Monthly Archives: January 2005

Keane on Keane

John B. Keane in the old days
When I was young and a bit scary-looking I used to hitch-hike round the West of Ireland and I once spent a couple of nights in a small town in deepest Kerry called Listowel. I went there because I’d read some plays and stories by a funny and clever and sentimental writer called John B. Keane (the Irish Dylan Thomas if you ask me). Keane, I knew, kept a pub in the town (called, as you’d expect, John B. Keane’s).

I arrived in town on the last night of an amateur run of one of Keane’s plays (I wish I could remember which one) in a freezing church hall. I saw the play (laughed like a drain) and then went back to Keane’s pub for what turned out to be the private cast party. I have no idea how I got in but it’s a proper testament to the generosity of the Irish (and their unwillingness to mix it with a twenty year-old spotty skin-head in camouflage and ten-hole Martens) that I didn’t learn it was a private party until I read the notice on the front door on the way out.

In fact, I had a lovely evening, got a bit drunk, talked for ages with the man himself and felt privileged to be included in a quite sophisticated, quite introverted, quite alien, provincial bubble – a community that, back then, before EU money translated the whole of Ireland into Barcelona or Helsinki or Toulouse or somewhere, seemed like the very final edge of the European literary universe – what with The Atlantic and all that.

Anyway, twenty years later, I learn that Fergal Keane, BBC foreign correspondent and dreadful romantic, is John B’s nephew. He’s made a nice radio programme about his uncle (who died in 2002) which gave me goose-bumps – memories crowding in and the voice of the man himself and his friends – literary and otherwise – and the rush of the River Feale and Keane’s friendly pub and the modest, undemonstrative fame of the local hero. Excellent.

Let’s hear it for 40-ish blokes

My wife is always telling me that our generation is now in charge. Although I seldom, these days, feel very in charge (I’m doing my best, though. Me: “yes. It is bed time. No you cannot watch another ten minutes of Inspector Gadget…”), I can see what she means.

On the radio last night, there were two really inspiring programmes from men of my 40-ish generation: Jon Ronson on… Going West (one of a very clever series) and Simon Armitage’s one-off Surtsey and Me about the strange volcanic island off Iceland with which he (almost) shares a birthday.

New year’s resolution: unload that big pile of review copies

Here’s a list of geeky books I’ve currently got for sale over at Go on. Buy some. They’re all brand new and every single one is cheaper than you’ll get it anywhere else – sometimes four or five pounds less than I’ve highlighted the ones I think are really good in bold (that doesn’t mean I understand them).

You can also get an up-to-date list of things I’m selling here any time (I think).

Congratulations, scumbags

Today, for the first time, I deleted over 1,000 spam comments from this weblog (about 1,200 in the last 24 hours, in fact). I am now officially overwhelmed (and so is poor Robin’s server which now spends most of its time accepting and then deleting my comment spam) so we’re going to have to try a different way of dumping the spam – probably something that requires commentors to type a random code or something. How boring.