Library nurtured my love of reading as a child

Writer in Residence at Cork County Library, Danny Denton talks about family, friendship, football and writing
Library nurtured my love of reading as a child
Writer Danny Denton.

TELL us about yourself;

I’m from Passage West, and roamed around for a few years before moving back to Cork in 2016. I’ve done all manner of jobs but most recently and most extensively I’ve worked in admin and taught English in secondary school.

I’ve no idea what made me want to write. I’ve loved reading books since childhood visits to the library — maybe that. I read for pleasure and for insight, and maybe I just want to pay that forward. Or maybe I’m indecisive about life and being a writer is a roundabout way (through story) of being many things at once!

My first novel, The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow, took three or four years to write but it’s out in the world now and doing OK, I think. It’s about a 13-year-old boy who kidnaps a baby and goes on the run with her, for the right reasons! It is set in a rain-drenched Ireland, with a few twists in it, but I think it’s not that different from the Ireland we know.

At the moment I’m ramping up to be Cork County Library’s writer-in-residence; I can’t wait to get going with it. I’m also at the very, very end of my career as a bog standard gaelic footballer. The body giving up on you is a sad thing!

Where were you born?

Like many Irish kids of the ’80s: London (Mam’s from Waterford and Dad’s from Clapham). But I grew up in Passage, and that’s home for me, the place I love. A couple of my friends never, ever let me forget that I was born foreign though!

Where do you live?

I live in Cork city — right on the Lee by the North Mall — and I sincerely hope that we can Save the Lee before it is hidden from view by the OPW and our city’s soul is buried behind concrete.

Family?

I’m the eldest of four kids. There’s myself, then my brother Ben, aged 32, and sisters Rosie, aged 27, and Emily, aged 25. I also have four brilliant nieces and nephews: Matthew, Kacy, Ellie and Jake.

Best friend?

A brutal question! I like to think that I have lots of best friends, and that I can be open with all of them. Rachel — my beloved — is the one who has to deal with the brunt of me though, and every day too, so she is number one!

Earliest childhood memory?

I have this bizarre early image of a white ceiling, swirling, and lots of raised voices, and I’m being held up in someone’s arms. When I said this to my mam a few years ago she was taken aback, and traced that image to an argument in my Granny’s house when I was about six months old.

It’s hard to believe I could remember something like that though, so perhaps it’s just dream residue and my mam’s recollection is coincidence. After that, it’s falling off my bike and cutting my knees, aged about four, and the sky being purplish because of an impending storm.

Person you most admire?

Phew, an impossible question. My parents probably — who had four kids very young and without much money and somehow survived our savage demands!

More generally though, lately I’ve been overwhelmed with admiration for nurses and care assistants. The work they do in caring for society’s most vulnerable is simply incredible. How are these not the best paid people in the country?

Person who most irritates you?

I try not to dwell on people who annoy me. I heard somewhere that the total sum of your life experience is all the things you pay attention to throughout your days. So why waste your attention and life experience on people who irritate you? That said: DONALD TRUMP, and anyone who does not believe that all humans are equal.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Someone who understands that politicians are elected to serve ALL the citizens of our country, no matter who they are or what their history is or who they know, and that the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society should be looked after first and foremost, and that we are all equal under the sun and rain.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

Hmm. There have been a few. In July, 2016, I cycled from Girona in Catalonia, up over the Pyrenees into southern France. It took about a week and was unforgettable in many ways — the views, the serenity, the fact that it was just me and the bike and the road. And because it was so hard! On a particular day I spent about two and a half hours cycling up this zig-zag road up a mountain, only for a highway patrol van to stop me near the top and say that I couldn’t continue because there was a long tunnel ahead and cyclists weren’t allowed through it. I nearly cried.

So I cycled back down the mountain (in about ten minutes!) and had to start the ascent again on a different, quieter road. I remember every minute of that second ascent! But, regardless of the hardship, there is no better mode of transport than cycling for me (though trains come close). You’re kind of one with the elements and nature and can hear the sounds of the countryside and feel part of it too.

Now that I’ve written that though, I’m thinking of a summer spent in Argentina with Rachel. What a country. What a people. We spent six weeks in a flat in Buenos Aires and six weeks travelling about on night buses. Argentina has it all — everything wonderful and terrible about life on earth.

Favourite TV programme?

Twin Peaks. So weird, so memorable, and contains all the human emotions: love, humour, confusion, mystery and horror. I love the way Lynch presents you with a kind of visual poem in which you can take no scene for granted, yet also there’s loads of mad action to keep you entertained and guessing too.

Favourite radio show?

Mystery Train, with John Kelly on Lyric FM. It’s an eclectic, atmospheric mix and I feel like I’m on a mystical journey every time I listen to it. Wondrous stuff.

Favourite restaurant?

Alchemy, on Barrack Street. Which is technically a café of course, but I do splash out on a sausage roll or some cake when I’m there. I love the place; the comfort of it, the sounds, the staff who make it — Rhea, Liam and co. A place to drink well, eat well, and while away the hours in comfort.

Last book you read?

Fever Dream by an Argentine writer named Samanta Schweblin. A woman is on her deathbed in a strange hospital, talking to a ten-year-old boy who is at her bedside. He is not her son; she is not his mother. He’s trying to get her to remember what happened to her and the result is this spooky, vivid fever of a book. It’s only about a hundred pages long but it packs a serious punch! David Lynch meets Margaret Atwood maybe…

Best book you read?

Impossible to answer. At the moment I’d say either Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace or Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Both are completely bonkers, and both took me about six months to read! They present utterly strange worlds in their own ways and both changed my life when I read them.

No-one writes about loneliness and addiction and entertainment and the modern human condition in the way Dave Wallace does, and Hoban’s audacity in creating his own world and his own language is marvellous.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

We have a very old hi-fi at home and I still try to buy the odd record when I can. The last time I was in PLUGD I splurged on three records (so my music budget is blown for a few months now!). I got the soundtracks to both the animé Ghost In The Shell, which is really atmospheric, and the new series of Twin Peaks, which is bananas. And I also got Sketches From Spain by Miles Davis. I don’t know too much about jazz but I like to listen to it and this one is mad and brilliant.

Favourite song?

Not a clue. There are so many great ones! I play GAA and for a good while I used to listen to Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti) on the mornings of games, to get myself riled up! That comes to mind. When I was a kid it would have been Eternal Flame by the Bangles (I was a soppy kid, I guess!). Radiohead’s Let Down is still brilliant after a trillion listens. But the best song I’ve heard in the last five years probably is The Vile Stuff by Richard Dawson, a strange troubadour from Newcastle. It’s a long, strange, wonderful song, all about a secondary school tour!

One person you would like to see in concert?

Tom Waits (right). Writes songs like stories, performs in character, has decades of these beer-soaked, gravel-dragged story-songs to lose yourself in. It would be so, so wonderful.

Do you have a pet?

We have two kittens, or teenage cats at this stage I suppose (about seven months). Cora, a girl, and Yuki, a boy. They are great craic, lepping around the place and hunting each other and all, and pure affectionate then in the evenings (not including the witching hour!).

Morning person or night owl?

Middle of the road-ish. Can be found wandering around the house from 6.30am to near midnight, in varying stages of confusion.

Your proudest moment?

Can’t decide between getting the book deal after about 12 years of trying, or winning an Under-21 City Division championship with Passage — the first in the club’s history and probably the raw happiest day of my life.

Spendthrift or saver?

Aspirational saver; binge-spender. Don’t let me near PLUGD or Vibes and Scribes.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

I would Save the Lee! I still can’t believe the OPW persists. Also, Cork is the best place I’ve ever lived, and I love it dearly, but we’ve got to be the worst at picking up after our dogs…

On a wider scale, I think women in Ireland should have autonomy over their bodies and we should repeal the eighth amendment. I would hope that come May, no-one in my area or in any area in Ireland ever has to travel to another country for an abortion again.

What makes you happy?

Any number of things on any given day — a cup of tea, a team I support or play for winning a match, good health, good news (for anyone), good company, a pint, a burst of sunlight, a read in a café or a moment shared with another human being. Of course I wish the world was a better and fairer place, but it isn’t yet, and may never be, so we have to grab and enjoy happiness wherever we can, no matter how small or big the portion.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a sound enough fella.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m trying to write another book, this one set in Cork, about radio voices and a car salesman on the South Douglas Road, and I’m really excited to be the writer-in-residence for Cork County Library. I hope to meet and help the writers and library users of the county as much as I can.

MORE ABOUT THE RESIDENCY

Cork author Danny Denton has been appointed Cork County Library’s new Writer in Residence.

As Writer in Residence, his finely honed literary skills will now be put to use in guiding and inspiring a selection of library-based creative writing groups and individual writers around County Cork, at Midleton, Carrigaline, Millstreet, Skibbereen, Mallow, Bantry and Youghal.

It is proposed to set up new writing groups at Millstreet and Carrigaline Libraries and we are calling all aspiring writers in those areas who are interested in putting pen to paper, to get in touch with the library as soon as possible and book your place on one of the courses.

The residency will also provide one-to-one mentoring for writers at the selected libraries- booking is advisable as places are limited. This element of the residency is not restricted to members of writing groups.

The residency will commence in March, please contact one of the participating libraries for details, or email sinead.donnelly@corkcoco.ie

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