In advance of his visit to Kinsale, author Donal Ryan tellsabout some of his favourite music, books and TV shows through the decades.
“Roald Dahl’sis the first book I remember my dad reading to me. I learned to read before I started school because of that book. William had my dad’s face and voice in my imagination, of course, and I came up with the brilliant pheasant-drugging plan. It’s a proper novel, and Roald Dahl never condescended to children. I loved it then and I love it now and I couldn’t wait to read it to my own children.
I readwhen I was nine. I didn’t get a lot of it but I loved it and I became convinced — I have no idea why — that JD Salinger lived in Portroe, a few miles from my home village of Newtown, in a bungalow that overlooked Lough Derg and that he worked as a van-driver like my dad, and that they were good pals. I think maybe it was because of the familiar way Dad spoke about him. I remember him saying ‘Wait until you hear why he called it The Catcher in the Rye’ and I presumed Dad knew because Salinger had told him. I was a very well-read yet very innocent child. I haven’t changed too much.
My friend Gary Savage got me into Stephen King when we were fourteen or so and I was obsessed. I remember rushing home from school to get back to, surely the greatest post-apocalyptic vision of them all, until Cormac McCarthy’s .
The last book I finished was Aphra Behn’s. I bought it in the lovely new premises of the Nenagh Bookshop, run by John and Catherine Ryan, two of the best booksellers in the business. Apparently she wrote it in a day so I suppose it’s best read quickly. It’s a proper page-turner about an African prince sold into slavery. Oroonoko is one of the earliest English novels and Aphra Behn was apparently the first woman to earn a living as a writer.
I got a sneak preview of Mary O’Malley’s new collection, out next week,, and it is sublime. And Margaret MacCurtain’s , is a tremendous and timely collection, showing just how sharp and fearless a commentator she was, so ready and able to subvert all sorts of received wisdoms and to face down the hierarchies.
And I highly recommend Paul Lynch’s stunning, another tour de force from the Limerick man.”
“The first album I ever bought wasWho Made Who on our sixth class school tour. I was hooked from the opening drumbeat of the title track. Then I bought Highway to Hell on vinyl after saving months of pocket money and my mother was worried that it was satanic. I suppose they do look a bit evil on the cover what with the devil horns on Angus and his pointy tail.
But there was no censorship in our house (except for Robert Graves’s I, Claudius) and I collected everything they ever recorded. I saw them live in the O2 in London in 2009. Anne Marie was pregnant with our daughter Lucy at the time but she braved it with me. We met a group of people in our hotel bar afterwards who, I discovered, were fans of AC/DC ironically. The world darkened for me a little bit in that moment of terrible revelation and the light has never come fully back.
I lovetoo, and and , but in my mid-teens got really into the .
I’ve seenlive a few times lately and he is incredible. I have his debut album Where I’m From played to death in the car. His song ‘Sarah Doran’, about his maternal grandmother, gives me goose bumps.
There’s a Limerick band calledwho deserve to be huge. I saw them on Other Voices and then in the legendary Dolan’s Warehouse here in Limerick and they rocked out. They have that beautiful early-Pixies oddness and intensity, unexpected riffs and vocalisations and their drummer has this crazy unique style that I love.”
“Could there be a more perfect TV show for a little boy than? Driving around in a cool van with your buddies kicking the shit out of bad guys. I still get a childish thrill when I see a painter/decorator with his black Transit all decked out like BA Baracus’s GMC Vandura, red stripe, bull bars, roof spoiler and all.
I didn’t watch too much TV in my teens. I was too busy trying and failing to be cool down in Frankie Boland’s pool hall and amusement arcade in Nenagh or when I wasn’t doing that, reading Stephen King and Joseph Wambaugh. I do remember watching thethough and saying those yellow lads are gas, they should have their own show.
There’s so much good stuff on TV lately. Shane Meadows’was the best thing I’ve seen in years, up there with his virtuosic . There’s loads of rubbish out there too, of course. I couldn’t believe it when I found out wasn’t satire. Shorn of responsibilities I would spend weeks, months of my life watching Netflix, things like and and old and are just hilarious, excellent. I love , it’s brilliantly written and Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney are fantastic in it.”
“The first film that really moved me was. The 1979 remake with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder. Jesus, my heart actually physically hurt. I think I first saw it shortly after my hero Barry McGuigan lost his belt to Steve Cruz so I was emotionally raw. I loved boxing movies though. I remember screaming so loud at that I couldn’t speak for days. I really wanted to be a boxer when I was a kid. Then I got knocked out around five seconds into my first sparring session by a lad who was a year younger and half a foot shorter than me, so I let the dream die.
I remember feeling really strange after seeing. Parts of it, though I’d never have admitted it at the time, really upset me. It started me on the path towards being completely anti-war and anti-violence. And I got a bit quiet for a while after seeing , the 1985 adaptation of Bernard MacLaverty’s novel. That closing scene, it never leaves you.”
- Donal Ryan will be in conversation with Sue Leonard on Friday at 7pm in the Methodist Church in Kinsale as part of the Words by Water Festival. See wordsbywater.ie
- Donal Ryan is the author of four number one-bestselling novels and a short story collection. He was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2013 for his debut novel, The Spinning Heart, and again in 2018, for his most recent novel, From A Low And Quiet Sea.