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MOD on Monday: 'Hail the Irish literary greats - Joyce, Beckett, BOD and Graham Norton'

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Graham Norton.

Graham Norton.

Ronan Keating in Once.

Ronan Keating in Once.

John Connors.

John Connors.

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Graham Norton.

It is easy, and some might say churlish, to criticise the Irish Book Awards, an enterprise run by a conglomeration of Irish publishers and book-sellers, intended to both recognise Ireland's finest scribes, and also generate some publicity for an immensely important industry.

So here goes.

The 2014 Awards took place last week, with highlights aired on RTE over the weekend.

The devotion of meagre broadcasting resources to such an apparently niche event might seem curious

That's until one notices that, far from being a worthy but dull appreciation of the written word, the awards are starting to bear more than a passing resemblance to an entertainment industry bash.

publicity

For years, with winners such as John Banville, Edna O'Brien and Maeve Binchy, the awards gained little publicity outside of the book industry.

This year two of the winners were those renowned writers, Graham Norton and Brian O'Driscoll. And guess what? The ceremony was all over the newspapers...

All of which begs the inescapable question - surely a country with such an outstanding literary heritage as Ireland can do better than this?

First, let's not beat around the bush - Brian O'Driscoll did not actually write his memoirs.

While he provided the content, it was physically written by a ghost-writer, who had the task of knocking Brian's reminiscences into shape.

Likewise, to call Graham Norton's offering a "book" would make some of the tradition's forefathers spin in their graves.

A breezy romp through his life in showbiz thus far, it is an undeniably good read, but that's chiefly because Norton is a good comedian, rather than having any distinctive skills as a writer.

The event stresses that winners are chosen through a combination of public and "academy" voting.

The latter is a group of 300 or so industry insiders, booksellers, journalists etc who can step in to overrule a blatantly populist vote in to make the award more "respectable".

Even they, however, are not blind to the benefits of having a bit of stardust being sprinkled on their event, and seem to have swallowed their literary pride this year in favour of some publicity-generating winners.

Awards such as these are, of course, good for the book industry, and are fully deserving of our support.

slick

But it now seems to have fallen foul of a severe dose of celebrity-itis, more concerned with getting big names to pose on the red carpet than actually honouring Ireland's best writers.

And with its slick PR campaign, gala dinner and long list of sponsors, it is easy to conclude that the Irish Book Awards, rather than a reputable honouring of this country's finest scribes, continuing the tradition of Joyce, Beckett and Swift, has just turned into another black tie schmooze-fest, whose success is judged by how many column inches they get in the following day's papers.

Let's be honest - are O'Driscoll and Norton really the new Banville and O'Brien?

Because if they are, then the Irish book industry has got bigger problems than it thinks.

 

That old number sounds a bit tired, John

John Delaney has attracted an unusual, and perhaps unwanted, piece of support following the commotion over his singing of a rebel song in a Dublin pub.

Three months ago, John Connors was just another jobbing actor.

But now, courtesy of his high profile stint as bomb-making traveller Patrick in Love/Hate, he is a commentator on the day's big issues.

Raising a jaundiced eye at the criticism that Delaney has attracted, Connors took to Facebook to suggest an alternate perception of John's misdemeanour.

This was based on a historical appreciation of our musical heritage, a profound understanding of the trauma that was necessary in the creation of the Free State, and a rapier-like dissection of the nuances of dissenting opinions.

Or, to put it in John's words: "It's a rebel song, so what? Big f**king deal. This country was built on rebel songs - anyone with half a brain that's not brainwashed by British propaganda and Irish Angloism knows that."

Bearing in mind the insight that this offers into his thought-process, may we respectfully suggest that, while Connors was very convincing as a pipe bomb-making Traveller, perhaps he should leave sociological analysis to others?

 

Some Once off humble pie...

Given the arrival of December, and the acceptance of indulgence in sweet culinary offerings that accompanies the festive month, I am taking the rare step of eating some humble pie.

I have in the past dismissed Ronan Keating's attempts to forge a career for himself outside of Boyzone. But now comes the news that the former boyband star is impressing London theatre critics with his performance in Once in the West End.

The Evening Standard wrote that Keating "gives an extremely creditable account of himself," while the Independent gushed that  Keating "captures the hearts of the audience seemingly effortlessly." As the man himself might say: fair play.

 

One newspaper has tried to make a fuss about John Delaney's girlfriend, Emma English, being allowed to invite Irish models into the Presidential box at the recent Ireland v USA soccer match in the Aviva, insinuating that Delaney was somehow abusing his power.

"It is not clear what football fans would make of the invitations to the models," stated the paper, to which a simple answer can be offered. If it encourages a few businessmen to buy a corporate box because they think the likes of Emma Waldron are going to be knocking around then they are more than welcome. If anything, all this proves is that Emma English knows how PR works.

 

 


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