Sunday 25 March 2018

Review: Sunday Miscellany (Selection from 2008 - 2011) Ed by Cliodhna Ni Anluain

New Island, €17.99, Hardback

As someone who reviews both books and radio, this could be described as the perfect subject for me: the book of a radio show. More specifically, a carefully chosen, wonderfully diverse collection of pieces from an Irish radio institution.

Sunday Miscellany has been running on RTE since 1968 and over time established itself as much more than just a radio show. I've heard it described as being "like a mass for literary lovers without having to leave the bed"; the producers themselves pithily declare, "Sunday morning means Sunday Miscellany".

It's a cultural behemoth, an iconic fixture; it's an inextricable part of the weekend now. The gently spoken introductions and links, the musical interludes, and of course the essays, poems and stories with their marvellous range of subject matter and tone and theme, read by the author ... Sunday Miscellany is like a rummage through the most interesting parts of the Irish artistic and sociocultural mind. Short, sharp and (usually) perfectly formed.

Not that it's all perfect, of course. There have been pieces that left me cold, or annoyed me; some have been clichéd and somehow forced or inauthentic, almost like the writer is too well-aware of all that Sunday Miscellany entails, and is pitching what they think will please the listener instead of what their head tells them to write.

But these are in a tiny minority; and besides, it would be churlish and petty to focus on the negative. This book (the sixth compendium in all) is a celebration, after all: of an enduringly excellent radio programme, and the enduring excellence of those who contribute to it.

And what a contributors list: this volume alone contains such stellar names as John Banville, Joe O'Connor, Kevin McAleer, Joseph O'Neill, Kevin Barry, Claire Kilroy, Brendan Graham ... I could go on and on. Previous editions and programmes have included true literary giants like Benedict Kiely, Seán Ó Faoláin, Paul Muldoon, Seamus Heaney and many more.

And under producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain, who also edited this book, the programme is broadening its reach with a series of real-life events, including several Sunday Miscellany Live gigs at literary festivals throughout the summer. They also launched this book with a concert at the NCH, drawing together the musical and literary elements just like it happens on radio.

Publisher Edwin Higel told us, "For several years now New Island has been associated with the Best of Sunday Miscellany. The programme has been going from strength to strength and has acquired cult status -- a pity we can't publish the music too!" A pity indeed, but in this great collection of words you'll find music enough.

Darragh McManus is an author and journalist. His new e-book Cold! Steel! Justice!!! (written as Alexander O'Hara) is available from and

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