AH, THE final week before Christmas. When the organised (smug) sit at home, elaborately wrapping carefully chosen gifts, while the rest of us break into a sweat when we think of the amount of people we still have to find presents for.
While lots of books have already been purchased, for those who have a favourite author or who have dropped clear hints, nervy shoppers shouldn’t rule out the bookshops of Cork when trying to find something for the ‘hard to buy for’ brigade.
If you have been racking your brains trying to think of a gift for that cynical teen or tricky uncle, you could do a lot worse than a book that can be cracked open and chuckled over on Christmas Day.
One man who is hoping his recently-published book raises some laughs in Irish homes next week is Stephen Black, the man behind Twitter account Mallow News.
Describing himself as an ‘author and lover from Mallow, the Aleppo of North Cork’ his publisher says: “Taking to Twitter five long years ago in an attempt to quieten the voice of desperation that gnaws at his soul, he now spends each day trying to come up with amusing ways of saying all life is pain and death is the only constant.”
The book is entitled Mallow News: Fake News And Comment From Ireland’s Favourite Moderately Popular Twitter Feed @mallownews.
It promises a mix of local and national news, sports, entertainment, highlights from Ireland’s literary scene, parish notes, obituaries and more.
Sample headlines include ‘St Anthony arrested after gardaí recover €200,000 worth of stolen goods’, ‘Five ways to turn your uncommunicative, GAA-loving husband into an uncommunicative, GAA-loving CONNELL’, ‘Irish government agrees Mrs Brown’s Boys sufficient reparations for occupation’ and ‘Rogue Siege of Ennis maims four’.
The author sat down to a Q&A with The Echo.
- What prompted you to set up the Twitter account in the first place?
“The realisation that a happy family life and fulfilling job wasn’t enough and that I needed the approval of complete strangers on social media in order to feel really alive.” -
- Have you found your experience of being on Twitter has changed in the years since you began the account? We frequently hear that it is becoming more toxic, do you find that to be the case?
“Any situation where you allow people to talk to each other is going to be toxic, because people are awful.
"Twitter is like a family Christmas dinner but where random strangers walk in and tell you how dry the turkey is and you’re like, ‘It’s fine when my sister says it but you can go straight to hell, @celticdave696969?”
- Have you faced much criticism from people you have mocked in Tweets?
“Sometimes I’ll get criticised for tweeting something that is unfair. But I’m a mature adult so when someone points that out, I do the right thing and block them.”
- Do you have to deal a lot with people who take your Tweets seriously?
“Now and again. All people have to do is look at my twitter bio, it says ‘fake news’ right there.
“But people have no time for that kind of in-depth research when there are conclusions to jump to.”
- What has been the most popular Tweet?
“What do you mean? They’re all popular.”
- What is the key to going viral?
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be slogging away each day writing content that barely scrapes 20 retweets.
"There is no key to going viral, it is a completely random confluence of saying the right thing at the right time, before anyone else has said it. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s usually enough to stop me from crying.”
- And finally, what prompted the book?
“The publishers contacted me and asked if I’d like to spend all of December stressing out, so naturally I jumped at the chance.
“So, buy the book to stop my children from asking ‘Why is Daddy drinking during the day now?’”
- Mallow News, Fake news and comment from Ireland’s favourite moderately popular Twitter feed @mallownews, published by Hachette Ireland. Hardback €10.99, available now.