Bloomsday will certainly be different this year but at least we can look forward to a new work from Edna O'Brien. Extracts from James and Nora: Portrait of Joyce's Marriage will be broadcast on June 13 at 6.30pm on RTE Radio 1. The half-hour show will feature specially adapted excerpts of O'Brien reading from her latest book, recently recorded at her home in London.
The exquisite Aegean island of Hydra is the sensuous setting for Polly Samson's third novel, A Theatre for Dreamers. The year is 1960; the Sixties have just begun to swing and the Greek utopia is home to a vivid collection of writers, artists and musicians, and a stark contrast to the dour England that narrator Erica is fleeing.
In keeping with the zeitgeist, I put the literary diary into quarantine last month. Much was cancelled. I was disappointed to miss my maiden voyage at the Mountains to Sea Festival, where I was due to interview Louise Doughty, of Apple Tree Yard fame. However, I can highly recommend her new novel Platform Seven, an absorbing study of coercive control.
Four seasons batter us as we barrel down the motorway to Cork. Blazing sunshine, hailstones, torrential rain and wind assault the car, so by the time we arrive Leeside, we're ready for a lunch break with my cousin in the Imperial, a marvellous monolith which foreshadows our ultimate destination.
Snow falls softly on my shoulders as I duck deeper into the warm, bubbling water. My hot tub is surrounded by majestic mountains and I'm alone in the chilly night, apart from a handsome, bearded man standing metres away wielding an axe. He's chopping wood for the fire that will warm the families gathered inside feeding their children pasta.
When I tell you the Hard Rock Hotel in Tenerife has its own Wow manager who heads up an actual Wow department, I think you'll get the idea. And staying with the lingo, I have to say, a long weekend there in late September really was Wowtastic! It is, indeed, a place of exclamation marks.
'We got you over to the northside," declared a delighted An Post CEO David McRedmond as he welcomed the stars of the literary firmament to the An Post Irish Book Awards on Wednesday evening. Indeed driving over from the southside, it was wonderful to see the Convention Centre - our new home - lit up in green for our annual celebration of the best in Irish writing.
There's no end to the ability of this country to generate commercial fiction. Often dismissed with the withering 'chick-lit' tag, in fact the many writers who produce, year-on-year, readable, enjoyable, relatable stories is testament not just to their talents, but also to the hundreds of thousands of readers out there who demand it.
November is always busy for us bookies. There's the awards (see facing page) and a brace of literary festivals. The Dublin Book Festival opens at Smock Alley on the 14th and as always has a super line-up including Pat McCabe, Thomas Kilroy and Wendy Erskine.
I'm with Anne of Green Gables, who declared 'I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers'. Autumn foliage, bonfires, the theatre festival, lots of new literature and many loved ones' birthdays (my own included) make it my favourite month of the year. And this is shaping up to be a particularly fine vintage.
Dressed in cornflower blue and gold, proudly wearing my regal headdress, I dance the pavane with my courtiers. Finally, I have been recognised: I am queen for a night. The fun and games are happening at a Renaissance ball at the Chateau d'Amboise. Despite being in the eye of a searing heatwave (even at eight o'clock in the evening it's so hot that we've eschewed a picnic on the lawn for dinner inside a tower), revellers have travelled from as far away as the Cote d'Azur and are sporting their velvets, silks and ermines.
"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are." I'm with Elizabeth Gilbert on this. The New York Times' bestselling writer is in town soon for a special event with the International Literature Festival Dublin. Author of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert has a new novel: City Of Girls is, I'm told, a delicious story of glamour, sex and self-discovery, in which a young woman learns that you don't have to be a good girl to be a good person, which is great news for bold girls everywhere. Elizabeth will be in conversation with writer and critic Anna Carey in Belvedere College on June 25 at 7pm. Tickets from www.ilfdublin.com
Reading this outstanding travel memoir brought Paul Theroux's observation to mind: "Tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they're going." Rosita Boland, the author of Elsewhere, belongs in the latter category. While she may have the destination decided, one of the many beauties of this beguiling book, is that really Rosita doesn't know where she's going. But go she will, a woman solo, save for her ancient rucksack, a notebook and a passionate curiosity to find the world and more besides.
Twenty-five sleeps left till I head to Listowel Writers' Week. Roddy Doyle, Kit de Waal, John Boyne, Tishani Doshi and Jan Carson comprise the captivating quintet of authors I'm interviewing. Rick O'Shea will conduct 'Write Hawks', a nightly blend of jazz, wine and bibliophiles (this one included) talking about books. Douglas Kennedy (who's giving a master class), Hugo Hamilton, Carlo Pizzati and Elizabeth Day, among many others, feature on an energetic programme which includes yoga, beach walks, workshops and art exhibitions.
The wonder that is Edna O'Brien and her seminal trilogy The Country Girls will be celebrated next month as part of the excellent Dublin One City One Book initiative. Among a dazzling array of events taking place is an evening with Edna at the Mansion House (April 24) where she'll talk about her life and work with Colum McCann. There's also an exhibition - Evil Literature - based on the banned books in the collections of Dublin City Libraries. This will be launched on April 3 at Pearse Street Library after which I will chair a panel on the history of book censorship in Ireland with UCD's Professor Margaret Kelleher, Tom Quinlan from the National Archives and historian Donal Fallon. Both events are free, booking essential on eventbrite.ie
Niagarous volumes of water have passed under many metaphorical bridges since I last visited Cyprus. It was 1994 and the very happy occasion of our honeymoon: a fortnight in October in an elegant hotel on the beach - the gift of a dear friend, the late Gillian Bowler, no better woman to pick a stunning vacation location.
Barely has the ink dried on one festival - last week's inaugural celebration of crime writing MurderOne was a fantastic success - than another one hurtles down the tracks. Opening on Thursday, November 15 at Smock Alley, the 12th Dublin Book Festival promises a feast of Irish writing and publishing across the weekend.
The tedium of a transatlantic flight was relieved recently by Ruth Ware's gripping new psychological thriller The Death of Mrs Westaway. So I'm excited about interviewing her, along with Lisa Jewell, author of Watching You, at the inaugural Murder One festival which takes place November 2-4 at Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre. Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin and Bert Wright have curated an impressive line up which includes such maestros of the genre as Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid and Liz Nugent. Check out Murderone.ie
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