Kevin Barry and Gerry Stembridge

Before the event, I was wondering what else connected these two gifted writers, other than the fact they’re both from Limerick. After attending the event, I’d say: uniqueness of voice, wit, attention to human characteristics and yet more wit.

Here are some of my personal highlights…please feel free to add more if you were there!

Kevin Barry

As soon as he was on the stage, I saw a glimpse of the humour and commanding presence that I’d heard so much about…


“I don’t know what it is about the hall but I have a huge temptation to start calling bingo numbers.”

On reading alongside fellow Limerick writer is a joy: “We lived so close back in Limerick, you could nearly have thrown a bottle from my house and hit on of the Stembridge’s.”

City of Bohane, Chapter 1 – The Nature of Disturbance (complete with Limerick accent): “…A mouth of teeth on him like a vandalised graveyard.”

Opening line of a non-fiction story about life changing (how he ended up living in guarda barracks): “The house smelt of old sergeants…with homicidal electrics.”

Biggest laugh from audience: “Happiness for me has always been retrospective…I’m never happy at the time.”

Gerry Stembridge:

Not an easy act to follow, but as you would expect, Gerry approached it with ease and just as much charm…
“Personally I think you’ve had your money’s worth already. I’d ask you to go out and come back in again but only half of you would return so I’ll keep hold of you for a bit longer.”

Opening line of Unspoken (Also delivered in a Limerick accent): The 7th of August, 1960. Sometimes, but not often, Dom got sick of the sound of his own voice.”

Biggest laugh from audience: voice, persistence and craziness of the crazy old lady, described by the narrator as “the type who’d eat you without salt”. (I won’t spoil it for you, but look out for the turn of events under the old lady’s table).

On how not to comfort a baby (from Unspoken): “There’s only one thing to do; she’d throw him over the cliff.”

Q&A:

You both read very theatrically – is that what goes through your mind as you’re writing?

Kevin: All Limerick men are natural hams and we’re here to disprove that…No, I’m a frustrated actor. I work from the ear rather than visually; it’s very important to me to read it aloud and act it out when I’m reaching a final draft. The ear picks it up better than seeing it on the page.

Gerry: There are so many characters in this, it was necessary to think about the language with which those characters thought so I could project that – so they carry the narrative.

Can you tell us a little about how you felt when you had your story printed in the New Yorker?

Kevin: The story of the end of the world flood via a flood as perceived through the window of an Irish bar. Came from a real story – great to get into that magazine

Gerry: Can I just say I’ve never had a story published in the New Yorker so I have no comment on the matter.

(To Gerry) I’m intrigued by the Dom character – who is Dom based on?

Gerry: Only in Ireland can you say – I wasn’t born in that time but I don’t believe the character was like that. The answer is in the novel and I believe for a mere 12.99 you can find out the answer.

(To Kevin) Is your book going to be a play?

Kevin: It’s been optioned and I’m writing the screenplay.

Gerry: Can I say Unspoken has not been optioned and those rights are still available.

Have you ever been commissioned to write stand up and would you consider working together?

Kevin: Essentially what we write is comedy. Comedy is the highest form – any fool can write a tragedy. And we’d love to have Scrap Saturday back.

Gerry: I think stand up is the hardest thing ever – I wouldn’t imagine trying. The best thing about writing comedy in a novel is that people can be mildly amused without you being accountable.

Leave a comment