My wife, Marilynn Richtarik, is a rock star. Admittedly, her rock star world is relatively small, Irish literature, but it’s neat to be near the spotlight and see someone receive the accolades she richly deserves.
Not only are we in Belfast because she won a Fulbright Scholarship, Marilynn has a new book out. She has two radio interviews lined up for next week (one for RTÉ and one for BBC Northern Ireland) in conjunction with “Hopdance,” a semi-autobiographical novel by the late playwright Stewart Parker that she edited for publication.
The guest speaker at the Dublin book launch on May 12 (which also happens to be our wedding anniversary) is actor Stephen Rea. Northern Irish author Glenn Patterson will help Marilynn launch the book at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast on May 23. She’ll also be reading from the novel next week at Belfast’s Crescent Arts Centre as part of a Seamus Heaney Centre Fulbright program.
Finally (for now, at least), she will appear at the Belfast Book Festival on June 10, talking about and reading from the book. And before I forget, a big shout out to David Torrans from No Alibis Bookstore for the great display in his store and for agreeing to sell the book during Marilynn’s Belfast appearances.
Now for a little perspective
The six degrees of separation on this island is more like three. Let me explain. “Hopdance” was written by Parker about the amputation of his cancerous left leg at age 19. He wrote the stylized, vignette-driven novel around the 10th anniversary of the amputation, returning to it during times of great stress or when he had absolutely nothing else to do. After receiving a second cancer diagnosis, he started preparing the manuscript for publication but died in 1988 before advancing very far. However, since the novel is scene-driven and jumps around before, during and after the amputation, it can be viewed as a complete work.
Parker is the subject of Marilynn’s second book, the acclaimed “Stewart Parker: A Life,” published by Oxford University Press in 2012. She’s had a copy of “Hopdance” since the research phase of her second book, and she quoted liberally from it in the biography. Following the publication of the biography, she decided to ask Parker’s executor for permission to prepare “Hopdance” for publication.
Parker’s final play, “Pentecost,” was commissioned by the Field Day Theatre Company, co-founded by Stephen Rea. Field Day was the subject of Marilynn’s first book, and she interviewed Rea for it. When Rea was asked to help launch “Hopdance” in Dublin, he said simply, “Anything for Stewart Parker.”
Marilynn met Glenn Patterson at the 1998 Belfast Festival, where he read and talked about his work. The two hit it off and have kept in contact since. Patterson was a guest in our house when Marilynn helped put together a Belfast issue of the literary journal “Five Points,” which included an interview with Patterson, who came to Atlanta for the launch.
Mary-Louise Muir is the host of “Arts Extra” on BBC Radio Ulster and also appears on TV arts programs. She’s interviewed Marilynn about Parker for the program several times, the last time in 2013 at her home, while Declan and I sat quietly in an adjacent room.
Sinéad Gleeson hosts “The Book Show” on RTÉ Radio 1. Actually, Marilynn hasn’t met her, and this interview was arranged by Marilynn’s publisher, Lilliput Press in Dublin. But I have no doubt the two will become fast friends—it’s just the way things go on this crazy little island.