Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and far too many Americans couldn’t tell you that the last big one began 102 years ago. History is not our strong point, it seems. John Kearns, though, is steeped in it and the past provides the settings for his novel “Worlds.”
“‘Worlds’ depicts four generations of the Logan family from Ireland in 1870 to New York City in 1998,” he said. “In a mosaic of episodes arranged by theme, ‘Worlds’ portrays a family through poetic shards of narrative.”
“Ashes of Fiery Weather” and “Ghosts of the Missing” author Kathleen Donohoe said,”Ambitious and beautifully written, ‘Worlds’ is a sweeping novel of journeys--from Ireland to America, across eras and across generations. Imbued with historical detail, the story of the Logans is richly rendered by John Kearns and captures not only what it means to be Irish American in all its complexity but also what it means to be a family.”
Kearns, who has a master’s degree in Irish literature from the Catholic University of America, said, “Through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins/Lively Virtues, ‘Worlds’ examines these representatives of four generations of Logans — Seamus Logan: a broken-hearted lover who flees his home in 1870 County Mayo, Ireland, for Connemara and New York. Seamus eventually makes his way to Philadelphia where he founds a new family and a construction dynasty. The Rev. Sarsfield Logan, S.J.: a Jesuit priest who teaches French at Xavier High School in Manhattan’s Chelsea section. In 1910, Esther, a firebrand striker from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, raises Sarsfield’s consciousness and tempts his heart. Janey Logan (nee Dougherty): a sensitive introvert who falls in love with her engaged boss, James Logan, at his family company. After Janey wins James over and marries him, she struggles to be happy as a housewife and mother in the 1970s Philadelphia suburbs; Paul Logan: a former South Bronx teacher and would-be poet/musician, Paul competes with the young Englishman, Charles, for the affections of Laura, a beautiful barmaid, on a wild late-night car trip from the World Trade Center to Times Square as the 1998 Good Friday Agreement is signed in Northern Ireland.”
“Using Joyce's episodic technique to great effect to shape this compelling novel, Kearns brings to life a vanished Irish American world. ‘Worlds’ is a must-read wonder,” according to poet Eamonn Wall, the author of “From Oven Lane to Sun Prairie: In Search of Irish America.”
Donohoe added, “Kearns is writer of extraordinary sensitivity and vision. The men and women who inhabit ‘Worlds’ will stay with you long after you finish the book.”
Kearns served for eight years as treasurer of the Irish American Writers and Artists and for seven years as the Salon producer. He said “Worlds” was developed largely at the IAWA Salons. The book’s cover was created by artist Tim O’Brien, a former IAWA secretary.
Place of birth: Upper Darby, Pa., a township bordering West Philadelphia
Spouse: Daisy Kearns
Children: Alex Kearns
Residence: Harlem, USA
Published works: The World (novel), Dreams and Dull Realities (short-story collection), Worlds, new novel. My essay “Bronx Thunder to Riverside Angels” is in “The Writing Irish of New York.” I have also written five one-act and six full-length plays including “In the Wilderness,” “Sons of Molly Maguire,” produced in Dublin’s Liberty Hall in May 2017, and, “Boann and the Well of Wisdom,” which will be at the Hudson Guild Theater in October. My poems have appeared in such journals as “The Grey Sparrow Journal” and “Fact-Simile.”
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I usually write after my finishing my workday as a technical writer. I try to find a quiet spot near the office. It is hard to find ideal conditions in New York City but (relative) quiet is essential. Caffeine helps, too.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I recommend setting up a daily routine for writing, no matter how busy you are. You will be surprised by your progress if you set aside even a short time to write each day.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
Three books that I have always enjoyed and that are major influences on Worlds are “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann, “Ulysses” by James Joyce, and Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
What book are you currently reading?
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston.
What book changed your life?
I discovered “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” when I was quite young, and I was entranced by its beautiful language and its theme of the artistic vocation.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
My favorite spot in Ireland is County Mayo, where my grandparents came from and where I have many cousins. I also have a soft spot for West Clare, the first part of Ireland I ever explored.