Introducing Landing Author Caitriona Lally and ‘Eggshells’

Eggshells

Published by Liberties Press, 2015. Cover design by Karen Vaughan.

After quite a long gap, I am pleased to be hosting another Landing Author guest post. Over the last couple of years, I have had guest posts from some lovely writers, beginning with Andrés Neuman in April 2012 and most recently, Juliet Greenwood last August. As you can see, it has been quite a while… In looking back, I note that I have said the very same thing before so perhaps I need a better ‘Author Routine’ to keep me regular.

My impetus for (trying) to get into gear again with guest posts, was Caitriona Lally giving a talk at our Liberties Upstairs Culture Club event recently. In parallel, we read Eggshells for the Upstairs book club. I mentioned in my last post that I would like to ask her to contribute a Landing post, and she very kindly agreed. I will post up Caitriona’s piece on Friday 17 July and leave you with a taster for now.  As I have now declared my Liberties Press interest[i], I am not going to offer a review of Eggshells. What I will do however is to give you part of Sarah Gilmartin’s review in the Irish Times (6 June) to introduce you to Eggshells, and its unusual protagonist Vivian Lawlor:

 

Vivian is a self-professed changeling, left by fairies to compete with her parents’ human child, also called Vivian. With the parents dead, the two adult Vivians are all that remain. Human Vivian is married with children and uninterested in her sister’s strange ways. The narrator lives alone in her great-aunt’s house, filling her days with sugary treats, dressing up and a variety of bizarre pastimes as she seeks a way out of this world and back to her own.

It is an interesting set-up, with a clever ambiguity surrounding the narrator. The book is rooted in the natural world of contemporary Dublin, but to Vivian’s eyes this is a fairytale world, full of rules of threes and sixes, and potential gateways to supernatural lands. How much of her changeling status is fictional, the delusions of a severely disturbed character, is left for the reader to puzzle over. This question gives momentum to Vivian’s escapades. It also, somewhat unexpectedly, provides plenty of laughs in a book full of one-liners.

Much of the humour comes from the author’s preoccupation with language and wordplay. Vivian tells a social worker enquiring about her job prospects: “I am open-minded. Sometimes I wear my slippers on the opposite feet to change my worldview.” As she searches for portals across the city – St Stephen’s Green, Glasnevin cemetery, the canals, the Liffey bridges – her literal take on language brings about many absurd situations. The need for precision in language is a major theme, with Vivian constantly drawing attention to the gap between speech and meaning. “I wake on a damp pillow,” she tells us. “My dreams must have leaked.”

A loose plot develops out of this affinity with language when Vivian pins a notice to a tree: “I want a friend called Penelope. When I know her well enough, I’ll ask her why she doesn’t rhyme with Antelope.” The new friend, actually called Elaine, is another oddball character. Struggling herself with mother issues and an obsession with painting cats, Elaine/Penelope doesn’t judge. More importantly, she promises she’ll organise a vertical burial for Vivian, which is all Vivian has ever wanted in a friend.

The black comedy gives the book a jaunty quality that complements the dazzling trip around Dublin. From the “soot-streaked backs of the buildings at the junction of George’s Street and Dame Street” to the “fierce bang of hops from the Guinness factory, a smell somewhere between meat and toffee”, Lally uses Vivian’s otherworldly perspective to bring the city to life.

 

Caitriona, a lover of words who confesses to having no proper writing routine, has written a post for us about her obsession with other writers and their routines. I won’t spoil the blog post by telling you about any writerly habits that you may or may not wish to emulate (on Friday you can judge the wisdom of those mentioned).

I was delighted to realise that Caitriona’s post will be the 200th post on The Landing! See you on Friday…

Caitriona Lally

Caitriona Lally

About the author:

Caitriona Lally studied English Literature in Trinity College Dublin. She has had a colourful employment history, working as an abstract writer and a copywriter alongside working as a home help in New York and an English teacher in Japan. She has travelled extensively around Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Her essay about Grangegorman appeared in a recent issue of We Are Dublin. Eggshells was selected as one of twelve finalists in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2014.

[i] Since I have been associated with Liberties Press, I have similarly featured the books of Bethany Dawson (guest blog post) and Daniel Seery (Q and A).

Picture credits: Liberties Press and the Irish Times.

An Introdution to the TBR Pile

two shelves of books

A small slice of a Reading Challenge

Consider this to be the Introduction to my Landing Tales Reading Challenge, albeit a brief one (partly because it is getting late and I am tired after tinkering overlong with WordPress widgets). Over in the Prologue you will find a bit of background explaining the reason behind the Landing Bookshelves name and what I’m planning (nay, optimistically hoping) to do with the challenge in due course. Basically this whole blog will be an elaborate mechanism for tackling my ever-growing TBR Pile, by beginning with the landing book shelves. As I mentioned in The Prologue I will leaven the Reading Challenge reports with other arts and culture related posts from my various activities.

The whole Landing Reading Challenge hinges on the literary contents of my (or more properly, our) landing book shelves of which there are three in number. As I said in the Prologue, the book cases contain mainly classics, poetry, literary fiction and children’s titles, but there is also a selection of old reference and non fiction volumes. I plan to read my way through as many of the unread books as possible and maybe even re-read some old favourites as I go along. This is going to be a Reading Challenge without too many rules however, for various reasons. One of the reasons is that I have to admit that the reference volumes are the sticking point to my grand plan. Another reason is that the contents of the shelves may not necesarily be static as the books get re-arranged from time to time (I find that re-arranging livens up the tedium of dusting).

The largest of the reference volumes in the book cases is a copy of the Western Union Telegraph Code (International Cable Directory Company, 1917) and I really can’t see me getting very far with that. At a pinch I might get part of the way through a Dictionary of Banking  (Waverley Book Company, 1911) but a much more realistic reading proposition is A Second Treasury of the World’s Great Letters (Heinemann, 1950). I love reading old letters and I have previously skimmed through this collection. I think I might have to allow a certain amount of dipping into volumes in cases such as these where it is more pleasurable to browse than doggedly to read through from beginning to end.Title page of The World's Great Letters

So it only remains for me to decide how and where to start the TBR Pile. It might be simplest to employ the equivalent of sticking a pin into a map; I  could just close my eyes and grab whatever comes to hand. This will be either the shortest or the longest Reading Challenge I have ever done depending on my literary stamina.

Either way I will choose a book, get challenged,  and feature the results in the next post.

Watch this space….

P.S – Fill me in on any of your challenges (reading or otherwise) – I’d love to hear from you.  And let me know about your TBR Pile too…