Anita Shreve Shines at Smock Alley Theatre

Anita ShreveIn the intimate setting of the Smock Alley Theatre, Anita Shreve sat down in conversation with Sinead Gleeson. The writer began proceedings by reading a very brief extract from her new book, The Lives of Stella Bain. As she read aloud her own words we viewed the world through the eyes of the protagonist as she awoke in a field hospital in 1916 France to the realisation that she has no notion of her own identity.
After that tantalising snippet from her new novel, Anita chatted about her past and her work. She shared her memories of her early days as a teacher and her short story writing, her winning of the O. Henry prize in 1976, through to the publication of her first novel, Eden Close. Then we heard of her breakout success with The Pilot’s Wife, which was featured as part of Oprah’s Book Club, and her continued success up until the release of her newest novel, Stella Bain, which went through an incredible 9 drafts and a period locked in a drawer.
There were some standout moments, including an epic Oprah Winfrey impression and an anecdote in which it transpired that Anita only realised her novel, Resistance, had been adapted into a movie when a passing stranger happened to mention watching it on Netflix.
When it came to the Q&A the audience offered up some great questions. Here we learned, amongst other things, that Shreve does not try to imbue any particular ideology into her work and that her focus is on the story. She also revealed that she doesn’t talk about a book while she’s working on it, likening a story to a bottle of soda. She wants to keep all the fizz in the story so keeps the lid on tight until it’s time to drink it.
As the evening drew to a close everyone decamped to The Gutter Bookshop, across the street from Smock Alley Theatre, where the writer met fans and signed copies of her book. And so ended the second and final of our DWF-Off The Page preview events. There are now only 6 weeks left before the festival itself returns on May 17th, with a huge range of events in a host of venues over nine days. Full festival details will be announced very soon so keep an eye here and on the events section our website.

To learn more about Anita Shreve and her novels you can visit her website.


Proust Questionnaire 8: Sinéad Gleeson


Sinéad Gleeson is a journalist and broadcaster who contributes to publications such as The Irish Times, and programmes such as RTÉ’s The Works. She interviews Caitlin Moran tonight at The Concert Hall (8pm).

What is your idea of happiness? 

No deadlines. A day spent with my children, and when they’re asleep: a book I’ve been saving, an open fire and a glass of wine.

What is your favourite virtue? 

Empathy – most of us are quick to judge without putting ourselves in other’s shoes.

What do you most value in your friends? 


What is your biggest weakness? 

Cake. And not saying no to things/my children/more cake.

What is your most marked characteristic? 

Past illnesses are wonderful for making a gal determined.

What is your idea of misery? 

Living in a worse climate than the one Ireland already has. These six-month winters are killing me.

Who are your favourite artists? 

Edward Munch, Frida Kahlo, Alice Maher, Max Ernst and Marina Abramovic. I also adore Cindy Sherman’s photographs.

What is your favourite colour and flower? 

I always gravitate towards the angry sky end of the spectrum – blue, green, purple. Tulips, sweet pea, delphiniums.

What is your favourite bird? 

I’ve become fond of the magpies that squabble in the tree in my back garden.

Who are your favourite writers? 

Not all writers are good all of the time. Some consistent ones: Maeve Brennan, George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, George Saunders.

Who are your favourite musicians?

A cruel, vast question: Kate Bush, Grizzly Bear, Nick Cave, St. Vincent, Steve Reich, Kraftwerk, The National.

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in fiction? 

Most people despise her, but Emma Bovary fascinates me. John Self in Martin Amis’ Money. The female friends in Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Tank Girl.

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in history? 

Joan of Arc. Countess Markievicz. Joan Jett. The Suffagettes.

What is your favourite food and drink? 

Who doesn’t like olives, fancy cheese and a nice Rioja? Also: Hendricks gin.

Which historical figures do you most dislike? 

The usual fascists dictator types. And whoever cancelled Top of the Pops.

What event in history do you most admire? 

The courage that Rosa Parks displayed in refusing to give up her seat on that bus is staggering.

What social movement do you most admire? 

It would have to be Feminism, which continues to strive for necessary equality.

What is your present state of mind? 

Tired but happy – and about to read some more James Salter, which is a good thing.

Which fault in others do you most easily tolerate? 

Lateness. Several of my best friends are a ridiculously unpunctual lot – but I still love them.

Which fault in yourself do you most easily tolerate? 

My ability to be easily distracted. I blame the internet.