Three of Ireland's top writers share their lockdown reading and viewing choices
Going stir-crazy under lockdown? In the first of an occasional series, we ask some of the north's top authors and artists about what they are reading, listening to and watching to help distract themselves during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic...
Award-winning Belfast writer Bernard MacLaverty, author of Cal, Lamb and Grace Notes, lives in Glasgow. His most recent novel is Midwinter Break.
I DON'T want to choose the most important books in the world because everybody would choose mostly the same stuff. I want to choose more recent books to while away the time in quarantine. Good criticism is taking somebody by the shoulders (maybe not literally at this social-distancing time) and saying "I really think you should read/see this".
:: Still Life – Ciaran Carson
Sadly, he died before publication. The writing is simple, clear and profound. He writes each poem about a work of art and relates it to his life. In isolation, that gives the reader something to do. Each artwork can be found on the internet. But if the internet is beyond you, the poems are good enough by themselves. A deeply moving summation.
:: Travelling in a Strange Land – David Park
This novel grips from the first page. In the depths of winter a father drives from Belfast to Sunderland to pick up his ill son from University. It's a journey of rare intensity and, like in a skid, we have no idea which way we'll be facing by the end. He writes with a focus and precision which wrings the heart.
:: West – Carys Davis
This is the debut novel of someone who has already shown herself to be a writer of wonderful short stories. It too is about 'journey', but this journey is off stage. Set in America of the 1800s, a daughter watches her father leave what he loves to travel West in search of the amazing. A story concerned with value and language, love and absence, life and death.
:: FILMS, TV, ETC
:: Chernobyl (Sky Atlantic)
Gives some equivalent of the word 'catastrophe' to weigh against the cornonavirus era we are now in. There are moments when our minds reel from the implications of the nuclear accident. It happened to us. And it rained in the UK for the next week. A monumental reconstruction made into a story of power. But look, we came through.
:: The Dead (DVD)
A great movie made from one of the world's great stories written by James Joyce in Dubliners. One of the advantages the film has over the written word is the presence of music in the film. Unless you know the songs well they have a neutral feel on the page. In John Huston's film, they are a deeply moving part of the story. Also glad that the written/spoken word takes over for the snow at the end. You can't better that.
:: Father Ted (All4)
All 25 episodes please, to keep me laughing throughout the lockdown, however long that is going to be. It is still an utterly fresh and original comedy. Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan have created a cast of unforgettable characters and daft situations which still make me howl with laughter. By the end of the coronavirus I want to have all of them off by heart.
Claire Allan is a best-selling crime writer from Derry, whose latest novel is The Liar's Daughter. She also pens romantic fiction as Freya Kennedy.
:: The Last Crossing – Brian McGilloway
AN INCREDIBLE standalone from Derry's own Brian McGilloway, The Last Crossing is an exquisitely written and tense page turner which looks at how our past sins can come back to haunt us. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time after you turn the last page.
:: Grown Ups – Marian Keyes
Any book by Marian Keyes provides incredible, real, funny and touching entertainment. Her latest tome is no exception. Grown Ups follows the many ups and downs of the Casey family. The strength of this book lies in its relatability factor – I laughed, cried, nodded in recognition and laughed again.
:: The Cutting Place – Jane Casey
The Cutting Place is the latest instalment in Dublin native Jane Casey's brilliantly drawn Maeve Kerrigan series of police procedurals. I binge read all seven previous books in the series last year, and I absolutely recommend you do the same before losing delving into this latest page-turner. These are the best police procedurals I've read.
FILM, TV, ETC
:: Younger (Comedy Channel)
It's the era of the binge watch. I'm currently loving Younger on Comedy Central – the story of a 40-something divorcee who lies about her age to get a job in publishing – but of course the lie spirals out of control. Funny, warm and romantic. It's the perfect distraction!
:: Ozark (Netflix)
Series three has just dropped on Netflix. This is a hard-hitting crime drama, definitely not for the faint-hearted, which follows a husband and wife caught up in a money-laundering scheme for a Mexican drug cartel. They have to do unthinkable things to keep their family safe. Dark, twisty and brilliantly acted.
:: Derry Girls (All4)
I've just watched this again with my daughter and it just gets better in subsequent viewings. It's fresh, funny but it's full of heart. It also makes me feel proud about my home city and how far we've come. Absolutely first class comedy.
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Best-selling Derry crime writer Brian McGilloway's latest publication is The Last Crossing, his first ever standalone novel.
:: Fifty Fifty – Steve Cavanagh
I'M reading Lisburn lawyer-turned-author Steve Cavanagh's new one, Fifty Fifty, which has just come out in Ireland and is fantastic.
:: Our Little Cruelties – Liz Nugent
When I've finished Fifty Fifty, I'm going to move on to Liz Nugent's new one, Our Little Cruelties, which has also just been published.
:: The History of Philosophy – AC Grayling
This is one of those books that's been sitting on my shelf for a long time and which I've been wanting to read for ages, so while I have the time now I'm going to tackle it.
FILMS, TV, ETC
:: Justified: The Complete Series (DVD)
I'm going through the box set of Justified, which is fantastic.
:: Tiger King (Netflix)
We're also also watching Tiger King on Netflix which the entire world seems to be watching – it's mental. With each episode, you're watching it thinking "this can't get any barmier" and then the next episode it gets even more absurd. It's madness, but compelling TV!
:: Westworld (Sky Atlantic)
I'm a big fan of Westworld, which has just started its third series on Sky Atlantic.
:: Two Crime Writers & A Microphone (Twocrimewritersandamicrophone.libsyn.com)
This is a great podcast from Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste which is always good value.