In case you didn’t hear about it, Multiverse favourite David Mitchell showed writers on Twitter a great way to use the platform. Last month he tweeted his latest short story, The Right Sort, in 280 tweets over the course of a week. The Guardian has helpfully put them in chronological order and you can read the full story here. The story is about a young boy, Nathan, and his mother and a Valium fuelled afternoon. Mitchell uses the 140 character limit to great effect, as seen here: ‘The pill’s just kicking in now. Valium breaks down the world into bite-sized sentences. Like this one.’

Many writers think that being on Twitter doesn’t sell books and therefore it’s not worth engaging with, but I disagree. Too often writers use Twitter solely as a means to self-promote, perhaps not realising that what social media users want is content, not forty-five posts about their latest book. Mitchell’s new book The Bone Clocks is published on 2nd September and of course, this Twitter story is a great way of drawing attention to his work in time for the publication, but it’s also a valid exercise in itself and a brilliant idea.

Everyone knows the Sonny and Cher version of ‘The Beat Goes On’ written by Sonny Bono. I have an updated lounge version of the track by The All Seeing I, featuring a vocalist that I didn’t know and I sometimes play it at gigs. I bought a new Buddy Rich album recently (for more information on my obsession with Buddy Rich click here) and saw there was a version of ‘The Beat Goes On’. I listened to it and found out who the unknown singer is; it’s Cathy Rich, Buddy’s daughter.

What’s remarkable is that Cathy Rich was only twelve years old when this was recorded in 1967. She obviously inherited some of her dad’s considerable musical talent! This video isn’t the best quality but when the camera focusses on a close-up of her you can see how young she was.

The Stag came out in 2013 but completely passed me by. A mate of mine recommended it to me last week saying it was one of the funniest films she’d seen in a while and, having done three gigs in a row last weekend, on Sunday I flaked out and watched it. And yes, it’s funny. In fact very funny in parts.

The film is about the stag weekend of Fionan (Hugh O’Conor) who is getting married to Ruth (Amy Huberman). Ruth asks Fionan’s best mate Davin (Andrew Scott) to organise a weekend away, but Fionan is reluctant to go the usual “booze and strippers” route, being a fairly meek and mild individual. Instead Davin suggests a walking holiday for Fionan and three of their mates. To their horror Ruth insists that her brother, who is known as The Machine (Peter McDonald), accompanies them. The Machine is brash, loud and head-melting, with a reputation for causing stupendous amounts of trouble. Despite the boys’ best efforts, The Machine finds out where they’re going and shows up for the weekend, creating mayhem, antagonising the lads, and basically being a complete liability.

There are some very funny moments in the film: The Machine’s altercation with an electric fence; the boys doing the ‘Emperor Penguin’ shuffle to keep warm whilst nude and lost in the forest; the desecration of an ancient burial mound to find some lost car keys. Peter McDonald is the stand-out star in the film. His portrayal of The Machine is hilariously funny, yet heartwarming and with considerable depth and sensitivity. I also loved Andrew Scott’s performance; his confession to Fionan in the forest is a very emotionally affecting scene.

So if like me, you missed The Stag when it came out, rectify it immediately. If you like a quintessentially Irish sense of humour, you’ll get some guaranteed laughs out of it.

I spent a lovely afternoon last week wandering around Stoneybatter, culminating in a visit to Lilliput Press, an independent publisher and bookshop on Sitric Road. Lilliput were in the news news last year when Donal Ryan’s debut novel The Spinning Heart, first published by Lilliput, made the Man Booker shortlist. They seem to be on to another winner with Rob Doyle’s debut Here Are the Young Men, published in June. Within weeks of Irish publication Doyle had landed a deal with Bloomsbury who will be publishing the book in the UK this year and the US in 2015.

Here Are the Young Men is the story of Matthew, Rez, Cocker and Kearney, four friends from Dublin who have just finished the Leaving Cert. and are intent on enjoying their first summer of freedom. They drink, do drugs, roam aimlessly around the city, watch porn, start fights, and hang out with drug dealers and punks who are well past their sell-by date. It seems like the stuff of most young men’s teenage experiences these days, but as the book progresses we see the characters respond to their new freedom in different, sometimes violent and unsettling, ways.

The apathy the four have in the face of modern life and the alienation they feel, as well as the spot-on dialogue, is reminiscent at times of Trainspotting. And as the violence progresses and one character seems to descend into sociopathy, I was reminded of A Clockwork Orange too. Which isn’t to say that the novel is predictable or derivative at all, and in fact it’s interesting to see this subject matter in an Irish context.

I read the book in an evening, which tells you how well Doyle has paced the book. It becomes increasingly dark in tone and there were a couple of scenes where I actually felt queasy at the prospect of what was going to happen, but there are very funny moments too, such as Matthew’s weekend spent with Scag (not the name his mother gave him, one presumes) – seducing two Norwegian tourists, doing drugs and cadging drinks, and eventually having group sex in a hostel.

Here Are the Young Men is an exciting debut and I’m delighted that Rob Doyle has had such success with it so far. I keep saying, it’s a great time for Irish fiction!

“Mankind is at a crisis point. The Earth can no longer sustain us. A motley group of scientists have come up with a completely implausible, spectacularly ridiculous plan that is our species’ only hope.” These are words, that when uttered in film trailers, make me very happy indeed. If it’s a disaster movie, I’m in. If it’s a disaster movie set in space, I’ve already bought the popcorn and am waiting for you in the lobby.

Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan, is out this November and stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. There have been a couple of teaser trailers in the last few months, but last week at Comic Con, Nolan revealed the newest trailer which contains some pretty spectacular cinematography. Here’s hoping that the movie won’t be too much of an American cheese-fest in terms of moral messaging and sentimentality. Roll on November!

 

Meave Brennan.  January 6, 1917– November 1st 1993

Maeve Brennan
6th January 1917 – 1st November 1993

I am now back into writing mode, having taken a wee bit of a mental holiday over the last few weeks. I’ve commenced a new project and am fairly immersed in it, so as a result at bedtime I want to read something short as I don’t really have the energy to get into something doorstop-sized. I went into Hodges Figgis a couple of weeks ago in order to stock up on some short stories and ended up with Maeve Brennan’s collection The Rose Garden and Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object. I had long wanted to read Brennan and so I started with her.

One of Ireland’s foremost short story writers, Maeve Brennan was born in Dublin in 1917 and grew up in Ranelagh. Brennan’s father was appointed as the Irish Free State’s first minister to the United States and so the family moved to Washington when Maeve was seventeen. She went on to get a degree in English and moved to New York where she began writing fashion copy for Harper’s Bazaar. She was soon noticed by the New Yorker magazine and she went to work there in 1949, first as a social diarist and then as a short story writer.

Brennan was beautiful, stylish and a glamorous fixture on the New York literary scene. She married once to St. Clair McKelway, the New Yorker’s Managing Editor, but he was not a safe bet – alcoholic, manic depressive and already divorced three times – and the marriage disintegrated after five years. Brennan remained single for the rest of her life and never had children. Towards the end she became badly alcoholic and struggled with mental health issues. She became something of a bag lady, sleeping in the toilets at the New Yorker, or occasionally staying in one of the hotels for transients on 42nd Street. She died of a heart attack aged seventy-six and is buried in Queen’s, New York.

Many of the stories in The Rose Garden are set in the upmarket New York suburb of Herbert’s Retreat, based on Sneden’s Landing where she lived with McKelway. Brennan often uses the same characters in these stories: an overbearing theatre critic called Charles Runyon, the maids working in the kitchens of the grand houses, social climbing wives and their put-upon husbands. These stories are brilliant; scathing, beautifully observed and very funny. Five of the stories are set in Dublin, including “The Holy Terror”, a study of a ladies-room attendant in a hotel, whose contemptuous attitude finally leads to her downfall.

While I haven’t yet finished the book I am interested in reading more of Brennan’s work, particularly The Springs of Affection. In common with other great short story writers, she has a way of compressing huge amounts of detail into deftly crafted sentences, making her stories rich and layered. Much can be learned!

For all the grammar sticklers, cunning linguists and word nerds out there, Weird Al Yankovic has written a song just for you (and me). It’s called “Word Crimes” and the melody is taken from “Blurred Lines”, however the lyrics are a million times better. He castigates those who spell words using numbers in text messages, those who say expresso instead of espresso, misuse of apostrophes and more. It’s well worth a listen.

Weird Al is taking the internet by storm recently having released eight videos in eight days, all from his new album Mandatory Fun, and Billboard are predicting that he might just nab the number one album spot later this week almost thirty years after “Eat It” made him a phenomenon.

Having been in the music industry for most of my working life, I have a lot of mates and family connected with the business. One of the great benefits of this is discovering new music. On recommendation I checked out IASCA Radio’s Spotify playlists and yesterday I found a track by Funzo called “Stalk This Way” which is great.

Some background: IASCA is the Irish Association of Songwriters, Composer and Authors and the work they’re doing for Irish bands is brilliant; Funzo is an Irish band founded by Liam McDermott in 2009, and as well as steadily releasing music, they’ve also played Oxegen, Electric Picnic and Hard Working Class Heroes. 

“Stalk This Way” is taken from Funzo’s new album The Great Lonesome released in May of this year. The song is an astute comment on social media and it sounds like a hybrid of Danny Elfman and Arctic Monkeys…in a great way! I can’t find the tune on Youtube or Soundcloud – members of Funzo provide me with some embeddable media for the blog please?! – but you can buy it for just €0.99 on iTunes here. Check it out.

 

Like many people, I have found my clothes shopping budget decimated as a result of the recession. Perhaps that’s why there haven’t been as many fashion posts of late; window shopping with no money is frustrating for someone who loves clothes as much as I do. However I do have lots of items in my wardrobe that I haven’t worn and that don’t suit me, but they’re too expensive to donate to a charity shop and selling on ebay seems like serious hassle.

A few weeks ago I visited Kingdom of Style (one of my daily reads) and I read Michelle’s post about Depop which immediately piqued my interest. Depop is a new app which allows you to sell your clothes via your phone; you simply take a picture, add a description and upload it to the app. You can then publicise this using your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and you can follow other people on the site. Best of all the app is free and so is uploading items.

I joined about two weeks ago and have been browsing regularly. There’s a huge range of clothes and accessories on the site; vintage, designer and high-street. You can spend anything from a fiver to a grand depending on what you’re after. There’s a search function too so if you’re looking for something specific like a Vivienne Westwood jacket or stiletto shoes in a size 8 it’s easy to find.

So far I have two items on the site (I’m listed as Alex Donald) but my photography skills suck so I need to improve those before adding anything else. (The main reason my photography is so bad is that my medication makes my hands shake so much that it takes me ten tries to get one average photograph!)

I reckon this is a great marketplace and an app that has real longevity.  If you need to make space in your wardrobe and don’t want lots of hassle, it appears to be an easy way to declutter and make some cash. All the better to spend on those shoes you’ve been eyeing up!

I have raved before about director Alex Gibney’s work; to my mind he is one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of our times. I first became aware of him from his brilliant 2008 documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo, and I have sought out most of his other films, in particular enjoying Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God, and Client 9, a film about disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. (Click here for some other reviews of his work on the blog).

In The Armstrong Lie Gibney turns his focus to the world of sport and Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist whose name is now synonymous with doping. The documentary opens with Armstrong’s interview with Oprah in January last year. Oprah asked him a series of direct questions about his drug use and after years of accusations and emphatic denials, Armstrong finally told the truth; he had been doping throughout his career, and he had used performance enhancing drugs each time he won the Tour de France.

This was a huge revelation. Armstrong had repeatedly denied drug use when questioned by reporters. Throughout his career he submitted urine samples and complied with any and all testing, and at no point was he ever charged. When seen in the light of what we now know, Armstrong’s denials are Oscar worthy, his indignation and innocence appearing completely sincere.

Armstrong was a demi-god in the world of American sport. He was an inspirational figure, a cancer survivor who overcame a death sentence to win the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005. His charity Livestrong raised over $300 million for cancer charities and victims, and seventy million people wore the yellow plastic wristband in support of his work. And solidifying his celebrity image, he had a string of high profile girlfriends including Sheryl Crow and Kate Hudson. But Armstrong’s dark side was well hidden. He was a power-hungry control freak who hated to lose, and had no problem intimidating people or lying to get what he wanted. After he won his first Tour de France in 1999 his career became about holding onto that power at all costs.

Gibney had originally intended the film to focus on Armstrong’s return to professional cycling in 2009 after a four year retirement. However the film stalled as Armstrong was investigated for doping. After his Oprah interview, Armstrong sat down with Gibney to set the record straight. What becomes apparent is that the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional cycling was widespread.

Armstrong realised in 1994 that although he was clean all his competitors were doping and therefore his team was getting annihilated. He came to believe that in order to compete he had to dope; it was the competitive standard and the only way he could level the playing field and win. As one interviewee says, this is a case of moral relativism. Professional cycling became a contest of who had the best doctor and who had the most money, instead of who was actually the better sportsman.

The Armstrong Lie is similar to Senna in that one doesn’t need knowledge of the sport in order to appreciate it. I hadn’t truly understood what a brutal event the Tour de France is; unbelievable endurance, speed and strength, all required for almost a month. The competition pushes the body beyond its natural capabilities and one can see how doping could become attractive to a single-minded sportsman.

Once again Alex Gibney has created a brilliant documentary; comprehensive, absorbing, and thought provoking. The Armstrong Lie is available to watch on 4OD for the next 27 days.

The Multiverse

is a blog from an Irish writer and DJ which takes in a wide range of subject matter as follows: Monday’s blogs are related to literature and writing; Tuesday is fashion, style and beauty; Wednesday is music; Thursday is TV and cinema; and Friday is a miscellany.

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Reckon a taxi driver will have change of this bad boy? #Ifeelrich #amnotreally #DJlife Elektrobank killing it in The Village. Whatchawant? Trying on hats with my sister this morning... Macaroons for dessert. (Otherwise known as my David Bowie impression.) #Laduree #BrownThomas Adore the scent of these Stargazer Lilies in my sitting room. #flowers Love the light fixtures on the bar in Opium. Industrial chic!

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