By Charles Hale
TODAY’S SONG: CARRICKFERGUS/VAN MORRISON
No, Van Morrison didn’t sing the beautiful Irish folk song, “Carrickfergus” at Tuesday night’s salon but Malachy McCourt ended an absolutely grand evening with a heartfelt rendition of this tune. The origins of “Carrickfergus” are unclear, but it has been traced to an Irish language song, “There Was a Noblewoman,” written in the early eighteenth century.And the Irish language was at the heart of one of the most stirring presentations the members of the Irish American Writers & Artists have experienced since the salons began. Reading from her play,Killer is My Name, Guenevere Donohue’s rapt audience sat spellbound as she weaved storytelling, keening–a form of vocal lament–and the Irish language into performance art of the highest order.
The evening began with two members reading for the first time. Jim Callaghan read from a story “Nobody Got It,” based on his “on a lark” tryout with the New York Mets in 1963, at the age of 16. Jim’s dad, friends and the stadium staff thought he was doing it because he really wanted to be in the big leagues. Jim claims he had no athletic ability and did it mainly for the adventure of playing in the Polo Grounds where his baseball hero Willie Mays played from 1951 to 1957 for the then-New York Giants. What New York City kid doesn’t relate to this? Great start to the evening.
Joe Davidson stepped up next and read from his novel in progress, a story of a mob associate and future insider on Wall Street. While celebrating his new career over dinner with his wife and mother at a Little Italy bistro, Billy Ferrara witnesses a gruesome mob hit by two men disguised as priests, complicating his already tumultuous relationship with mob boss Jimmy Vento and the Marghetti Family. This has the makings of an excellent novel. I look forward to hearing more from Joe.
Maura Mulligan, who has read on a number of occasions from her memoir, Call of the Lark, which she reported is forthcoming from Greenpoint Press next month, read from a novel in progress. The theme of the piece Maura chose to read concerned teaching inner city students whose young lives are ruled by poverty and crime. Maura also reported that she has several readings lined up in Ireland this summer.
Kevin R.McPartland read a riveting excerpt from his soon to be released novelBrownstone Dreams, an autobiographical tale set in sixties Brooklyn. Listening to Kevin’s entertaining presentations you know you are in the presence of someone who has “been there and done that.” Street smarts we call that in NYC. Tom Mahon read from a story “Desperate,” the tale of three wounded vets from three different wars. Tom, who presented a wonderful photomontage of his return to Vietnam at the last salon, is interested in the subject of returning vets who have difficulty rejoining society. Honor Molloy closed out the first half of the evening reading from her father’s memoir, Alive, Alive O. In this scene, John Molloy, a well-known Dublin television actor is on the road with Percy the guinea pig tucked under his gansey. “ON TOUR with Ireland’s Fit-Up People. Fit up a curtain, put on a show.” Honor, as only Honor can do Honor. (Gansey? I had to look that one up: … also known as guerney, or a seaman’s knitted sweater.)
During the intermission I had a chance to speak with Ed Farrell who read from his memoir, A Mild Cognitive Impairment: An Unexpected Memoir. Ed said, “This whole process, our time together here, including the intermission and lingering around after the event is so important. I am able to share my thoughts with other writers and they with me. We need to reinforce each other.” Well said and exactly what the salon is intended to be.
Patricia Goldstone, another first time reader exposed the first few pages of a brand-new play. Jim Callahan and John Moss, who were kind enough to volunteer without knowing anything about Patricia’s work, couldn’t have been better. Patricia’s words say it best: “The highly sophisticated audience gave me incredibly positive feedback. When people tell me they want to hear more, that’s the best news I can get!” Perfect.
John Kearns followed with a read from his novel-in-progress Worlds, in which Paul Logan, a drunken Englishman named Gavin, and Stephanie, the beautiful barmaid they are interested in, stop into a bar late one April night in Little Italy. There they encounter Vinny DeAngelis who solicitously buys a cup of coffee for his favorite barmaid every night. John announced that fellow AWA members Richard Butler and Mark Butler are directing and helping produce his play In the Wilderness (whose main character is also Paul Logan). For details and tickets, click here Planet Connections
Billy Barrett walked the gentler side of Highway Star last night. His touching and enlightening boyhood relationship with his foxy, funny guru-lady Charlie shows his versatility, the ability to ski the slippery slope of literary intimacy. Yeah, Billy can do it.
And closing out the evening, up from Washington DC, was David Coles, who first read from his bookIn the Midnight Choir at last month’s Thalia salon. David describes his early days in Greenwich Village in the 1970′s, newly arrived from Colorado, trying to get used to the odd ways of the Easterner and finding his place in the very Irish group of people he’d suddenly found himself among. A well-read, excellent piece of writing, centered on a great slice and time of NYC life.
After this evening of great entertainment I had a thought I’ve had before: “This can’t get any better. Can it?” I guess we’ll find out at the next salon on April 17 at 7PM at The Cell theatre, located at 338 W23rd Street. For more information on the salons or joining the Irish American Artists & Writers contact Charles R. Hale firstname.lastname@example.org