Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Goats are Singing - for Dermot Healy.

photo courtesy of Steve Pyke: http://www.pyke-eye.com

The Goats are Singing - for Dermot Healy.

The news filtered in yesterday on Facebook and Twitter of the tragically early death of one of Ireland's greatest writers, the inspirational Dermot Healy. Séamus Heaney called him the heir to Patrick Kavanagh. Roddy Doyle called him Ireland's greatest living writer. My thoughts are with his family and friends, whose loss is immeasurably greater than the loss to readers, but the loss to readers is great too, as he was a master.

As a reader I have been savouring the fact that his most recent novel, Long Time, No See is on my shelves, waiting for me. I had also been thinking of re-reading his classic novel A Goat's Song, the title of which comes from the etymology of tragedy (from the Greek - tragos ‘goat’ + ōidē ‘song). And if his early death is a tragedy, he has left great work to remember him by. I have read two of his novels, A Goat's Song and Sudden Times, and his absolutely masterful memoir The Bend for Home. He also wrote short stories; the screenplay for Cathal Black's hard hitting docudrama, Our Boys; four collections of poetry and a number of plays.

To do my own act of remembering and celebration I intend to read and reread all of his novels and his collection of short stories, as well as his memoir. I will also read some of his poetry.  I will call this blog 'event'; The Goats are Singing: in memory of Dermot Healy. I hope that others will contribute either by writing pieces which are 'published' here or by writing on their own blogs and the links can be shared here. If you are interested in participating let me know, either in the comments or at my gmail address seamus.duggan (you know the rest: @ and gmail.com)

I have written about the wonderful documentary on Healy, The Writing in the Sky Here it is:
Part 1

The Writing in the Sky - Part 1 from Garry Keane on Vimeo.
Part 2

The Writing in the Sky - Part 2 from Garry Keane on Vimeo.

Healy's international reputation isn't as strong as his reputation in Ireland and hopefully this will lead to more people reading and appreciating Healy's genius as well as being an opportunity for his many fans to join in the celebration.

Obituaries & Appreciations
Irish Times
The Guardian
Tributes on RTE News
A beautiful piece by Michael Harding in the Irish Times
Michael Harding on the radio
Patrick Cotter, Artistic Director of the Munster Literature Centre

Interview with Sean O'Hagan in The Guardian "Healy names his influences as Borges, Miroslav Holub, Eudora Welty, Liam O'Flaherty and, above all, Kafka. "He taught me a lot about the normal and the abnormal, and the distance between them. But, you couldn't really be influenced by Kafka; he's too individual. He's out there by himself. You get the jump in the feet when you read certain passages by him. That's the mark of truly great writing," he says, seriously. "It gives you the jump in the feet."

Here is a list of his works, taken from Wikipedia but with a couple of additions. I welcome further additions.

Short Stories
Banished Misfortune (London, Allison & Busby, 1984) One, two, three, four, five
After the Off (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999) Short story by Healy with photos by Bruce Gilden
Along the Lines (In the collection Silver Threads of Hope (2012))

Fighting with Shadows (London, Allison & Busby 1984)
A Goat's Song (London, Collins Harvill, 1994)
Sudden Times (London, The Harvill Press, 1999)
Long Time, No See (Faber and Faber, 2011) Review by Annie Proulx

The Bend for Home (Harvill, 1996)

Here and There and Going to America (1985)
The Long Swim (1988)
Curtains (1990)
On Broken Wings (1992)
Last Nights of Fun (1994)
Boxes (1998)
Mister Staines (1999)
Women to the Left, Men to the Right (2001)
Metagama (2005)
A Night at the Disco (2006)

Neighbours' Lights (1992)
The Ballyconnel Colours (1995)
What the Hammer (1998)
The Reed Bed (2001)
A Fool's Errand (The Gallery Press, 2010)

A link to some poems.

Our Boys 1981 (Screenplay) Short Film. Directed by Cathal Black.
I Could Read the Sky (1999) ( as an actor)
Women to the Left, Men to the Right (2002) Broadcast on RTE
The Writing in the Sky (2011) Documentary on and featuring Dermot Healy, directed by Garry Keane


  1. Thank you for this amazing resource. I got interested in Dermot Healy after staying at his sister Una's B&B in Cootehill this spring, and she happened to mention that her late brother was a writer. Since then I've been following your path of reading everything of his and about him I can get my hands on. Planning a piece for a US academic literary magazine and I'll be crediting you and adding a link to this if that's OK.

    1. That sounds great Robbie. It's strange how we can discover writers! I intend to write some more pieces at some stage, particularly on Healy's poetry, which I've read but not yet written on. I would welcome being linked and look forward to reading your piece.