‘Only the dead are free’ Wayne Jordan’s chorus sang to us from the Abbey stage in his version of Oedipus during the Dublin Theatre Festival. The very next night I was in Dun Laoghaire listening to Mark O’Connell talk about transhumanism and cryonics. (Transhumanism (H+) has the goal of extending current human abilities using technology; cryonics is the term used for preserving the dead in freezing temperatures so that they have a chance of being resuscitated in the future.)
I have my own reasons for being leery of the long drawn-out process of decay so many of us experience at the end of our lives, so the notion that we can be resuscitated and kept in a state of suspended animation into an indefinite future – not to mention at the mercy of whoever is charged with our care – fills me with dread. It’s good to know that Sophocles would be on my side of the argument.
But there’s no denying it’s an interesting topic, the idea of deferring death, or of humans assuming futuristic forms. This was a lively evening, the first in a series of ‘Salons’ convened by Dun Laoghaire’s new writer-in-residence Selina Guinness. Each Salon features a literary journal, with readings by and discussion with contributors and editors. In this one, Brendan Barrington, editor of the Dublin Review explained the rationale behind the journal’s distinctive approach to fiction and non-fiction writing. He wanted the journal to do a few things well. He wants writers to have space and time to explore and express hinterlands of thinking they wouldn’t otherwise have the time or the word-space to explore. He does this by allowing them leeway in terms of length and by paying them a decent fee for their work. This is possible only because the Arts Council supports the journal. BB didn’t mention the generous fee but Selina Guinness did and so will I. It makes a difference.
Sally Rooney read from her provocative essay ‘Even if you beat me’, questioning the ethics of the university debating circuit. There is no apparent link between the two topics, but the degree of intellectual engagement, enthusiasm and critical focus of the panellists made its own sense.
If this is a sign of what we have to look forward to during Selina Guinness’s DLR residency, we’re in for an intriguing, stimulating year.
4th November: Susan Tomaselli – editor of relative newcomer but already well-known Gorse – with Claire Louise Bennett & Joanna Walsh
2nd December: Declan Meade and Thomas Morris – editors of the well-established, essential The Stinging Fly – with Danielle McLaughlin & Cathy Sweeney
More info and booking at: http://www.dlrcoco.ie/arts/Salon_Nights.pdf