October November 2003 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Cate Blanchett Goes Irish https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/cate-blanchett-goes-irish/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/cate-blanchett-goes-irish/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 08:00:35 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42413 Read more..]]> An acclaimed Australian actress known for tackling tough parts, Cate Blanchett takes on her first Irish role in Veronica Guerin. Smart, provocative and down-to-earth, Blanchett spoke to Louise Carroll just before the movie’s U.S. release.


Cate Blanchett has played a range of characters in her career including the Queen of England, the elf queen Galadriel of Lothlorian, an American housewife, and now, an Irish journalist. She has starred in The Gift, The Lord of the Rings, Charlotte Gray, and Pushing Tin. She was nominated in 1998 for an Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the title role in Elizabeth. At 33 years old, she is in the prime of her career and her life. She is married to Australian screenwriter Andrew Upton and they have a two-year-old son, Dashiell. Blanchett discusses the challenges of playing Veronica Guerin, an Irish crime journalist who was murdered in 1996 by drug dealers who wanted to put a stop to her work investigating them and the Dublin criminal underworld.

Louise Carroll: How were you first approached about the story of Veronica Guerin?

Cate Blanchett: I had always wanted to work with Joel Schumacher, the director of Veronica Guerin. He was one of the first people I met when I went to L.A. for the first time in 1998 when I was doing Oscar and Lucinda. Through my agent I was sent the 60 Minutes tape about Veronica Guerin. I was intrigued by watching her speak and the way she spoke and the circumstances under which she worked. That was before there was a script, and I had never read an article that she had written. The great irony is that I knew her because she died and I didn’t know her as a living, breathing figure.

<em>Blanchett in Dublin at the premiere.</em>

Blanchett in Dublin at the premiere.

What was it like working and living in Ireland?

I just had a little baby who was nine or ten weeks old when we started to shoot, so it wasn’t really a time to travel, but we did go to Galway at Easter time. I had five days off and we went out to Galway, which is just gorgeous.

It’s a very strange experience working in another country, because on one hand you’re incredibly privileged because you’re not a tourist at all, and particularly with a film like Veronica Guerin you’re going straight to the heart of a really Dublin subject. So I was speaking to T.D.s [members of parliament] and family members and going through the newspapers. You’re going to the heart of something that a tourist can’t, but you’re in such a beautiful place. And you don’t get to have the simple joys of visiting because you’re working. It’s a very different mindset.

What was it like working with a completely Irish cast and crew?

Strangely enough, Veronica Guerin felt like making an Australian film, in that we work with relatively small budgets and there’s an ethos among the cast and crew in Australia that’s not hierarchical. Everyone just mucks in and gets on with it. The atmosphere on set in Ireland felt incredibly familiar to me. The crew was fantastic. There was a buoyancy to it, and Joel Schumacher fit right in. He is such a fabulous raconteur, and he fed the buoyancy on set. There were a lot of laughs on set, which was great because the subject matter was really intense.

How would you fit the film into the grander scheme of your career?

Having just had a child, there was a sense of get out and do it. I was quite nervous because it was the first time I’d gone back to work as a new parent and negotiating all that stuff and wondering how it would all go. Trying to get back and put Dashiell to bed was a major focus of my day. I just had to trust that I had done my homework and that I was 100 percent focused when I was working. But every job has its own challenge or problem. The initial one is always the matter of the accent and finding your way into the character. There is a particular responsibility that one has in playing a character who has lived and died so recently. She existed in the media and there’s a strong sense that she has been claimed by the Dublin public. People know what she looks like, what she sounds like, what she represented, and they know what she did. So they are either going to believe me or not. I just had to make sure that I had the accent right to start with!

<em>Blanchett plays the queen in <strong>Elizabeth</strong>.</em>

Blanchett plays the queen in Elizabeth.

What was your reaction to the script?

I first read the script in 2001. The script is a very organic beast. When someone has had such a short, sharp, extraordinary life as she did, you could tell a thousand different stories about her. Joel had to settle on what the angle was going to be. There was some of that in the original script. And as actors, directors and writers you go out and do your research and [you listen to] some of the extraordinary things that people tell you. Soaking up the atmosphere of actually being there adds to it. Then the script changes and expands. That’s part of my job, to bring the details that interest me into the script. Like the little anecdotes that Jimmy [Veronica’s brother] would tell me, they all go into fleshing out the character. I’m presenting a three-dimensional human being. Her celebrity status rose in the last years of her life. When someone is cut off in her prime, the iconography of that takes over and the person can get left behind a little bit. It’s a matter of me fleshing out and inventing, in a strange way, the human being behind the façade.

Wasn’t it hard to play a woman who so many knew so well?

I quite like hard things. I often like things that other people think are difficult, because I like a challenge. If something seems too easy I don’t necessarily see the reason for doing it.

Were you worried about meeting the expectations of the Irish public and Guerin’s family?

Of course that’s something you think about when you go into it. To be honest, I thought of that when I played Galadriel [in Lord of the Rings] or Elizabeth or Charlotte Gray. Because when you play a character from a well-loved novel, you hope that you’re going to be the quintessential person from that novel; but you may not be for some people. That feeling exists very often. I think I pushed it [the expectations] far out of my consciousness, or else I would have been a mess of nerves and I wouldn’t have been able to work.

But I’ve never been more nervous than the opening night of Veronica Guerin in Dublin. Having the opening in Dublin was so right because the story originated there and in a way it’s owned by those people who were there: her family, friends, colleagues and her readers. That was really nerve-racking for me because I suddenly thought, “I’m an actress in a film and these people knew this woman.” It was almost like her memorial service.

What gave you satisfaction in watching the finished film?

When I watch a completed film, I always have to cover my face with my hands just in case something dreadful comes up, and I always sit at the back! The best thing for me was that before I saw it, Joel had shown it to Bernadette Guerin [Veronica’s mother] and some members of the family and she gave it the thumbs up. She was really pleased. She felt like I had done it justice, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I knew that my Irish accent must be alright! I know I don’t look like Veronica, and of course you try to look as much as you can like the person, but that is not the point. The point is that the audience, and hopefully her family, has to believe that you are that person for the hour and a half. That you have captured the spirit of the person. And that’s a much more ephemeral thing to do. I was really relieved. And I thought, “OK, now it’s just a matter of whether people like the film or not.”

<em>A scene from <strong>The Lord of the Rings</strong>.</em>

A scene from The Lord of the Rings.

Did you relate to Veronica Guerin because you are both married mothers who are famous and in their thirties?

You always try to find the things that you can relate to in a character. I was really unsure about having a young baby and going back to work and that pull that you feel because whenever you leave your child you miss them so terribly. And my husband said to me, “Veronica had the same pull, so just accept it.” But that was the only thing. I don’t like to think too much about myself when I’m working. So I look more for the differences, not the similarities.

Do you use method acting?

I use whatever works. That’s the great thing for me having gone to a drama school. You use technique when you need to solve a problem and it’s a great thing to fall back on. It’s like a dictionary. And you don’t think about your technique. I’ve been doing it for a while now and you get used to the process of it, and ultimately, it’s about your instincts. If a scene is not working, then I will use any technique that will work to realize that moment.

Would you say you share Veronica’s attitude about doing something of worth in your career?

Yes. What I admired her for is that when she saw a major problem, it wasn’t in her nature to dance around it. She went up to it and dealt with it. It’s that idea that if you can understand a problem, then you can solve it. When you start a new role as an actress, you think, “I can’t possibly do this. I have no idea how to do this.” Part of playing a character is to understand a different way of thinking and you go into something head on. You have to be fearless in your work. But she and I had very different jobs. I could never have done that doorstepping stuff she did. I’m in awe of that kind of fearlessness.

<em>Left to Right: Ciaran Hinds, Jerry Bruckheimer, Cate Blanchett, Joel Schumacher and Gerard McSorley.</em>

Left to Right: Ciaran Hinds, Jerry Bruckheimer, Cate Blanchett, Joel Schumacher and Gerard McSorley.

What’s your opinion about her employers at the newspaper not having done enough to protect her?

I think it’s a very complicated thing that we all have in the wisdom of hindsight. A moral and political judgement is so much easier for those who don’t participate, who are on the sidelines of it. She was a really passionate person who was at the center of life. She didn’t have a desk at the Sunday Independent, she was a lone wolf operating on her own terms.

She was taking John Gilligan to court. [Gilligan is a Dublin crime boss believed to be responsible for her murder. Guerin had doorstepped him and he viciously assaulted her less than a year before she was killed]. There was no coordinated approach from the Gardai, the revenue commissioners, and the government to prosecute these guys for what they should have been prosecuted for, which was drug dealing. To put Gilligan away and to prevent him from attacking and threatening her or anyone else, [she had to] get him on assault, which is what she was going to do. In the film — the Sunday Independent — I mean who knows what went on at the time, but in the film, the Sunday Independent asked her, Do you want to write a story about it [her attack] or do you want to prosecute him? And she chose to prosecute him, although he got let off.

It would be a great thing if she were still alive. Maybe if she hadn’t been Veronica, she would still be alive. I think it was partly in her nature and partly, until she died, that everyone including herself underestimated the danger she was in. Because these guys made threats to everyone. The Irish crime journalist Paul Williams was threatened when we were in Dublin last month. It’s an ongoing thing. I also think that she believed she was doing something important and she didn’t want to be bullied.

Would you consider the film a Hollywood thriller or an Irish biopic?

I think no matter the size of your character, or the name of your character, the story is always a biopic of your character because you have to look at it through your character’s eyes. But objectively, I don’t think of it as a biopic at all. I don’t see Elizabeth or Charlotte Gray as biopics. They’re always about a character in a set of circumstances, and it was the circumstances that interested me as much as Veronica.

I think the film is unique in that watching the film feels like a car crash. You know at the beginning that this car is crashing and then for the next hour and a half you watch it crashing and you know you’re powerless to stop it. I don’t invest in genres, except as a reference point. A good film these days tries to find its own niche. So I always saw it as being a dance of death between Gilligan and Veronica.

It’s unusual for a movie about Ireland to be from Hollywood and aimed at a mass audience.

I think that it’s a mistake that people make to think they can find a mass audience that everything appeals to. There is no such audience. I think that if you make a film that has a weight behind it like Jerry Bruckheimer [the producer] — he really fascinated me about the whole thing. This is a departure for him, and there’s a female lead and I think that’s fantastic! If Jerry’s behind it, then hopefully it will find an audience. The film has to be interesting. One of the things I did like about it is that it wasn’t about the IRA, and yet it was a film coming out of Ireland with a really Irish subject. Like all great stories, they translate across cultures. Journalists are dying, globally, everywhere, and this movie feels strangely timely.

<em>Cate Blanchett with Bernadette Guerin (the real-life Veronica's mother).</em>

Cate Blanchett with Bernadette Guerin (the real-life Veronica’s mother).

Is there a responsibility that the media should shoulder in making heroes of characters who fight crime like Veronica Guerin as opposed to making heroes of criminals, such as The Sopranos?

I must admit it’s not something that I thought about. But quite a few people who’ve seen the film have said to me that they’re really pleased that the criminals are as sleazy as they actually are, as opposed to making heroes of them. The interesting thing to me is people criticizing Guerin and saying, “How could she, as a mother, do what she did?” I think that we live in quite cowardly times when anyone who has idealism and is prepared to fight for it is considered foolhardy. Most heroes who we see are people who get away with things or gangsters, or they have a lot of money, and it’s not about a sense of idealism. And that’s what I found quite inspiring about what the film was dealing with.

But I think you need to educate people to read images. The role of art is to inspire and to allow people to fantasize. It’s not about moralizing and ethics. That should hopefully be instilled at home, school and whatever your church is.

I also wanted you to know that you’re the first non-Irish person on the cover of our magazine.

How exciting, I’m the first non-Irish person on the cover of Irish America? Fantastic. So the next time I go to Dublin, if I can’t get into a restaurant, I’ll just pull out the issue of the magazine with my picture on the cover! ♦

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First Word: The Battle for the Truth https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/first-word-the-battle-for-the-truth/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/first-word-the-battle-for-the-truth/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:59:49 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42423 Read more..]]> “I vow that the eyes of justice, the eyes of this journalist will not be shut again. No hand can deter me from my battle for the truth.”

–Journalist Veronica Guerin


While Veronica Guerin starring Cate Blanchett (see cover story) may be the movie of the fall season, the real Veronica Guerin was anything but Hollywood. She was a dedicated journalist, wife and mother. So dedicated to her job, in fact, that in six years she became Dublin’s most celebrated investigative reporter through a series of articles exposing the drug barons of the city’s underworld.

On June 26, 1996, she was shot dead in her car by an unknown assassin.

Though many admired Guerin’s journalism, others thought her naive and reckless. People didn’t always understand why she put herself in harm’s-way by forcing face-to-face-confrontations with some of the most notorious criminals in Dublin.

The reason is simple. Ireland’s libel laws.

There is no definition of defamation in Ireland’s libel laws, some of which date back to the 17th century when they were used to suppress any word or deed in opposition to the (English) King. In contrast to the U.S. where the plaintiff must establish malice, in Irish law the plaintiff does not have to show that he or she suffered any loss or damage. Irish juries, perhaps in response to centuries of British suppression (let’s blame the British), routinely give large awards to plaintiffs in libel suits against the media. In fact, it’s become somewhat of an “establishment” hobby to sue for defamation in Ireland, and almost always the plaintiff wins.

Guerin tried to circumvent the laws by referring to the gangsters by their street names and on January 30, 1995, the day after she published an article profiling “The Monk,” a man suspected of masterminding the largest robbery in Ireland’s history; she was shot in the thigh by an unidentified assailant who attacked her in her home. She was still determined though. “No hand can deter me from the battle for the truth,” she said. But with her bosses at Independent newspapers being warned by counsel that Guerin’s stories could open them up to major lawsuits, she was forced into confronting the gangsters face-to-face to try to get “on the record” responses.

Guerin spoke about the problems facing journalists in Ireland and the need to change the libel laws when she was in New York in 1995 to accept an International Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

(For further reading check out “Gag Reflex: Ireland’s Libel Laws Muzzle A Free Press” by Michael Foley, posted on the web).

She also expressed her outrage that a fellow Independent journalist, Liz Allen, had been found guilty under Ireland’s Official Secrets Act, for publishing details of a bank robbery.

Amendments, which allow for more freedom of the presses, have been made to the government’s Official Secrets Act, but no changes have been made to the libel laws, which continue to frustrate Ireland’s journalists.

It would certainly be a fitting tribute to a brave journalist if the attention Veronica Guerin receives encourages the public to put pressure on the Irish government to change the more draconian aspects of the laws.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., it sometimes seems that the media could use just a touch of Ireland’s restraining libel laws. A quick perusal of supermarket tabloids finds the most outlandish statements leveled against those in the entertainment business. And it’s not just the tabloids.

Bing Crosby’s reputation was ruined by two books published after his death — one written by his son. I must confess to being one of the many fans turned off by the the allegations leveled against the entertainer. For years I have not been able to watch a Crosby movie without thinking, “Yeah, but….” Thankfully, a new book by Gary Giddins is helping to set the record straight and is debunking some of the stories that so badly damaged Crosby’s reputation (see Bob Lydon’s “Redeeming Bing,” page 58).

We hope that you will find both the Guerin and Crosby stories and the many others in this issue worthy of your attention. Guerin’s story in particular is a reminder to all of us in the media of our responsibility to continue to seek out the truth.

Sláinte ♦

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River Films https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/river-films/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/river-films/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:58:30 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42425 Read more..]]> Successful Riverdance team takes on Hollywood.


Moya Doherty and John McColgan, the couple who own Abhann, the company behind Riverdance: The Show, announced at the Cannes Film Festival that they would be moving into film production.

Together with Joan Egan, a director of Tyrone Productions, which produces Ireland’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire, they have set up River Films. Currently they have four film projects in development.

Things just keep getting better and better for this Irish couple who have shown the world that Irish dance is indeed rich. According to the Sunday Business Post, Tyrone Productions, the Dublin company, which is also owned by Doherty and McColgan, has reported a 35 percent increase in retained profits. Meanwhile, documents filed by Abhann Productions, which owns 65.5 percent of Riverdance, revealed that the show earned income totaling 45.6 million during the year 1999 alone!

Keep on dancing! ♦

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Ireland’s New Drinking & Smoking Laws https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/irelands-new-drinking-smoking-laws/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/irelands-new-drinking-smoking-laws/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:57:02 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42428 Read more..]]> On January 1, Ireland is expected to become the first European country to ban smoking in pubs. Given that smoking and drinking are cherished traditions in the old sod, pundits are betting that it won’t happen. Minister for Health Micheál Martin, who proposed the new smoking rule, is facing increasing ire, not just from the public. Ireland’s environment minister Martin Cullen is hotly expressing his opposition to the plan and blaming it on the Americans. “I hate the importation of this American political correctness into Ireland. I dislike it with a passion,” he grumpily observed. Of course, Cullen is reportedly a 40-a-day man, which we are sure does wonders for the environment.

Meanwhile, the Irish government is also trying to get the Irish population to cut back on alcohol consumption with strict new licensing laws.

<em>Smoking wil be illegal inside of pubs as of January 1, 2004.</em>

Smoking will be illegal inside of pubs as of January 1, 2004.

Publicans will be fined €1,500 for serving drunks or letting “intoxicated” people into the bar or allowing fights or rows on the premises. Closing time on Thursdays will revert back to 11.30 p.m. Owners cannot offer any form of music or entertainment during the 30 minutes drinking-up time, and non-uniformed police are given greater powers to enforce the new laws.

Pubs who break the licensing laws could face temporary closure. ♦

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No Cows For Dublin https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/no-cows-for-dublin/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/no-cows-for-dublin/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:56:34 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42433 Read more..]]> A collection of life-size cows designed by Irish artists had to be taken off the streets of Dublin in July after vandals destroyed several exhibits.

More than 70 cows were placed on the streets of Dublin and Dundalk as part of Bailey’s Cow Parade 2003, an international exhibition which visits cities al over the world. However,, the first 10 cows placed in city-center locations were damaged so badly that organizers were forced to remove them.

“It’s so depressing, but not surprising.” Amy Wallace, account executive of CowParade Ireland, told the Irish Independent. “The awful thing is, we were kind of expecting it in Dublin.”

Meanwhile, also according to the Independent, a large fiberglass pig was stolen and damaged at the Galway Arts Festival. ♦

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Alison Doody Is Back https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/alison-doody-is-back/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/alison-doody-is-back/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:55:28 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42437 Read more..]]> Fifteen years after she starred in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Harrison Ford, Alison Doody has again embraced the screen.

The Irish beauty, who is married to Gavin O’Reilly (Sir Anthony’s son) will be returning to the silver screen in King Solomon’s Mines, based on H. Rider Haggard’s adventure story.

Alison, who put her career on hold when she married Gavin and has been raising the couple’s two daughters, is said to be thrilled to be back in front of the camera.

Fans of Doody, whose co-star in King Solomon is Patrick Swayze, are hoping that with a reported fourth Indiana Jones under way, with Harrison Ford and Sir Sean Connery, she won’t go away again. ♦

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FBI Head Visits Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/fbi-head-visits-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/fbi-head-visits-ireland/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:54:13 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42440 Read more..]]> Robert S. Mueller III arrived in Ireland August 13 for a ten-day “private” visit. Much security and secrecy surrounded the visit, which started off with a round of golf at Lahinch Golf Club in Co. Clare. A regular golfing visitor to Ireland, Mueller was nominated by President Bush on September 4, 2001, becoming the sixth director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. ♦

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Golf Is His Baby! https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/golf-is-his-baby/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/golf-is-his-baby/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:53:43 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42443 Read more..]]> After considering withdrawing from the P.G.A. Championship, Irish golfer Padraig Harrington decided to compete, leaving his wife Caroline at home about to go into labor. “The doctor was of the opinion that if anything, the pregnancy will go late,” Harrington said. “I decided the worst thing was if I was sitting at home all the way through the P.G.A. and nothing happened. So we decided that I would travel,” he told the New York Times.

“If I get the call Saturday and I’m doing well, I’m going to hang around on Sunday.”

As it turned out, Padraig would have done as well to stay at home. Three bogies and no birdies in an uneventful final round left him with a total of ten over par and in a tie for 29th place. “It was one of those weeks. I just wasn’t playing well enough to master the course, which was very tough but fair. There are no excuses. If you weren’t at the top of your form, this was no place to be. I hope to play in the NEC this week if all goes well at home.”

(No birth was reported at press time, a week after the P.G.A.). ♦

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Irish Landmarks Saved and Sold https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/irish-landmarks-saved-and-sold/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/irish-landmarks-saved-and-sold/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:52:54 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42501 Read more..]]> The site of the last stand by leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule, nicknamed Ireland’s Alamo, has won a last-minute reprieve. The house, in a run-down part of Dublin, had been earmarked for demolition to make way for a shopping center. It was where republican leaders held their last meeting before surrendering. After intense pressure from descendants of those who took part in the short-lived rebellion, which paved the way for eventual independence from Britain in 1921, the City Council voted to preserve the site.

Meanwhile, Lissadell House, the childhood home of Constance Gore-Booth, who as Countess Markiewicz was an important figure in the struggle for Irish independence, has been sold to a private couple.

<em>Eva and Constance Gore .</em>

Eva and Constance Gore .

The house in County Sligo, which was a favorite spot of William Butler Yeats and featured in many of his poems, was put on the market earlier this summer for $4.26 million. Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth said the new owners, who are Irish (but not the rock star Bono who viewed the house but did not buy it) would live at the house full time but still keep it open to the public.

And in another house story, Abbeville, former taoiseach Charles Haughey’s 320-acre estate in Kensealy was sold for €35 million in August. Manor Park Homebuilders who bought the estate, are betting on the land, currently in a “green belt,” will be rezoned. When it is, there will be room for 2,000-plus houses in a highly desirable area.

Charles Haughey on the grounds of his home, Abbeville

Charles Haughey on the grounds of his home, Abbeville.

Haughey, recently the subject of a tribunal, may have sold the estate to settle legal fees and his tax bill with the state.

The Sunday Tribune reported that Haughey, who is suffering from prostate cancer, will be allowed to live Abbeville for the rest of his life. ♦

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Booker Prize Nominee https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/booker-prize-nominee/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/10/booker-prize-nominee/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2003 07:51:12 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42514 Read more..]]> Schopenhauer’s Telescope, the first novel by Irish Poet Gerard Donovan, has been announced as a selection for the prestigious Booker Prize. Donovan lives in Long Island, New York. His collection of poems, The LightHouse, was a nominee for the Irish Times Literature Prize. His short stories “Glass” and “A Crime About Martha” were finalists in the Chicago tribune’s Nelson Algren Short Story Award (200) and shortlisted for the Hennesy Award in Fiction, respectively.

Schopenhauer’s Telescope is published in the U.S. by Counterpoint and was a summer pick for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. ♦

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