Radio Review: Colm Toibin's Desert Island Discs

Nuala McCann

Behaving Ourselves: Mitchell on Manners Radio 4

Desert Island Discs: Colm Toibin Radio 4

Really we're all too civilized. Comedian David Mitchell cast a wry eye on the theme of manners and their importance.

It ranged from the mundane to the mundane. What knife to use? Who cares?

It turns out that manners have an image problem because people think of etiquette – all those tripwires for the unwary.

Do you say serviette or napkin, toilet, loo or crapper... do you give a whatever?

Ah but Professor Sherry Turkle has seen people texting on their mobile phones during the “boring bits” of funerals – now that really is bad manners.

Regular readers will be well aware of my Desert Island Discs addiction – but Irish writer Colm Toibin is worth a listen.

It's not just about what he has to say – he also chooses beautiful music that resonates with anyone from his era in Ireland... Martin Hayes, the Johnstons on Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.

And then there was the advice about writing and it's not fun. You're trying to get things down, you're pulling it out of yourself... swimming is fun; writing is not, he said.

He was clear about things: When you're working, you should never do lunch. Just get the writing down. Stop worrying about your grandmother's feelings ... just write it down.

Central to his life story is his father's early death and how that affected him and how he developed a stammer as a child – a story told with sensitivity in his novel, Nora Webster.

Toibin showed a surprising and engaging chattiness and was disarmingly honesty – he did not talk about his homosexuality with his family, they just came to know.

And then, his mother asked his sister – is he happy?

And fun... yes, he has fun when he is not working. Writers can be happy too.

Fun is on the beach with his boyfriend in Los Angeles.


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