Radio: It’s a struggle to move on when all roads lead to Paris
Review: ‘Sunday with Miriam’, ‘Marian Finucane’, ‘The Right Hook’, ‘Off the Ball’, ‘Tom Dunne’, ‘Moth’
Fluctuat Nec Mergitur: Paris’s motto – Latin for Tossed But Not Sunk – on the Eiffel Tower. Photograph: Reuters
In a week that has belonged to the events of Paris, there is often guilt in a radio presenter’s voice when a programme shifts to a lesser item. This mirrors our own hesitancy in such an aftermath to make any ordinary complaints. Attacks in stadiums and concert halls mean that presenters of sports and culture also have to respond, then defiantly carry on with their average day.
On Sunday with Miriam (RTÉ Radio 1) Enda Kenny talks to Miriam O’Callaghan about the mayhem in Paris and this new, “different kind of terrorist animal”. But the violence does not dominate, and O’Callaghan moves on to interview Edna O’Brien about her new novel.
O’Brien, in her grand, commanding voice, recalls her childhood in Tuamgraney, Co Clare, hearing bells as she ran through fields to Mass: “The sound of bells no matter where I am . . . the way they alert one to life and more than life. But they always bring me back to hearing those bells at home.”
Speaking about her banned novel Country Girls, declared filth by priests, bishops and Charlie Haughey alike, O’Brien says: “Had I been a young man I would not have been subjected to the same odium. As a young woman the punishment was uglier – and sprung from a deeply patriarchal country, which is still in existence in 2015. There are fantastic women, but the fight is not an easy one.”
On Marian Finucane (RTÉ Radio 1), the talk turns to those fantastic women and the Waking the Feminists event at the Abbey Theatre. The artistic director of the Gate Theatre, Michael Colgan, is a little put out that he couldn’t attend, having missed the ticket deadline. “I do think if they wanted to talk to people who make decisions, they would have made a spot for me,” he pouts, prompting Finucane to laughingly call out his “theatrical bitchiness”.
Colgan believes that a lot of the coverage has overstated the problem. “The real fact is there should be more female playwrights, and there has to be reasons why there’s not. And we have to get to that reason,” Colgan says. Justine McCarthy responds: “In many areas, as a woman, you have to excel to be accepted.”
Finucane speaks with Fergal Keane in Paris. He describes the eerie, postapocalyptic feeling on the streets. There is a gentle panel discussion about the reasons for the atrocity, but John O’Brien, a former detective chief superintendent and national head of Interpol and Europol, is resolute. “This is a time for concrete measures. If someone is trying to kill you there is no point in having a philosophical discussion on whether they had a bad childhood.”
George Hook doesn’t hide behind the door when it comes to making the political personal. He begins Monday’s The Right Hook (Newstalk) with a rallying cry following the “attack on western civilisation, its culture and its history”. “I warned the Minister for Defence, Coveney, that sending boats to the Med was always going to encourage rather than dissuade migrants, and give an incentive to traffickers,” Hook roars. “We cannot make law based on pictures of a child face down in the surf.”
He then reads out the texts he receives in the aftermath of his speech. He is an “awful human being” who should stick to his “Foxrock rugby pals”. Hook goes on to say that “The Right Hook will continue to speak its mind”, as if it is the show itself that forms an opinion.
On Off the Ball (Sunday, Newstalk) Joe Molloy interviews the Paris-based author and Financial Times writer Simon Kuper, who was in Stade de France the night of the attacks. Quick to realise that something was wrong, Kuper “felt that this was a bomb, because I’ve been sitting in stadiums for 14 years expecting it . . . I called the babysitter and said, ‘Lock the door.’ ” Kuper sounds weary. He questions whether he will stay on in Paris in the long term: “You can take risks for yourself, but you don’t have the right to do it with your children.”
Molloy sounds moved by the personal turn in the conversation and tentatively asks Kuper about Euro 2016. “I’m sure France wishes it wasn’t hosting it now. It will be an armed camp,” Kuper says. Still, he is certain that the display of support at Wembley on Tuesday for the England v France game will be beautiful.
“After Paris it feels kind of odd to be doing a music show,” says the host of Tom Dunne (Newstalk). But the music must always play. Dunne opens with Eagles of Death Metal’s Wanna Be in LA and promises French music all evening.
Some of his friends were at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Dublin last week, he says, and had a few beers afterwards with the band who would go on to be at the centre of world events.
Richie McCormack joins Dunne in studio, saying: “Sport and music, and culture in general, is the ultimate two fingers to those who don’t want people to revel in a free society.”
In a week in which the radio brings an hourly reminder of the world’s darkness, it might be okay to seek some brief refuge in a lighter story. A recent Moth podcast (themoth.org) on the theme of identity features Jon Ronson telling a laughing audience a wonderful tale about a Twitter spambot that stole his identity and photograph. The impostor Jon Ronson begins to tweet 30 times a day, sometimes rather candidly, about strange dreams and decadent soirees, #foodie, #yummy.
“My problem is, if it was porn or fraud it would be okay. But this . . . It is plausible and it is an idiot.”
Moment of the Week: A whiff of fresh airIn Talking Books (Newstalk) Susan Cahill talks to James Booth, author of Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love. Booth rejects the perception of the poet as a racist and pornography addict, saying he was a provocateur with an instinct to entertain. “At a recent literature festival a woman shrieked and vomited during a Ted Hughes reading. I must say I’ve never felt like shrieking,” he wrote. Booth argues that even at Larkin’s bleakest, in poems such as Aubade, his words are bracing. It’s a fascinating alternative view of the man, although Booth does admit that his book has been described as “the literary equivalent of an air freshener trying to get rid of the whiffiness of a reputation”.
Mick Heaney is away