The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland has been thoroughly launched – first in Belfast, then in Dublin (take a bow, New Island).
The Belfast launch was held in a packed and buzzing Ulster Museum on Monday 3rd October. Dan Bolger gave the speediest introduction ever and left the stage open to, in turn, Sinéad Gleeson, Lucy Caldwell, Patricia Craig (who wrote the Introduction) and then contributors Anne Devlin, Jan Carson and Bernie McGill. Music from the brilliant Hannah McPhillimy wrapped up the proceedings and after that there was chat and swapping of contact details and lines of people waiting to have their book signed by as many authors as were present.
Sinéad Gleeson said that The Glass Shore is one wave in a sea of brilliant voices – and this theme recurred throughout both launches. In Belfast, Lucy Caldwell took issue with Gore Vidal’s infamous line, that ‘every time a friend succeeds I die a little.’ Our friends’ success lifts us all, she said.
The Dublin launch, held in Hodges Figgis last night (5th October) was equally buzzy. This time Martina Devlin spoke, movingly, about the border as a concept. The Glass Shore, she said, dismantles the idea of the North as a place apart. Its Otherness has either been put upon it from outside or taken on as a defence mechanism. Sinéad Gleeson, she said, has done an exceptional service in restoring the three missing sisters – Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal – to the North.
Anne Enright took up where her rousing launch speech for the earlier volume The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers left off. She reminded us that Mo Mowlam brought a group of women into a room and put them sitting between republicans and unionists ‘just to freak them out’. She talked about exclusion, and how it is the principal method and mechanism of bullies, and how bullying creates a desire to say ‘Let me in’. The question is: ‘To what?’ The most interesting thing that can be said, she pointed out, is the thing that hasn’t been said already. A single feminist can be derided, she said, but 600 feminists is another matter.
Evelyn Conlon then read from her story, an exploration of the concept of borders in general and ours in particular.
Sinéad Gleeson has done an extraordinary, necessary and generous thing in producing these anthologies. It’s maybe equally important that, in talking about them, she always refers to her predecessors in the compilation of anthologies of women writers, for example Evelyn Conlon (Splitting the Night in Two) and Ruth Carr (The Female Line). She never claims to be The First, but always places her work in the context of an ongoing fight to assert the existence and strength of writing by women.
Full marks to New Island and to Sinéad Gleeson who has proved herself to be a strong champion of Irish women writers.