The words “lyricism” and “Ireland” seem entwined. One of my favorite poets is W.B. Yeats (oh, his “Stolen Child”). More recently, the playwright and screenwriter Martin McDonagh, born in London of Irish parents, has stunned me with his beautiful writing, which reaches the peak of my favorite combination of lunacy and sorrow. This week on Storyboard, we spotlighted Irish lyricism through the lens of New York Times writer Dan Barry, Irish author Frank McCourt and the late Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan.
(The wonderful) Dan Barry and “The Lost Children of Tuam.” This was one of The New York Times’ most-read stories last year, perhaps proving that longform storytelling is not only viable but rewarded in this age of now-now-now. In this “Why’s This So Good?” essay by Julia Shipley, she explains why it moved her so deeply. The lede is wonderful, and sums up Dan Barry perfectly: “If Dan Barry has a beat, it is humanity — humanity as it reckons with its triumphs and travesties, and, sometimes, its profound secrets.” In this 7,000-word story, Barry writes of a terrible secret unearthed at an Irish “mother and baby” home by Catherine Corless, whom we’ll watch grow from a schoolgirl into a mother herself and discover the story of the graves of children born in the home.
The soundtrack: “So Cold in Ireland,” by the Cranberries. This week, Cranberries’ singer Dolores O’Riordian, she of the otherworldly voice, died. She was only 46. This song gives me goosebumps even without that loss, and seems to fits this story perfectly.
One Great Sentence
Frank McCourt, “Angela’s Ashes.” Read why we think it’s great.
5 tips for journalists covering mental and behavioral health. Few topics are as misunderstood by the media as mental health. Despite advances in treatment paradigms, reporters too often fall back on dated stereotypes, distort the nature of illnesses and recovery and rely on shaky sources. That’s why WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, launched its Behavioral Health Journalism Workshop Series. In this post, Katia Savchuk gives five tips for reporters she gleaned from the workshop, including “Watch your language — and your tropes,” “Look for new angles on seemingly obvious subjects” and “Dig into data.”
The soundtrack: “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley. Speaking of great voices, Cee-Lo Green has one. I’ve always loved his laugh in this bit: “Who do you think you are?/Ha ha ha, bless your soul/You really think you’re in control?/Well I think you’re crazy/I think you’re crazy/I think you’re crazy/Just like me.”
What I’m reading online: Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries Singer, Dead at 46. I went to Rolling Stone to find out more about her death, and didn’t find that. But the piece gives a survey of her work, and this quote from her: “I know exactly what every song on that album was about,” O’Riordan told Rolling Stone in 1995 of writing Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, which explored “a young woman’s painful failures as an adolescent and her subsequent rebirth as a young adult.”
Peter O’Toole on the Ould Sod, by Gay Talese. On an Irish kick, I went back to this 1963 Esquire piece. Such a great profile! Here’s a taste of it: “Oh, look at that ass,” O’Toole said softly, shaking his head, raising his eyes with approval. “That ass is covered with tweed made in Connnemara, where I was born…Nicest asses in the world, Ireland. Irish-women still are carrying water on their heads and carrying their husbands home from pubs, and such things are the greatest posture builders in the world.”
Double Blind: The untold story of how British intelligence infiltrated and undermined the IRA, by Matthew Teague. I worked with Matt at the Los Angeles Times, and he has a gift for cinematic writing. In this Atlantic piece from 2006, that gift is on clear display. Here he describes his first meeting with an IRA turncoat like a scene from a movie: Now, as we talked on the platform, he paced back and forth, scanning the faces of passersby. He checked the time, then checked it again. He spoke in an almost impenetrable brogue, and each time I leaned in to understand him, he leaned back, suspicious. He fidgeted with several mobile phones, one devoted to each of his lives. “I’m just cautious,” he said.
What’s on my bedside table: “Right Ho, Jeeves,” by P.G. Wodehouse. This week I moved to London, so I was in the mood for one of wittiest British writers around. In the One Great Sentence above, Frank McCourt ends his memoir “Angela’s Ashes” with an absolutely classic one-word chapter. But the ending to this book in the Wooster and Jeeves series, in which butler Jeeves gets the best (again) of haples Bertie, is pretty damn good too: “We Woosters can bite the bullet. I nodded moodily and speared another slab of omelette.”
What’s on my turntable: “London Calling,” by the Clash. I don’t have a turntable in London yet. (Trust me, it’s a priority.) In the meantime, Spotify will have satisfy. And I had to pick the least sentimental London album, with lyrics like this one: “The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in/Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin/A nuclear era, but I have no fear/’Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river.”
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), I’m Storyboard editor Kari Howard, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.