Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Rebecca Miller reads from her novel

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, novels

The large, though not yet packed out, crowd is buzzing in anticipation of Rebecca Miller‘s arrival. For the first time this festival, both Paul O’Mahony and I are at the same event. This is entirely unplanned – but will afford two different impressions of the same happening which is both useful and interesting, adding a contrast in impressions to the contrast in styles already evident from our posts as it were.
The two older ladies seated to my left – I’ve strategically positioned myself on the outside seat near some wall sockets – are deep in conversation. A few minutes ago one of them asked what I was doing and wanted to know what a blog was and how to access it. She told me she wrote her first page of memoir at the 1970 Writers’ Week festival (the year I started first year at St. Michael’s College), and talked of her admiration for Archbishop Simms. I nodded sagely in an endeavour to hide my stygian ignorance of who Archbishop Simms was, the name ringing some very faint bells at the disant edge of memory in my head.
It’s now 10 past and something appears to be happening at last – Miss Miller (for I presume it is she) and a member of the committee – a large woman in a white dress and whiter hair whose face I know but whose name escapes me – have taken their seats at the top table. The podium remains, as yet – should I say “unmanned” (seems a trifle sexist in the circumstances) or “unpersonned” (sounds wrong somehow)?

Miss Miller begins her talk on her book “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee“.
Marigold Village has everything from sex therapist to herbalist (she drops the h) to tennis courts. Having never read any of Miss Miller’s work, my initial impressions are of a fast-paced style reminiscent of what? Perhaps of film narrative.

Listen to extract 1

She explains that as the book progresses Pippa gradually becomes overwhelmed by her past. She then reads a section from the middle of the book.

Extract 2 from Rebecca Miller’s reading

Extract 3 of Rebecca Miller’s reading

The reading goes on for some time – my mind wanders a little, despite the pleasant tone of her soft American accent. I look up to my right to see the large screen displaying a close-up of Ms Miller as she reads. My eye is drawn inexorably toward her gorgeous cleavage… She is a stunningly attractive woman, tall, svelte, cultured, natural.

There is time for 4 or 5 questions from the audience at the end of the reading as follows:

Question 1

Question 2

Questions 3 and 4

Question 5

And then the queue for the book-signing. I purchase two – one for my wife Ana, and the other for myself. When it comes my turn, I tell Ms Miller truthfully that I’ve been “converted”, having never read any of her work – I realise later that this is her first novel! I ask her to write “For Patrick Stack” on the second book. Patrick? she queries. I spell Patrick. She writes it. I repeat “Stack” – do I detect a hesitation (or is it my over-active and increasingly fevered imagination at work?)? I spell S-T-A-C-K. She writes it and finishes the dedication. Meanwhile the large woman in the white dress has come in through the open door and taken the seat to her left. I look at her badge and realise, of course, she’s Marian Relihan. I earnestly thank Ms Miller again, with a slight bow of my already bowed and hatted head and bolt for the door.

3 Comments to “Rebecca Miller reads from her novel”

  1. Anna O'Leary says:

    Great work Paul. You do realise that the photo on here is Martina Evans who taught the ADVANCED POETRY WORKSHOP at Writers Week. Martina also read her poetry at the museum ( Seanchai Literary Centre) during Writers Week.
    A friend mentioned to me that they heard a great poet in Limerick…..turned out to be Martina Evans. Another friend mentioned he heard her in Galway, and he to was mighty impressed as we say in Kerry.
    Her first novel, Midnight Feast, won a Betty Trask Award in 1995 and her third novel, No Drinking No Dancing No Doctors (Bloomsbury, 2000), won an Arts Council England Award in 1999. Her fourth poetry collection, Facing the Public, is due to be published by Anvil Press in September 2009.

  2. Anna,

    Thank you very much for noticing and pointing it out. I’ve put up a photo of Rebecca Miller which I took at the reading – in place of the photo of Martina Evans.

    What I’m going to do is put that photo of Martina up in a page of its own with your comment alongside it.

  3. Aha Paul! Remember I queried the photo you put up at the time? The woman in the photo wasn’t anything like the woman I saw in the flesh, and I wondered if my memory were playing tricks!
    Well done to Anna for spotting this.


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