Salon Diary / By Karen Daly
Irish American Writers & Artists bid adieu to March with a lively virtual Salon hosted by writer Maureen Hossbacher.
First time presenter Brendan Keane, a New Yorker living in Connemara, is an Irish speaker, novelist and poet. He read the first part of his atmospheric story “Big Baby Goes to Hollywood.” In it, the proprietor of Dwyer’s Bar and Grill (“well, no grill anymore”) may get his chance to escape the dreary cold...with a movie audition. We look forward to Brendan’s return to see what happens to “Big Baby.”
Rebecca Hardiman. [RON HOLTZ PHOTOGRAPHER]
Musicologists Dan and Bonnie Milner are leaders in the revival of traditional Irish-American folk songs. The couple gave a moving a capella rendition of “Cork Harbour,” an Irish song of tragedy on the high seas, and of lovers severed and reunited. Dan’s most recent book, “The Unstoppable Irish” got a rave review tonight from Peter Quinn.
Monologist Gordon Gilbert, a denizen of the West Village, hosts spoken word events around the city and is the author of the play “Monologues from the Old Folks Home.” Tonight, he captured some denizens of a diner (waitress, dish washer, salesman) from his “New York Diner Monologues.” Gordon also shared a striking poem dedicated to a friend lost in the pandemic -- “another poet gone.”
Novelist Peter Quinn is a chronicler of New York history and, we’re proud to say, founding member and first president of IAW&A and recipient of our Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award. Peter joined for a conversation with IAW&A Vice President Brendan Costello to mark the re-issue of Peter’s books by Fordham University Press Empire State Editions. The first re-issue, 25 years after its publication, is the magisterial novel about the NYC Draft Riots of 1863, “Banished Children of Eve.” The award-winning book was the product of years of research (“pure detective work”) and writing to describe “what was it like to be on those streets.” Peter’s comments about his career, inspiration and writing process carried his trademark wit and erudition.
Vivacious Erin Hall joined with her cello, and accompanied on keyboard by her talented husband Gabriel Shuford, performed an original song, “Great Blue.” Host Maureen Hossbacher termed Erin’s song, about stalking a great Blue Heron in Central Park, “gorgeous and timely.”
We welcomed our second first-timer of the night, Rebecca Hardiman, a former magazine editor and writer for publications, including Variety and Movieline. She sampled her debut novel “Good Eggs,” about three generations of an Irish family. Publishers Weekly summed up the “hilarious” work: “Full of surprises, Hardiman’s endearing novel stands out for its brilliant insight into the mixed blessings of family bonds.”
Poet Andrea Barnes — “Red” to her fans — captivated us with her piece “The Last Day of Magic and Grace.” A visit to the grave of her artist hero Jean-Michel Basquiat became a rumination on ritual, benediction and love. Choosing an exquisite flower, questioning why he had to die so young (age 28), Red wished for a “world where all are welcomed and cared for ...and magic and grace are free for the asking.”
The night came to an upbeat close with two original songs by singer/songwriter/guitarist John Paul Skocik, “Where to Buy Caviar” and “An Ordinary Life.” John’s also an accomplished actor, as anyone lucky enough to have seen him portray Caz, the title character in Mark Butler’s musical “Ugly Christmas Sweater,” can affirm.
Nothing deters the immense spirit of Salon founder Malachy McCourt, who was in roaring good form. He thanked Maureen for her smooth hosting and supplied wisdom, laughs and a song, to top off a “a grand, always grand” night.