The second lunchtime reading at yesterday's Dublin Book Festival was on the subject of 'Life's Inspiration.
Tom Inglis, author and Associate Professor of Sociology in UCD and Fulbright scholar Eina McHugh read extracts from their memoirs, illustrating how life can inspire art. (Festival programme notes.)
Somewhat timid-looking, like a very kindly uncle, Tom Inglis approached the lectern to read from his book Making Love, saying he felt like a Protestant parson reading to a selective audience. Having broken the ice, with eyes cast down and in a suitably muted voice he read of his dying wife's request to make love. He reads of how he thought of the first time he made love to her, to this, the last time. Emotionally charged, the audience is silent and Tom Inglis reads of how he reflected on their time together as he came to terms with the idea of her death.
In writing this book both as a way of coming to terms with the death of his artist wife and as a means of letting go, Tom Inglis has produced a beautiful piece of literature. I am not usually a great fan of this genre of writing but this twenty minute moving reading was one, I realised afterwards, that I wouldn't have missed for the world and Tom Inglis's sonorous voice is one that will stay with me for a long time.
Following Tom Inglis in this second lunchtime reading was Eina McHugh reading from To Call Myself Beloved which she wrote from her own therapeutic experience. She explained that she had written it because she just couldn't find the books she wanted to read on this process. Facing up to the violence in the North, she participated in one-to-one therapy and also group therapy. She told the audience that the family home was sited opposite a police station. With the danger and potential violence that this location drew the family was constantly homeless and man discussions were held about whether to leave. Finally her father was charged with negligence for not taking the family out of the home.
Eina spoke of how therapy was not just something for the celebrities and London's middle classes but also for people like herself, the human and wounded scraping together the money for each session in order to deal with the stress and fear of living in a bomb-ridden Belfast. Reading from her group therapy sessions in 1991 with the almost normal-now sound of army helicopters flying overhead and bombs nearby, she tells of how she vented her anger at the groups inability to take individual responsibility for the situation they were in and their lack of action. This reaction was one that made Eina realise exactly "how much I wanted to live".
Both Tom Inglis's and Eina McHugh''s books are published by New Island.