By Mary Lannon
Photos by Mark William Butler
A true tale of Dublin and a fictional tale of Philadelphia from our own salon leader, John Kearns, and a story of a dictator turned romance novelist from Brendan Costello Jr. were just two of the highlights from a wealth of talented artists at Tuesday night’s IAW&A Salon at The Cell.
Kearns started off the evening by giving us a brief outline of his recent Dublin travels that included a reading and a nationally televised radio interview (RTE) about his historical play on the Molly Maguires and his talk on the Mollies at the Sean O’Casey Theatre, sponsored by Seven Towers Agency and the East Wall History Group. He then read from a brand-new excerpt of his novel-in-progress, Worlds. In this excerpt, Sarsfield Logan, S.J., French teacher at Xavier High School, travels home to 1920s Philadelphia to visit his loquacious brother, Jimmy, who fills him in on the building boom taking place in his native city and how it is benefitting the Logan Construction Company. Father Logan is reminded of a quote from Montaigne, “Il n’est pas la faute mais plutôt l’abondance qui crée l’avidité.” “It is not paucity but abundance that creates greed.”
In an amusing counterpoint to Kearns’s politically-inflected pieces, Costello read an excerpt from his story “It’s Always Morning in Sunny Santa Alba,” based on the literary career of Saddam Hussein (he had one — look it up!) and the absurd portrayals of tyrants by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The narrator, a self-proclaimed Generalissimo, reflects on his violent rise to power which now, at last, has given him the time to “get some serious writing done.” He is haunted, however, by the suspicion that his romance novels may be of questionable literary merit.
Dark humor was also a part of a scene from Joe Davidson’s play, The Rekindling, performed by talented actors Mary Tierney and Ron Ryan. Tierney played the foul-mouthed drunken Nancy Morris who barely holds together her marriage to Ivy League professor, Barney Morris, embodied by Ryan. Blackmail and manipulation are Nancy Morris’s emotional weaponry as she alternately begs for her husband’s love and threatens to reveal a secret that might ruin him. The tug and pull between the characters in their dark negotiation and the great skill of the actors kept the audience enthralled. IAWA members should look for another excerpt probably this September.
Mary Tierney and Ron Ryan
Humor also featured in Mary Lannon’s reading from her finished novel (that she’s shopping around) with its impossibly long title, Explanation of the Fundamentals of the Derivation of Dilapidated Brown Station Wagon aka How I Became a Scientist and Discovered the Truth about Parallel Universes by Miranda J. McCleod. The novel tells the story of a girl who, after fighting with her father, believes that she got sucked through a faulty air-conditioner and landed in a parallel universe. In the excerpt Mary read, the girl science geek narrator struggles with her mother’s expectations about female sexuality.
Other readers kept the evening varied with a more serious tone. Ray Lindie read from his novella called, “Lone Hero.” It is the story of a returning Vietnam veteran who while overseas received a Dear John letter from his girlfriend. Lindie’s excerpt took listeners through the vet’s early childhood and subsequent abandonment through his return home and firm decision not to contact his ex and its reversal to, as the narrator says,” to insert himself, to confront, disrupt, and reclaim his territory.”
Mark Donnelly read three new poems — one reflecting on the death of a friend; one on the supposed romanticism of drinking and the writing life; and the third a chronicle of his cross-country trips over several decades. Donnelly has been writing poetry, plays, and short stories since his 20s. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and runs a playwriting workshop for older adults in Great Neck, Long Island.
Mark William Butler wandered away from his own work and read two intense pieces from writers he admires. The first was an excerpt from a Brendan Behan short story called “The Execution.” It can be found in the collection After the Wake. The second was a poem, “The Well-Fed Doesn’t Understand the Hungry,” by our own John Kearns from his play Sons of Molly Maguire, which ran in NYC at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2007.
Mark William Butler
Well worth the wait, the lone singer of the evening, Jack DiMonte, took a moment to read the song lyrics to “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work” by Tom Waits, as poetry before launching into song. DiMonte can frequently be heard at Bar Thalia’s Monday open mic nights from 8 to 11 p.m. His low baritone provided a warm ending to the air-conditioned cool of a once again lively IAW&A Salon on a very hot night.
The next salon is at Bar Thalia on August 6th. Don’t miss it!