Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Some of you may be wondering about the obscured avatar up in the corner of the page. It was taken a few years ago when I first started going to an annual event here in Dublin called the Bram Stoker Summer School. Ive always been drawn to strange and fanciful in all aspects of my tastes, music,art and most of all literature. Nothing compares to the pleasurable shudder and lingering awe aroused by a really good story and in particular ghost story, Gothic or horror whatever you want to call it. We love to be scared yet know we are safe, to close the book and take comfort in the familiar outlines of the room and yet somehow in that moment the room is not quite the same, its infected by the strange.
My Dad always had a 'Mystery' book on the go, it could be anything from the Loch ness monster to the Vampire of Dusseldorf and I remember when I was eight he bought me 'The worlds greatest ghost stories' which where accounts of sightings / hauntings around the world. I danced with glee when I seen it (see Im not the product of just dark musical tastes) I ploughed through the usbourne series of books on the paranormal,superstitions & world mythologies. You might think it strange of an 8 year old having such an interest in things of such a macabre nature but no stranger than children devouring every word JK Rowling has ever written. From then on I was pretty much reading the same things as my dad, I couldn't wait for 'The Unexplained' magazine to come out in the news agents and my special treat tv wise was to be allowed to stay up and watch ' Mysterious world of Arthur C Clarke'where he investigated strange objects like the dropa stones etc.
Then one night when I was in my 20s a local cable network had a bulletin board for local events on the tv and it advertised the Bram Stoker Summer School; a feast of literature of the gothic and horror genre. I thought that's the ticket for me and set about getting the details of where and when. I stupidly and embarrassingly thought that this was going to be like some kind of undertakers convention. I was dubious about what kind of people would be there but was pleasantly surprised how different the cross section of society that seemed to be interested in this particular genre. Lawyers, doctors, housewives, postmen etc I have to say I did feel a little out of place at first being the youngest there. The opening ceremonies was chaired by the founder of the summer school, a six foot plus Sligo man who goes by the name of Denis Mc Intyre, a colorful charismatic man who is passionate about his Stoker crusade in so much as restoring Stokers nationality and recognition of his work to the worldwide media and diverting the Transylvania publicity to Dublin. In short do for Stoker, what Yeats and Joyce have done Ireland. He was particularly interested in the eroticisim that Stoker imbued the vampire with and I could fully appreciate that and gave several talks on the subject at the school, which in turn Im sure, had something to do with me being made a breitheamh (honorary member for contributions) at the school.
The evening and weekend also was a wonderful and powerfully inspiring chapter of my life. Too often the passion for literature is left unnurtured with young people. The heady lifestyle of socialising and getting a steady 9 to 5'er diminishes and quells the hunger for something as simple and potentially evocative of the many worlds a book has to offer. Each year at the school the speakers got more interesting and dare I say it more famous (Ingrid Pitt, Leslie Shepard, Jeanne Youngeson). Denis, to his credit has gone from running the school in a draughty old rugby club to getting his very own visitor centre and museum here in Dublin.
I think that given the experience that it gave me over the years and it being such a wonderful induction to a host of other writers, it is a shame that instead of kids sitting in front of the tv or xbox all summer on vacation that schools don't instigate a literary week of writers and workshops dedicated to Rowling, Dahl etc as a way to introduce them to other writers which would ultimately enhance their learning capabilities, vocabulary & spelling. I think kids would devour this with as much gusto as Dracula did with Lucy Westerna's jugular.
(Me at the opening night many moons ago)