Throughout the past 40 years, he has done extensive work for radio and
television, contributing to current affairs and arts programs. He has made several documentary films on Irish literary and artistic subjects for RTE and the BBC. In 1995, he collaborated, as librettist, with the Irish composer, James Wilson, in an opera, “A Passionate Man,” about the love between Swift and
Vanessa. He is a practicing member of the Church of Ireland and a student of the archbishop’s course in theology. Though permanently resident in Ireland since 1957, he has retained his British citizenship
What is your latest book about?
“The Scandal of ‘Ulysses,'” the story of James Joyce’s novel, from 1904 to 1992, was published in the United States on Bloomsday, June 16, 1992. It is the definitive account of the printing, publishing and copyright vicissitudes of a major 20th century masterpiece. Much changed in the following decade necessitating an extensive revision which was published by Liffey Press in Dublin in 2004 and released in the United States this month.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I get up early, at five in summer, six in winter, and work through the morning on whatever project I am faced with. This summer it has been a memoir. My work as a journalist follows, later in the day. The time divides naturally. Creative writing is usually done by hand, researched work, such as biography and the book now published in America, the revised edition of “The Scandal of ‘Ulysses,'” would be computer-based.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write every day. Keep a journal. Write the best that is in you. Be always scrupulously honest with yourself and with your readers, whether you have them now or will have them later. Think always of them and their understanding of what you write. You are dealing in what is still the most precious form of communication. Read what you write, revise it. Ideas and inspiration will come from the act of writing.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
“David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens; “Scarlet and Black,” by Stendhal; “That They May Face the Rising Sun,” by John McGahern.
What book are you currently reading?
The Diaries of James Lees-Milne; “The Condemned Playground,” by Cyril Connolly.
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Is there a book you wish you had written?
James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“The Lake,” by George Moore.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
What book changed your life?
“Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Knocknarea Mountain in Sligo.
You’re Irish if . . .
I am not Irish. I am English and I live in Ireland. I give it my love and loyalty but it does not change what I am.