Neil Jordan – Mistaken

Neil Jordan

An unexpected, but very valuable, addition to the programme, I was overjoyed to catch Neil Jordan read from his latest (and 2011 Kerry Literary Award winning) novel – Mistaken, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Needing no introduction, Neil is “a master of many trades” (to coin a phrase from an audience member). As well as several fabulous highly acclaimed books, Neil has turned some of my favourite short stories and novels into some of my favourite screenplays and films, including; A Company of Wolves, The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto, The Crying Game.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to listen to Neil, you’ll recognise his trademark humbleness in his opening sentence – “I’m not a great reader so forgive me, I don’t have that actor thing in me, but I’ll do my best…

Choosing an early part of the book, the audience were captivated by Neil’s ability to convey such an eerie and atmospheric setting – The Crescent in Marino, next door to where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula – as well as the extraordinary power of imagination in young children.

From the snippet I heard, it’s apparent that this is yet another masterpiece, meditative and compulsive, which promises to resonant long after the book is closed. Yes, I have my signed copy.

For those of you who couldn’t get to the event, here are some of the audience questions and Neil’s responses:

You’ve got the option on Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies – when will the film come out?

It’s a huge book, it’s going to take a while – I have a script but I’ll need spme time.

Was Bram Stoker the impetus for the novel, mistaken?

No. I used to cycle past Fairview cinema when I was a boy – we lived in Dollymount – and passed the crescent of Georgian houses. It was the creepiest place imaginable. I wanted to write about those minuscule class differences between people; these tiny differentiations in society which mean a lot in people’s imaginations.

Why did you choose the duality theme in your book?

I saw myself on a bus passing – I’d look at it staring back at me like it was someone else so I wanted to run up and say, look, don’t do this. It’s that idea that maybe you wouldn’t do some of the things with your life that you chose – or that things could be very different.

Is there far more potential to be had for film making in Ireland because of it’s landscapes?

Irish films have done well internationally – there was an explosion of interest in the nineties but then it seemed to die. It’s difficult. We have to begin to make things that have international appeal. I don’t know if the solution is to celebrate the landscape – it may be that we need to make films that don’t obsess with our Irishness.

Why do you work in so many mediums?

I like working with visual imagery as much as I do writing. If you look at people like Yeats, you think why not move from modernist poetry to popular song to vulgar theatre? I’m also drawn to things I haven’t done before. Something either grabs you by the gut or it doesn’t.

At what point did you decided Mistaken was going to be a novel or a short story?

I knew it was going to be a novel. I did write a short story (published in Francis Ford Coppola magazine – Zoetrope) but nobody read it and I wasn’t satisfied – so I wanted to write a novel. The characters became real as I was writing so I

When you start writing a book, is that the only thing you concentrate on?

When I start writing a book I have to stop everything else – it’s very depressing. Seriously though, phone calls, travel – all go. It has to live with you until it’s finished. It generally takes about a year or two years.

Why did you set the novel in Dublin?

One of the reasons I wanted to set the novel in Dublin is because I didn’t share the memory of the 60s and 70s that seems to have surfaced – I didn’t have those at all. The city that I remember from my childhood was quite a liberating place – so I did want to reflect that. I didn’t grow up in the Frank McCourt world. Or even look at The Butchers Boy – the town is a magical place, the intimacy and extremity of beliefs has all the drama of St Petersburg and Dostoevsky. The imagination looks for drama. But I didn’t resent my childhood and the world I grew up in.

Finally: Confession time. An embarrassing moment – where I set up my laptop to blog is exactly the spot where Neil Jordan came to sign books – evidence below.

Getting in Neil Jordan's way