symbolism, revealing the darker emotions and unconscious stirrings beneath. The zoom lens clarity and visual storytelling become a superb and subtle plot device foreshadowing traumatic events to come. Moreover, like so many period dramas, it is the stiff-collared, hemmed-in Puritanism that makes each scene all the more tantalising, as when Ada puts her lips to her admirer, Daniel’s, cup, to “drink back the lukewarm dregs of his tea”. As much as O’Connor does an assured job for capturing the language of the period, she avoids getting entangled in any antiquated purple prose. The carefully selected concrete details within descriptions are poetry enough.

This bright window into Dickinson’s private world also offers many insights into her poetical development. A key moment is when Dickinson decides to wear only white. “My very whiteness will be my muse,” she says. It acts as the foundation of her poetic vocation, much like an actor embodying the character in a play when he or she puts on the costume. She is born again. “Like a revenant,” her mother remarks. Rather than seeing Dickinson’s sartorial decision as some mental infliction, O’Connor shows it as a moment of artistic epiphany, turning Dickinson’s desire for crisp white clothing as a moment of metamorphosis. It is as if she has turned herself into a clean white page. Such epiphanic moments are well recorded with many major writers. For Synge, it was when he was encouraged by Yeats to go and live among the people of the west of Ireland, to learn their language and write about their ways. For Beckett it was the decision to write in French that allowed him to purify his prose and move out of Joyce’s overbearing shadow.

Instead of getting caught up in the impossible task of diagnosing the poet as having a mental illness, critics might be equally attentive of the mad world she retreated from. No man is an island, but all artists need to withdraw from the world to create their work. “Hope is the thing with feathers” is one of Dickinson’s most famous lines. It is that delicate, elusive thing in her work that continues to inspire succeeding generations. Executed with exquisite precision, Miss Emily is more than a portrait of a poet. Like a Dickinson poem itself, it is a rare bird of radiant plumage darting through the air, striking and transcendental but impossible to pin down.


Adam Wyeth is an award-winning poet, playwright and essayist. His debut collection, Silent Music, was highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize. His second book, The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish Poetry, contains poems from Ireland’s leading poets followed by essays unpacking each poem and exploring its Celtic mythological references. His second poetry collection, The Art of Dying, will be published with Salmon in October 2016. He teaches creative writing online at and

Adam interviews Christopher Reid for the Irish Times

Costa Award-winner Christopher Reid talks to Adam Wyeth (click to view)

Costa Award-winner Christopher Reid talks to Adam Wyeth

for the Irish Times

As he prepares for a reading on Monday that forms part of this year’s
Kinsale Arts Week, the 2009 Costa Award-winner Christopher Reid talks to
Adam Wyeth about love, loss and his acclaimed poetry collection about both

WHEN Christopher Reid’s latest book of poetry, A Scattering , won the 2009
Costa Poetry Prize for best collection, he was thrilled. When it went on to
scoop the overall Costa Award book of the year, Reid said he felt
overwhelmed and bewildered. Such was the surprise for a poet to win one of
Britain’s most prestigious and commercial prizes, worth £30,000 (€36,000),
against a host of heavyweight writers, including the odds-on favourite, Colm
Tóibín, for his novel Brooklyn .

A Scattering seems further proof that we are going through a poetry
renaissance. A sign of the times. Like the small and sleek designs of new
technology, our eyes are beginning to readjust to the slim and light poetry
volume. A Scattering is just over 50 pages long, yet the beauty and depth
contained within are boundless.

Written about Reid’s late wife, Lucinda Gane, who died of brain cancer in
2005, A Scattering contains some of the most evocatively heartfelt poetry
and has been described as “beautiful and moving” and “a masterwork”. Despite
the tragic theme of Reid’s personal grief and loss, A Scattering is not a
resentful, “rage, rage against the dying of the light” kind of tribute. The
poems are down to earth, full of bitter-sweet moments, exploring grief and
love in all its aspects, from the minutiae of a seed case to the peculiar
habits of elephants. The poems also contain a generous scattering of laughs,
making Reid’s poetry all the more touching.

“My wife was a woman of abundant wit and humour,” he says. “She was also, as
she died, entirely without complaint or self-pity. Those qualities could not
have been left out of any account of her that set out to be truthful.”

Born in Hong Kong in 1949, Reid was educated in England and studied at
Oxford. Reid’s first poetry collection, Arcadia , published in 1978, won the
Somerset Maugham Award and the Hawthornden Prize. Since then he has
published several other award-winning collections, was poetry editor at
Faber and recently edited Ted Hughes’s Letters . But it is undoubtedly A
Scattering that has won him the most success and that Reid himself describes
as his strongest work yet.

Josephine Hart, who was chairwoman of the Costa judges, said: “What
Christopher Reid did was to take a personal tragedy and to make the emotion
and the situation universal. It is bizarrely life-enhancing because it
speaks of the triumph of love before and after death.” Another judge said: “
A Scattering was a book for everyone.” A rare thing to be said about modern

The Costa prize was certainly a boost, not just in prestige and prize money
but in book sales as well. Even established poets are lucky to sell more
than 1,000 copies of a collection. So did Reid set out to write a book that
would be so successful and accessible? “No,” he says. “Though I’m glad if
I’ve reached such a readership.”

A Scattering consists of four poetic sequences. The first, The Flowers of
Crete, begins with Reid and his wife on their final holiday together.
Despite the sunshine and flowers of the island their time is overshadowed
“with an immediate threat: / your skulking sarcoma”. Reid turns inwards, to
his writing, “in pursuit / of some safe way out”, while his wife turns to
the outside world, “willing to climb / the rockiest, thorniest slope / with
abundant hope / in her heart”.

The poems in the second sequence, The Unfinished, take place at the sickbed.
Rather than building the collection to its inevitable conclusion, the first
poem begins: “Sparse breaths, then none – / and it was done.” It is this
kind of emotional restraint and succinct description of death that makes
these poems so powerful. Reid is not asking to “stop all the clocks”; his
immediate tone is one of “ultimate calm”.

The third and fourth sections, A Widower’s Dozen and Lucinda’s Way, are a
series of lyrics that explore the period after his wife’s death. Many of the
poems in these sequences turn familiar aspects on their head, such as the
title poem. Rather than being about scattering ashes, as we may suppose, the
poem depicts the way elephants mysteriously scatter the bones of their own
dead. Likewise, the poem Afterlife explores how Reid’s wife lives on, not as
a ghostly presence but by giving her body to medical science: “her organs
and tissues are educating young doctors / or helping researchers outwit the
disease that outwitted her.”

Here, Reid’s Martian past begins to resurface. Martianism was a school of
poetry started by Reid’s mentor, Craig Raine, in the 1970s; it set about
defamiliarising the domestic world through metaphor and simile. Martianism
(a term coined by James Fenton) helped bring Reid’s work wider attention.

“I’ve always been proud of my association with Craig Raine, who is supposed
to have established the Martian school,” Reid says. "He helped me a great deal as I was learning to write. But we never actually shared the sort of programme or dogma that would entitle us to be called a school. We were just friends, improvising away with the sort of energy and ambition that young writers tend to have."

Collections such as A Scattering winning major commercial prizes such as the Costa means not only that will Reid win many new readers but that many new readers will begin to turn to contemporary poetry. But has writing the book helped him deal with his loss? "It hasn't quietened the grief, but it's helped me think more clearly," he says.

Reid is looking forward to his latest reading in Ireland. "I've been to Dublin many times," he says. 'But never to Kinsale. I can't wait."

Adam Wyeth

Transcending Borders (review for cork Literary Review XIV)

The Night Post, A New Selection by Matthew Sweeney (click to view)

The Night Post by Matthew Sweeney

Review for Cork Literary Review XIV

As one of the leading poets of our generation Matthew Sweeney, born in 1952, has been thrilling us with his off-beat, filmic visions for three decades. He is the poetry world’s dark fabulist, excavating strange narratives from his unconscious and presenting them like dreams (often nightmares) which he fuses into terse pieces of verse. To read him is to enter a world of suggestion and shadow. The block form, which he invariably uses, marks the page like rune stones – calling up an ancient mystery and magic.

In his new selection, The Night Post, Sweeney has resurrected a substantial number of poems not collected before, alongside his classic pieces, which are well anthologised but not included in his 2002 Selection with Cape. Many poems are from publications that are now out of print and therefore would be dead and buried if not for this new book. He has included some very early poems, hitherto unpublished, some commissioned pieces, while also adding a smattering of children’s verse from his Faber collections. The result is an exciting bootleg version, with a greater diversity and a wider representation of his poetry than his previous selected.

The book opens with a very early sequence of ‘Moonpoems’, written in 1976. In the acknowledgments, Sweeney explains that a fuller version of the ‘Moonpoems’ was to be published in 1978, three years before his first collection, A Dream of Maps, came out. However, after studying in Berlin, Sweeney pulled the sequence. It took over thirty years for him to re-examine them and decide they were worth preserving.

Each section of the ‘Moonpoems’, mostly a page long, follows the mercurial effects the moon has on the speaker. The use of jagged lines and uneven stanzas, with sandwiched-together words, suggests the sense of insomnia and being on the verge of lunacy. The poems show a more exuberant narrative, compared to his later pared-down verse.

His dark and off-the-wall wit is immediately apparent, turning the familiar inside-out, as is his early flair for juxtaposing the serious and the humorous. The first poem, ‘Fog’ opens, ‘Stunned, I emerge to a night/ where darkness has a strange sidekick.’ In the next poem, ‘Winter’: ‘Wind/ has ice on his teeth’; and in ‘Shadows’ the speaker’s legs, silhouetted by the moon, ‘stay close as guide dogs.’

Sweeney’s way of seeing the world is distinctively unique. Take the beginnings of these poems from the selection.

‘When I stand under it
I feel like a fish in winter
looking up through ice.’
from ‘Skylight’


‘Because of a hill our TV snowed
even in August, on golfers, on Elephants,
on supine girls sipping cointreau.’
from ‘The Aerial’

The striking imagery replays over in the mind long after it has been read. Part of Sweeney’s brilliance is to take a true event and twist it into a modern day or post-modern day fable – turning the everyday into mythology.

Many of his poems take place on borders and at army checkpoints. There are aliens and immigrants living on the edge of society, dividing lines between dream and reality and doors into the otherworld. The poet, Denis O’Driscoll, after listening to Sweeney at a reading, said that he believed every poet had one word which was particular to them, and that Sweeney’s was ‘border’. This preoccupation can be traced back to the story of his birth which is relayed in one of his few autobiographical poems, called ‘The Border’:

‘Twenty miles south is the North
where I was booked in to be born -
a nursing home in a Derry suburb,
but my mother went on playing bridge
and never made it past the border.’

The first line’s synecdoche hooks us straight in, making us look twice at ‘south’ and ‘North’. The OR sound in the title ‘Border’ is picked up in ‘North’ and ‘born’, while the word ‘bridge’ stretches metaphorically beyond its initial meaning of a card game.

This anecdotal beginning marked a prophetic start for a poet whose poetry straddles metaphysical borders. Because of his off-beat themes, some critics mistake the work as surrealist or whimsical. But what sets Sweeney apart from his Irish contemporaries is the influence in his work of 20th century German writers and the eastern European fable tradition. Sweeney lived and studied in Germany for many years, where the work of Kafka, among others, made a strong impression on him. He later lived in Romania and London where he was The Southbank Centre writer in residence. More recently he has returned to Ireland, settling in Cork city.

His poetry also has a strong connection with film. Sweeney’s ability to manufacture complicated plots in a short space is displayed in the title poem, ‘The Night Post,’ an eerie piece set at an army check-point between Northern Ireland and the Republic during The Troubles. Centred around two Guards searching various vehicles throughout the night, the poem begins:

‘All night the filaments stayed red
courtesy of the nation, and I wore
wool beneath my tunic and smoked
while Grant sucked mints the loud way.’
from ‘The Night Post’

Immediately the tension is set up. Similar to the ‘Moonpoems,’ danger is close by but nothing actually occurs. Like mini murder mysteries, Sweeney’s poems are packed with suspense. However, unlike the whodunits where the detective reveals all at the denouement, his endings are invariably left open, allowing space for the reader's imagination to close in the gaps.

Borders occur in different manifestations, as with the titillating poem ‘Geometry’ about reaching adulthood: ‘What use was a science of shapes/ in a world of miniskirts?’

When it comes to using different poetry forms, Sweeney’s tastes are also on the edge. He is a great advocate of the sestina, a notoriously complex 19th century form with six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet - all stanzas having the same six words at the line end which are used in different sequences. Sweeney, judiciously includes one fine sestina called ‘The Queue’.

‘Queue’ / ‘already’ / ‘sleeping bag’ / ‘book’ / ‘whisky’ / ‘Tom Waits’ are the six repeated words. The repetition is unforced, suiting the subject of waiting in a queue while also fitting the voice of the narrator repeating himself as he gets more drunk on whisky. The added genius of this sestina is the surprise and twist at the end where the narrator steps out of the poem and we find ourselves inside it at the triplet, where the six repeated words are doubled onto each line:

‘But I’ll say more. I’ll say this queue’s for books,
for sleeping bags, for tapes of Tom Waits,
for whisky, for anything, and you’re in it already.’
from ‘The Queue’

The word ‘books’ picks up on the poem within the book we are engaged in, suggesting ‘The Queue’ like all good poems is about poetry itself, poetry which is fit ‘for anything’. When we find ourselves in the queue as well, we discover we are part of the narrative and the poem is part of us. When a good poem works, poem and reader become interchangeable bringing to mind Yeat’s line, ‘O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/ How can we know the dancer from the dance?’
Sweeney’s key word may be ‘border’ but the ultimate symbolism does not suggest division, rather transcendence of boundaries; as we enter his different worlds, we see life and death, dream and reality, poem and reader, merge.

As well as including many mischievous poems, The Night Post also contains poems with a deeper emotional charge. The poem ‘Wild Garlic’, for example, is a poignant vignette of a memory of his grandfather sharing ‘minute balls of brown, wild garlic.’ The first line ‘Wherever it grew, it grows there still’ sets up the metaphysical trope. Again, the border between their separate generations merges through the sharing of ‘wild garlic.’ As the poem goes on, the ‘tart taste’ spreads from being a childhood memory into an allegory of his off-beat influences and antecedents. ‘I’m told I cook like him / to recipes foreign and homemade’ becomes a metaphor to Sweeney’s unorthodox and exotic tastes in Eastern European literature and Irish folklore.
As Sweeney writes so affectionately about his grandfather, it is little wonder that he has, in turn, become the avuncular teller of tales himself. The final section of the book includes poems from his children’s collections, The Flying Spring Onion and Fatso in the Red Suit. These poems continue their mixing of menace and humour and are just as entertaining for adults as they are for younger readers.

Commissioned pieces include, ‘The Unlit Suburbs’, three little songs which were set to music by British composer John Woolrich and commissioned by Faber music. The final poem, ‘Maggot Song’, is a teasing folktale, loosely taken from an Icelandic Creation Myth, ‘Edda’ and commissioned by Barbican education.
As the days are drawing in, The Night Post is the perfect book to curl up with by the fire and add a frisson to the witching hour. Whether it’s poems to chill, thrill or surprise, The Night Post delivers on every level.

Adam Wyeth

Adam Wyeth talks to Joseph O'Connor about his novel Ghost Light

Adam Wyeth Talks to Joseph O'Connor for the Cork Evening Echo

Adam talks to Joseph O'Connor about his novel Ghost Light

Review for the Cork Evening Echo

Recently voted 'Irish Writer of the Decade' by Hot Press magazine, Joseph
O'Connor has become one of Ireland's finest contemporary Irish novelists.
With his first novel Cowboys and Indians (shortlisted for the Whitbread
Prize, 1991) O'Connor displayed the qualities of an exciting new voice. Then
with his 2003 bestseller Star of The Sea, O'Connor became something of a
star himself, scooping countless awards and selling 800,000 copies in one
year alone in the UK. His 2007 follow-up Redemption Falls was equally
weighty and far-reaching.

In his latest instalment, Ghost Light, O'Connor reveals another ace to his
literary hand. Praised for its lyrical intensity, Ghost Light has already
roused reviewers into rapturous plaudits. Pulitzer prize-winning author of
The Hours Michael Cunnigingham called it 'a rare and wonderful book.'

Writing Ghost Light, O'Connor returns to the familiar and domestic scenes of
Dublin and his own ghosts of where he lived in Dun Laoghaire. 'I grew up
just round the corner from where the playwright John Synge once lived,'
O'Connor says. 'The secrets of that old Victorian house began speaking to me
early in my life.' He recalls his late mother telling him tales about the
doomed genius who wrote The Playboy of The Western World and fell in love
with a younger woman, Molly Allgood, a Dublin actress (Maire O'Neill was her
stage name) who starred in many of Synge's plays. Allgood was the first
Pegeen of The Playboy at the Abbey Theatre in 1907, which famously caused
riots. She was believed to have started a relationship with Synge and was
engaged to him at the time of his death. Families and colleagues disapproved
of their relationship due to their differences in age, class and religion.
Factually, very little is known about Synge and Allgood's relationship, not
one of Molly Allgood's letters to Synge has survived.

John Millington Synge was the most influential Irish playwright of the
twentieth century who co-founded with Yeats and Augusta Gregory, the Abbey
Theatre. 'He was Protestant, privileged, educated, had a private income, and
was a man of great reticence,' says O'Connor. 'Molly Allgood was Catholic,
poor, had little formal education, and was full of fire and irreverent wit.
On paper, they had nothing in common, and yet they found each other.'

O'Connor stresses that Ghost Light is a novel, a work of the imagination. 'I
don't see the book as a literary biopic, it takes immense liberties with the
real life story of Synge and Molly. The characters who appear in Ghost Light
are in some ways very different from the people who inspired them. But I
guess I saw in the story a range of fascinating possibilities and silences
that could make a novel that would be a love story.'

Ghost Light

begins in 1952, London with an aged Molly residing in a lodging house. As
she makes her way towards a BBC recording studio, we learn about her
previous life in Dublin in 1908 when she was the star of the Abbey Theatre.
As the book jumps forwards and backwards in time we discover how the young
and beautiful Molly met Synge, became his lover and muse and spent much of
their relationship waiting for him to commit himself to her. Along the way
we meet Yeats, Lady Gregory and Sean O' Casey. O'Connor was aware that
writing a novel based on real people could cause controversy. 'Many
biographers will want to hit me over the hard with a turf shovel,' he says.
'But then again, these giants often said they had fanned their fictions from
the sparks of real life.'

Despite the presence of these towering giants, the story stays firmly
focused on Molly Allgood's point of view, capturing every scrap of her
thought with Joycean stream-of-consciousness writing. Molly Allgood's
internal dialogue is a further gesture to the most famous Molly in Irish
literature: James Joyce's Molly Bloom in Ulysses. However, unlike Ulysses
and O'Connor's previous two novels, Ghost Light is a much smaller book.
'It's much harder to write a short novel than a long one,' O'Conner says.

Ghost Light

permeates with the sights and sounds of Dublin and the rich ways in which
people expressed themselves. 'It's to my parents that I owe an inherited
memory of the Edwardian Dublin words,' O'Connor says. O'Connor thanks his
father for taking him to his first play as a boy, and his mother for
bequeathing him a fascination with Molly. 'My mother, like Molly had also
been a dressmaker in her childhood.'

Similar to the Celtic Revivalists: Yeats, Gregory and Synge who doffed their
hats to the Irish folklorists, O'Connor too is paying his own personal
homage to the old Irish seanachai tradition of stories being passed down
through generations. 'The book for me is about memory and language,' he
says. 'It's a book in which I hope people's different ways of speaking add
texture and music.' Ghost Light is an arresting love story of great depth
and poised prose, which will undoubtedly win O'Connor many new readers and
deservedly more awards as well.

Adam Wyeth

The Naked Umbrella Thieves by Ian Wild Knightstone (Southern Star)

Hold on to your brolly, a Wild story is about to blow! (click to view)

The Naked Umbrella Thieves by Ian Wild Knightstone

Adam Wyeth review for the Southern Star

What do you get if you cross a lost property cupboard fugitive - suffering from an identity crisis - with naturist kleptomaniacs and ghostly eco-warriors? Answer: a new novel from West Cork author, Ian Wild.

The Naked Umbrella Thieves is a hilariously surreal and thought-provoking detective story that follows the career of Cyrano O'Hara, a downtrodden police sergeant from Grethwick, with a socially unacceptable nose, in a world populated by a lost property cupboard, who goes on the run and falls in love (as you do) with an attic bedroom called, Esmeralda.

Well known for his work of a whacky and surreal nature, Wild is an artist with many strings to his bow: poet, playwright, composer, short-story writer, he’s also written plays and children’s stories for radio – and regularly contributes zany tales with this paper. His work has won many prizes, including North West Playwrights Award and the 2009 Fish International Short Story competition. His musical comedies, with rib-tickling titles, such as The Pirates in Short Pants and Marco Polo’s Toilet Brush, have been highly successful, four of which have appeared in the Cork Midsummer Festival.

His 2000, collection of short stories, The Woman Who Swallowed The Book of Kells is a panoply of the comical and bizarre. Praised as an imaginative and highly original book, the late and great poet, Paddy Galvin called it, ‘One of the very best collections of short stories I’ve read in years.’

The Naked Umbrella Thieves is no less imaginative. After Esmeralda, joins up with the lost property cupboard, she explains that her previous lover, (an Edwardian attic bedroom from next door) was knocked down by murdering developers and so is on her way to join a revolutionary, militant anti-human organization, The Brick Liberation Front. Their aim: to stamp out people. And if that’s not whacky enough,Fanny Fetherby, who is trying to seduce O’Hara, has random footprints mysteriously appearing at her home. Meanwhile there have been reported sightings of people running around stealing umbrellas in their birthday suits. Oh! And there are ghostly eco-warriors terrifying the Grethwick community.

Too aid the plausibility of the most dangerous lost property cupboard of interior design and an attic bedroom on the loose - who literally has skeletons in her closet - there are helpful and hilarious footnotes about the hidden lives of buildings and houses:

‘Most houses have to wait until they think humans are asleep before they flex their muscles and relieve tension. This mostly happens at night. Which accounts for all the creaks and noises we hear when all alone in the evening.’

A writer true to his name, Wild’s mind-bending creations constantly play with the notion of reality. While his imagination may be untamed, his care and craft for the written line is rather more manicured. The Naked Umbrella Thieves moves with bustling pace and poise, with superb one-liners and innuendos that are alive to the literary lick of language.

On the outside, this surrealism may appear only to be a piece of whimsy, but behind the attic door lurks a darker and deeper tale with hints of magic realism and political commentary, analogous to the work of Franz Kafka and Haruki Murukami.

Strip beneath the sidesplitting quips and you have a story about corruption, exploring themes of alienation, anarchy and the terrible places people can find themselves in, such as, war, ghettoes, poverty, etc.

Moreover, the Dadaist series of random events takes us into the world of dreams and the subconscious, so that everything has symbolic resonance for the world we live in. In Freudian dream analysis, for example, a house is a symbol of the self. In this way we can glean a deeper significance. The lost property cupboard represents hidden truths, suggesting society has lost its way. While the revolutionary bedroom attic symbolizes hidden memories, repressed thoughts and a higher self.

Of course, some may argue that the surrealism is merely a vehicle for absurd comedy. But ambiguity only deepens the mystery. As a poet, Wild is well aware of metaphor and telling the truth slant.

The impassioned Fanny Fetherby, says the naked umbrella thieves are purely coincidental, yet throughout the book nobody believes in coincidence. Fetherby and O’Hara are then dumped into a field naked and end up with stolen umbrellas. The subtext of this suggests that the surrealism of the universe is not random. That at any moment, against our will, we might become naked umbrella thieves ourselves – that is to say, made helplessly vulnerable and criminal by the insanity of events much bigger than ourselves.

Whether the novel is read as a cryptic polemic or just an entertaining piece of comedy (more likely a bit of both), The Naked Umbrella Thieves is a sparkling - at times inspired, at others deranged - read. In fact, the only thing this book is not, is boring. A writer of considerable talent, Wild should win new readers from this runaway debut and cement his position as fabulist of the fantastic.

However, I should warn that this book might not suitable for buildings under 16 years of construction.

Adam Wyeth