Former Cork teacher turns page on new literary career

A former Cork teacher who left his job to pursue a writing career is set to launch his first book.

Tilting at Windmills by Joseph Sweeney is a collection of sharply humorous observations that bring thoughtful commentary to the matters at hand.

Covering the entire gamut of human affairs, from politics, religion, economics, ageing — “begins as a chick, barely stirring, but turns into a roadrunner” — to garda answer machines, queuing and, naturally, classrooms, the writer employs imagination and deft wordplay to his pursuit.

Writing both serious and humorous fiction, Sweeney had been published in the former Irish Press’s New Irish Writing, Orbis, The Cork Yule Book and Cork City Library’s From the Well short story anthology 2014.

The Dublin-born but Blarney-based writer is also a Cross National Short Story Competition winner and twice collected first prizes at Listowel Writers’ Week. RTÉ Radio broadcast his story about a garda assisting an on-street birth, ‘Real Life’.

In 1987, the year he had been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award, Sweeney began teaching French and English at Cork’s North Monastery Secondary school which took prominence over writing.

In 2007, while working what he described as “one hour a night” on a novel, he realised it was “the most wonderful hour of my day” and decided to quit teaching to return to writing full-time.

Like all good satire, it is the underlying seriousness that informs the work. Citing Frank O’Connor, John D Sheridan, and John B Keane among his influences, he finds humour “a powerful vehicle for the truth”.

“Tilting at Windmills”, he says, is “like Don Quixote, charging at all kinds of monstrosities and pomposities to see what laughter I can release.”

Critics’ sentiments on the self-published work include “a view of life that will put a smile on your face” (Alice Taylor) and “A marvellous anthology” (Thomas McCarthy).

Meanwhile, the author is working on two further humorous books, while editing two novels and a ghost story.

Tilting at Windmills is launched by Des MacHale at Cork’s Central Library at 7pm on December 3 and available from bookshops or at and


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