Monday 16 July 2018

My cultural life: Emily Hourican

Emily Hourican
Emily Hourican
Humphrey Bogart
Billie Holiday

Emily Hourican is a writer, editor and journalist. She was born in Belfast, grew up in Brussels and came to UCD when she was 18 - supposedly for just three years. But 23 years later she is still here, married, with three children. Her first book was a hilarious non-fiction account of having those children, How To Really Be A Mother. Her first novel, The Privileged, was published in April 2016 and short-listed for the Best Commercial Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards last year. Her second novel, White Villa, is out now.

Film: Anything With Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

Particularly Casablanca, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. And yes, I know I'm cheating. I love everything about those films - the clothes, the lighting, the mumbled dialogue and convoluted plots. They were stylish and challenging, with little guys who were weak and frightened, or cynical and indifferent, but somehow always seemed to find courage somewhere. And Bogart (above) was gorgeous.

Band: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Something about Billie Holiday's voice gives me goose-bumps. Particularly on Solitude and Good Morning Heartache. Hers was a sad life, wrecked by drugs, alcohol and awful relationships. Billie (above) quit school at 11, got a job running errands in a brothel when she was 12 and was a state witness in the prosecution of a man who tried to rape her. She died of cirrhosis of the liver aged just 44. I think you hear all of that in the way she sings - the constant aching for something she'll never have - but you also hear a sweet, wistful kind of hope.

Book: The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford

Really, there are way too many contenders for this, and I did wrestle with the urge to pick something scarily high-brow, but in the end, I have to admit that for sheer enjoyment, nothing beats The Pursuit of Love. Witty, snappy, with irresistible characters, I read this first when I was 13, I've probably read it six times since, at least, and look forward to a few more before I'm done.

Gig: U2, Paris, 1987


I was 16. We got the bus from Brussels to Paris and arrived in time to see UB40 and The Pogues warm up. Then U2 came out - it was the original Joshua Tree tour - and they were electric. A scorching hot day - in my memory, the police merrily fired water canons at us, to cool the crowd down. During With Or Without You, someone let off a tear gas bomb (it was the 1980s...) and Bono (above) stopped the song to make sure we were all OK. My hero! The gig ended, we got the bus back to Brussels, arriving into the Gare du Midi in the very early hours of the morning.

Artist: Finola Graham

My godmother, but that doesn't mean I'm biased. Her paintings are exquisite. Uncluttered, with generous expanses of sea, sky and land. I'm lucky enough to have a couple in my house, and looking at them is a wonderful reminder that not everywhere is noisy and crowded; that there are cool, empty spaces out there where humanity is swapped for something much bigger.


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