By Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy
Photos by Cat Dwyer
Edna O’Brien believes that Irish writers are driven by conflict…and loss…and an innate sense of tragedy. At the Irish American Writers & Artists Salon, summer came to an end with tales of death, love and loss.
Brent Shearer got the Salon started with “The Cancer Hospital” a story about a biddy who ventures into Manhattan from Long Island to visit her dying friend. Afraid of muggers, she leaves her handbag home but carries with her the racist fears and prejudices that haunt her. Brent’s work has appeared in publications from the New York Times to Mergers & Acquisitions magazine, where he was a senior editor.
Our next presenter, Kathleen Vaughan, read from her memoir Raised by Nuns and Drunks, which describes a child’s loss of home and parental love. The excerpt was a tribute to her aunt whose visits to the young Kathleen brightened her seven years spent in a Catholic orphanage. While occasionally taking lady-like sips from her whiskey flask, Auntie Nora shared indelible memories of Kathleen’s mother and provided the “powerful, unstoppable love” she needed.
IAW&A Board member Brendan Costello Jr. read an excerpt from his novel in progress, Winning, which despite its hopeful title, continued the somewhat dark themes of the Salon so far. The scene’s main character (a callow young man in his late twenties) observes the interaction of several homeless men across the street from his New Orleans hotel room. His detachment and disdain is meant to indicate his moral bankruptcy, much like the scene in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness on which it is based.
Brendan Costello Jr.
At this point in the evening, host Maureen Hossbacher welcomed back, fresh from the Electric Picnic Arts & Music Festival in County Laois, John Kearns who accompanied a contingent of artists (novelist Kathleen Donohue, actress Maria Deasy, playwright Derek Murphy, comedian Sarah Fearon and monologist John McDonagh), who participated with John in our first Salons on Irish soil! John described their activities in Laois and other venues, and reminded us of important IAW&A events upcoming in NYC, most notably our exciting annual fundraiser, the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award at the Manhattan Club, on Monday, Oct. 16, 6-9pm, this year honoring legendary talk show host Phil Donahue (for tkts go to 2017oneillaward.eventbrite.com).
John, pictured above, read a newly completed ending to an episode from his novel-in-progress, Worlds, in which Paul Logan hopes to take barmaid Laura out for the evening but finds himself staying at her bar to listen to the Santana cover band, Bruja. When Laura’s friend, Stacey, arrives, the evening turns out completely different from what Paul had planned.
Rosina Fernhoff, a masterful, Obie Award-winning actor and frequent performer at our Salons, brought the first half to a close with a passionate monologue from the play Grace by Mick Gordon and AC Grayling. In it, the bitter conflict which an atheist scientist has with her adored son, a gentle evangelist minister, is revealed. She scornfully blames his death on his attempt to turn a “violent religion into a better religion.”
After the sobering subject matter of the presentations, a nice long intermission for socializing and imbibing refreshed us for the second half, kicked off by Karen Frances McCarthy, who read a poignant vignette “Living Room. Morning” from her memoir entitled appropriately enough, Love, Sex & Death. She prefaced her reading by joking that she would read “the sex part” at her next Salon. McCarthy, an accomplished journalist, has written and produced documentaries for RTE and covered the Iraq war for the Irish Times and American politics for Al Jazeera. Her book The Other Irish became part of the cross border peace effort in Ireland, for which she was named one of Ireland’s most influential broadcasters who have made an international impact.
Karen Frances McCarthy
Gordon Gilbert writes fiction and poetry, and his play, Monologues from the Old Folks Home, has been directed and produced by him six times in NYC. This evening he presented four poems, the first about how distance can make a lover forget the bad and remember the good; the next three about his father, who passed away this summer at the age of 98. Gordon ended with an amusing anecdote from the eulogy he gave at the memorial service.
Next up, Mary Lannon furnished a bit more levity with her poems: “To Impersonate a Poet,” “An Exercise,” “I Am Monica Lewinsky,” and “In the Land of Landlords.” The last two drew much laughter from the crowd. Mary’s fiction has been published at Story, New World Writing and Prick of the Spindle. She’s at work on a second novel, and this was the first time she has read poetry at the Salon.
Tom Mahon, a long-time member and presenter, then read a vignette from his collection Delusions, a sad tale entitled “The Ten Grand Bride,” about a business transaction — a loveless green card marriage — that was supposed to improve the life of a lonely bachelor. It didn’t.
Salon host Maureen Hossbacher ended the proceedings with a shout-out to Malachy McCourt, who often closes the salon with a yarn and a song, but sent his regrets this evening. In his absence, Maureen sang us out with a stunning rendition of the Broadway classic from Finian’s Rainbow, “How Are Things In Glocca Morra.”
Come to the next Salon on Tuesday, 9/19 at The Cell Theatre.