Word for Word: the literary month ahead

Nadeem Aslam: reading and interview in Listowel. Photograph: Jerry Bauer

Nadeem Aslam: reading and interview in Listowel. Photograph: Jerry Bauer


Literature fans had better not plan on drawing breath during June, so chock-a-block is it with events that are worth your time and money. The month begins with a farewell, for another year, to Listowel Writers’ Week . No whimpering though, this year’s bash ends on the June bank holiday weekend with a serious bang – guests on Saturday include the novelists Nadeem Aslam ( The Blind Man’s Garden ) and Andrew Miller ( Pure ) and the novelist and artist Audrey Niffenegger ( The Time Traveler’s Wife ) . On Sunday there is a forum on the Irish-American short story. See writersweek.ie.

Then it’s time to pack up the tents and head to Borris, Co Carlow, for the second Borris House Hay Festival, on June 8th and 9th, as part of Éigse Carlow Arts Festival. The event is tagged “the festival of writing and ideas ”. One imagines that the luminaries should be able to come up with plenty of both, given that they include husband and wife novelists Martin Amis and Isabel Fonseca; this paper’s literary editor and columnist, Fintan O’Toole; the writers Selina Guinness, Kevin Power, John Boyne, Paul Murra y, John Lanchester and Donal Ryan; the renowned war photographer Don McCullin; the artist Dorothy Cross ; and the filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson. Also, the novelist Ben Okri will be talking to musician Liam Ó Maonla í , while Booker winner Ann Enright will be quizzing singer PJ Harvey about her work (although that one, alas, is already sold out). Details from 059- 9172400 and festivalofwritingandideas.com.

The following weekend, Lismore, Co Waterford, is the place to be if you are interested in travel writing. At the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing (June 13th-16th), you can soak up stories from Paul Theroux, the American travel writer par excellence, who has spent more than 50 years roaming the world and writing in his inimical witty, acerbic and erudite way about it – not to mention notching up novels, children’s books and collections of short stories and criticism. There’s a chance too to listen to the veteran foreign correspondent Simon Winchester, who has tales to tell about his adventures reporting for the Guardian , the Sunday Times , the BBC and others around the world, but might also talk about his interactive iPad app, Skulls, dedicated to “exploring the skull in human culture and as a symbol”. This is the Lismore festival’s 10th anniversary – it was a great idea to start a festival dedicated to travel writing and the standard has been consistently high. Now can we have one for food writing too? To book, contact Jan Rotte on 058-53803 or Lismore Heritage Centre on 058-54975 during office hours; lismoreimmrama.com.

To round the month off, there’s another Hay Festival from June 28th to 30th, the first to take place in Kells, Co Meath . Wh at better place for a book festival than the birthplace of the most famous ancient Irish manuscript? The full programme hasn’t been announced yet but it will include the novelists DBC Pierre, John Banville and Tiffany Murray; the poets Owen Sheers, Nerys Williams and Eurig Salisbury; the writer and memoirist Jeanette Winterson; the children’s writers Jenny Valentine and Sarah Webb; the playwright Frank McGuinness; the actors Peter Sheridan and Lisa Dwan; the academics Germaine Greer (on Shakespeare) and Dr Bernard Meehan (on the Book of Kells ); the politician Jesse Norman on Edmund Burke; the film The Secret of Kells and the musician Alex Valentine. See hayfestival.com.


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