Michael and Edna Longley honoured; and two major Irish book deals

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and a round-up of the latest literary news

Michael Longley: honoured with his wife Edna. Photograph: Bobbie Hanvey

Michael Longley: honoured with his wife Edna. Photograph: Bobbie Hanvey

 

Looking for a summer read? In Ticket in The Irish Times this Saturday, Niamh Donnelly selects 20 of the best titles for the beach, back garden or rain shelter. Jamie O’Connell writes about how growing up as a gay Jehovah’s Witness in Cork helped him write about gay Arab men’s lives.

Reviews are Claire Mitchell on Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground by Susan McKay; Naoise Dolan on Moving About the Place by Evelyn Conlon; Derek Scally on Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich by Harald Jähner;Elizabeth Wassell In the Event of Contact by Ethel Rohan; Andrew Gallix on The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen; Estelle Birdy on Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell; Mia Levitin on Burning Man: The Ascent of D H Lawrence by Frances Wilso; Sarah Gilmartin on A Shock by Keith Ridgway; and Martina Evans revies new poetry by Patrick Cotter, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Grace Willentz and Wanda Coleman.

Queen’s University Belfast has announced the endowment of a £400,000 poetry scholarship for postgraduate students and the creation of a classroom known as the Longley Room, in recognition of the lifetime of poetry excellence from Michael Longley and his wife, Prof Edna Longley.

The gift from Mark Pigott, which was matched by the University, to create the endowment, will establish the Michael Longley Endowed Scholarship Fund. This will fund two £7,500 poetry scholarships each year.

Michael Longley said: “Poetry is my religion. It is how I make sense of life. For more than 60 years, it has been my soul-work. I am delighted that this endowment will give support to students taking the excellent MA in Poetry at Queen’s University. Since the 1960s, Queen’s has been a hub for the writing and criticism of poetry. I am proud to have my name on scholarships which will help to ensure the continuance of that tradition.”

Edna Longley said: “Michael and I, who have longstanding links with Queen’s, are humbled to be recognised by the establishment of the scholarships and the Longley Room. It is wonderful to know that each year, scholarships will be awarded to two deserving students of poetry. It’s also truly flattering that there will be a room on campus which carries our name.”

Mark Pigott said: “I have had the wonderful pleasure of being friends with Michael and Edna in recent years and these scholarships recognise their decades of inspirational work. This gift will ensure that the next generation of poets will have an opportunity to pursue their dream and create poetry that the world will enjoy.”

Catherine Prasifka: first novel to be Canongate’s lead debut next year
Catherine Prasifka: first novel to be Canongate’s lead debut next year. Photograph: Joanna O’Malley

Dublin writer Catherine Prasifka’s first novel, None of This Is Serious, is to be Canongate’s lead debut next April after a deal brokered by her agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor.

None of This Is Serious is about balancing the real world with the online, and managing vulnerabilities, female friendship, and relationships. College is ending, and Sophie feels detached from her friends as they move on without her. She feels overshadowed by her best friend Grace, she’s been in love with Finn for as long as she’s known him, and she’s about to meet Rory – who she likes because he’s available to her online, though she feels little for him in person.

CEO Jamie Byng said: “Catherine Prasifka’s debut novel is so damn good. For starters, it has a voice that grabs you from the opening page and pulls you closer and closer. It is also exceptionally well-observed. And it manages to be very entertaining and then very shocking. None of This Is Serious is a dazzling achievement and marks the arrival of a major new writer.”

Prasifka said: “I started writing None of This Is Serious before the pandemic, but it came alive during those endless lockdown days. I wanted the book to accurately represent what it means to be young right now, in an online world where reality is both elastic and malleable, when suddenly I became a spectator to a global event that forced me to rethink everything.”

Exciting Times author Naoise Dolan said: “None of This Is Serious brilliantly explores the impossibility to ‘come of age’ in end times, where screens are so contiguous to experience that no one is ever truly online or offline, when nothing good is happening and probably nothing good ever will again; and somehow (somehow!) Prasifka depicts that reality with enough investment and emotional candour that you’ll need to see how her characters end up. She writes truthfully and with affectless nuance about the labyrinthine workings of friend groups and the defences women scramble for in a world that still hates us.”

Louise Nealon, author of Snowflake, said: “For years, non-fiction has been the main driving force in documenting the way that technology has changed society. I’ve been waiting for a fictional story that reflects the all-consuming influence that the internet has on my life. None of This Is Serious is that story. A compulsively readable, fresh and painfully accurate description of the way we live now. Don’t let the title fool you. It is serious. Seriously good.”

Prasifka was born in Dublin in 1996. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and has an MLitt in fantasy from the University of Glasgow. Like her sister-in-law Sally Rooney, she has competed in both the European Debating Championships and the World Championships. She works as a creative writing teacher in Dublin.

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Tramp Press Audio will launch next Monday, June 7th, with Corpsing: My Body and Other Horror Shows by Sophie White, read by the author.

Lisa Coen, co-director and publisher of Tramp Press, said: “We are very excited to announce a big step for Tramp Press as we move into offering audiobooks to our readers. In previous co-publishing partnerships, we’ve really enjoyed hearing Tramp Press titles adapted for audio. We will always love beautiful print editions of our books, but we also love to have stories told to us from time to time. We are especially proud to launch Tramp Press Audio with the critically acclaimed bestseller Corpsing by Sophie White.”

White said: “It was a career-first and definitely a career highlight to read a work of mine for its release in audiobook form. As a reader, I’m a huge fan of the audiobook particularly in terms of non-fiction, as I think it offers readers such an intimate experience of the work. Plus I can knit while I listen! I think the audiobook of Corpsing will be a lovely companion piece to the gorgeous print edition. It was at times challenging to read it but I hope I have done the work justice.”

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The Manningtree Witches by AK Blakemore, little scratch by Rebecca Watson and The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams have been shortlisted for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize. the £10,000 prize for the year’s best first novel from Britain and Ireland. All three titles on the shortlist explore themes of self-discovery and language, as well as the nuances of British history and culture, through the lens of female experience.

Chairing the panel of judges is former winner Lisa McInerney, with Chitra Ramaswamy and Simon Savidge. McInerney said: “Chitra, Simon and I are delighted to announce a shortlist we feel is characterised by invention, playfulness and above all, joy. Each of these books stood out not only because of their writers’ distinctive voices, but because they feel vital in the way great literature should: defiant in theme and tone, curious, and utterly lovable.

“AK Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches thrills with electric sentences, thorny characters and an original take on a real historical horror. But more again; it is startlingly empathetic, stirring and certain from the first page.

“Rebecca Watson wields the eccentricities of little scratch with conviction, tackling a dark subject - trauma - with unexpected and complex lightness, even including moments of visceral happiness that felt revolutionary to us.”

“Eley Williams imbues The Liar’s Dictionary with an irresistible passion for words and her canny understanding of language’s subversive potential, and has this current run alongside an equally delightful, equally compelling love story.”

The winner will be announced on July 1st.

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Hachette Ireland is to publish High Hopes, a memoir by Steve Garrigan, lead singer of Kodaline. on October 7th. He shares his experiences of growing up in Dublin, and the shyness that only dissolved when he was playing an instrument or in front of a microphone. He writes about the joys of creating songs that have helped make Kodaline become one of Ireland’s best-selling bands, the highs and lows of touring and how music and the support of those around him helped him though the anxiety, depression and crippling panic attacks that threatened to derail his career.

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The shortlist for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, the UK’s longest running prize for comic fiction, has been announced: Naji Bakhti’s Between Beirut and the Moon, a coming-of-age tale of a young boy growing up in Lebanon’s capital city; an exploration of the peculiarities of 21st-century work culture in Hilary Leichter’s Temporary; and a comic look into the world of contemporary art in Guy Kennaway’s The Accidental Collector. Many of the shortlist play on themes of identity - from Dolly Alderton’s portrayal of a woman in the awkward transitional phase of her early 30s in Ghosts, to deception in the digital age in Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, and the search for the protagonist’s sense of her Indian identity and belonging in Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu. The winner will be announced on June 23rd.

So much is known about our heart, lungs and kidneys, but what about our brain? Something to Think About (Self-Published, 5+, €6.99) explores this question in a fun and educational way. We follow Jack, a little boy who doesn’t care for his brain. When Jack’s brain begins to get tired, different parts take “time off” and we discover the incredible work done by our most important organ. Written and illustrated by Rachael Darby, all funds raised from sales will go to the Dublin Neurological Institute, a charity based at the Mater Hospital that cares for patients with neurological conditions.

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