A Question of taste with Kevin Barry

Limerick-born author Kevin Barry will read at Cork City Library on Tuesday, April 19, as part of Cork World Book Fest. He will read his ‘Cork’ story from Winter Pages, the first volume of the arts anthology he put together with Olivia Smith.

Best recent book: Not a new book but I read a James Salter novel, Light Years, last month and I was very much taken with it. It’s a very sad story about very beautiful people who apparently have it all going for them. It has great style and it’s very affecting — you think about it a lot afterwards.

Best recent film: I had a hoot with Hail Caeser, the newie from the Coen Brothers. I’m a bit hot-and-cold with them, I don’t love everything, but this is one of their pure, play-it-for-laughs efforts, and it’s enormous fun. A ’40s Hollywood setting, with demented old movie stars, song-and-dance routines, the works.

Best recent show/exhibition/gig: I saw Shackleton by the Blue Raincoat company in Sligo last week and I thought it was terrific. It tells the story of the great Antarctic expedition and it does so without a word of dialogue — really magical stuff, very innovative.

What formats do you access music?

I buy vinyl a lot, and not just because I’m tearfully trying to relive my youth. It sounds better. I listen to Lyric FM a lot on the radio, The John Kelly Show or The Blue of the Night, and we often listen to John Creedon on Radio 1 after the dinner of an evening.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old): I’m going through a bit of a Nick Drake phase (again) and Five Leaves Left has been going on morning, noon and night. It’s an utterly beautiful and haunting record.

First ever piece of music or art or film that really moved you: I saw Paris Texas on Channel 4 some time (I’d say) around 1986 and I was on the floor after it. It remains one of my favourites — I’ve probably watched it 17 or 18 times now.

Best gig or show you’ve ever seen: I saw The Smiths in the Savoy in Limerick in 1984 — they were just having their second hit (‘What Difference Does It Make’) so it was early days for them. We robbed flowers from the chapel of our school, the CBS Sexton Street, and threw them at the feet of Morrissey. As you would. I haven’t been right since.

Tell us about your TV viewing: It’s rare enough these days. Match of the Day on a Saturday night if I’m at home. The odd western or documentary about old fellas out on the islands on TG4. We watch series on DVD (the usual suspects) and sometimes sign up for the free month on Netflix.

Name your three literary heroes: Saul Bellow. Hilary Mantel. William Shakespeare.

Your best celebrity encounter: I met Kevin Rowland from Dexys last week — he was after doing one of the 1916 shows at the National Concert Hall. I’ve been a huge, drooling fan since I bought their first album in 1980. I couldn’t think of anything to say. He looked very dapper and seemed very good-natured.

Most expensive item of clothing you’ve ever bought: I bought a suit the other year for about 500 quid. It’s lovely. And it’s Swedish. So I imagine I’m very Swedish-looking in it. I’ve worn it three times, at weddings, etc.

Tech habits: I try to steer clear a lot of the time. I worry about being plugged into devices too often. But I do play a snooker game on an iPad quite a lot.

Unsung hero — individual, organisation or group you think don’t get the praise they deserve: Anyone who does anything to help with the homelessness situation, which is clearly an epidemic now.

You are king for a day — what’s your first decree?

All get off our backsides and do something to help the homeless.


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