On song at Cuirt

A panel of musicians discuss their favourite books, in and out of tune, at the weekend literary festival

Musician Adrian Crowley, who is currently working on his first fiction collection. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Musician Adrian Crowley, who is currently working on his first fiction collection. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


So which musician would fellow musicians most like to read a book by? That was one of the questions journalist Jim Carroll put to his panel of musicians and songwriters at the Cuirt Banter Music Book Club discussion on Saturday afternoon in the Roisin Dubh.

For Carroll, it would be Grace Jones, and we can only hope that one day his wish comes true. For singer and actress Maria Doyle Kennedy, the answer is Mary Margaret O’Hara; not the famous Irish harpist, but a Canadian singer and songwriter.

“I’d love to read more books by people who are second fiddle or third fiddle,” is Delorentos bandmember Nial Conlon’s reply. “Like the drummer in The Pixies. The band broke up and then he tried to make a living as a magician; making electricity from potatoes and stuff. I’d love to read a book by him; he’s proper barmy.”

Interestingly, neither Doyle Kennedy or Conlon, nor their fellow panel member, lyricist Adrian Crowley, have yet read Morrissey’s memoir; it’s deemed to be a Penguin Modern Classic (by demand of Morrissey himself) before even one copy had been sold.

Carroll had read it, curious to see “how he set about attacking people”, aware that some readers and Morrissey fans thought it was “the best thing since vegetarian sliced bread.”

Doyle Kennedy says she has recently read Tracey Thorn’s memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen. “She documented the world of gigging in the 1980s for me. Nobody ever says how filthy the places were back then that you had to play in,” she says, recalling with feeling that she once had to use a jamjar in lieu of a toilet, because the facilities were so dire at one particular venue.

Crowley is currently working on a first fiction collection. For his songwriting, he describes the process as “Trying to corral these things that are little animals trying to get away from me.” He’s currently a fan of DBC Pierre’s Lights Out in Wonderland.

Unlike Crowley, Doyle Kennedy doesn’t have any desire to write a book of her own. “Writing songs is hard enough; writing lines that create an atmosphere. Writing songs takes me ages. It really hard to finish them; I find it’s easier to go and start a new one. Really good songs are as good as any art can be.”

Current favourite books of hers are Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane , Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, AS Byatt’s Possession , Rachel Kushner’s The Flame Throwers , Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing .

“When you’re touring a lot, you can either get very good at paying Farmville, or you can read,” Conlon observes. Chuck Palahnuik is a favourite author. On the topics of songwriting, he points out that “Nobody set out to write a literary piece. You arrive at something else by way of collaboration. For musicians, the live performance is their art, not just the words of a song.”

The Irish Times will carry a full report from Cuirt on Tuesday

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