It’s a discussion worth revisiting. A sequel of sorts, extending both a Topic of the Week (May 3-7, 2010) and a continuing conversation with Frank Delaney, a consummate storyteller who first visited #litchat on July 16, 2010.
Delaney’s new novel, The Matchmaker of Kenmare, joins the series of novels he first introduced wiith 2008’s Ireland, a sweeping novel of history, folklore and coming of age. Through the series Delaney becomes a digital-age seanachi—the itinerant storytellers that once roamed Ireland’s countryside in search of food and lodging in exchange for telling a good yarn. Delaney visualized a series of novels to trace Ireland’s history one decade at a time, each novel layered with legend, characters both heroic and horrible, events reflected in myth and borne in reality. The series now includes Tipperary (2008), Shannon (2009), and Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show (2010).
Set during the era which the Irish called the Emergency, and the rest of the world called the Second World War, The Matchmaker of Kenmare features a returning character, the helplessly heroic Ben McCarthy, who narrated Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show. Having moved through the questions, the searching, the grief of his beloved Venetia’s disappearance, Ben takes up with a young female matchmaker on her personal quest to discover the whereabouts of her husband, the American Army officer known as Charles “Killer Miller.”
McCarthy, who makes it known in this novel that he’s writing to his children, never apologizes for what he calls his “digressions,” wherein author Delaney takes readers through mysts of folklore as in the origins of dolphins, the burdens of humpbacks, divining missing people from maps, and dozens of other tales. Delaney does this masterfully as McCarthy goes about the Irish countryside collecting stories for the Irish Folklore Commission. Layered in this tale is more than just the making of a good match, the history of Ireland’s neutral stance during the WWII, but the concept of neutrality between men and women thrown together by circumstances.
Renowned for his gift of language, Delaney’s work often scrutinizes the very nature of the spoken word (in broadcasts such as Word of Mouth, Say the Word, Omnibus and others.) As well as being a best-selling author of more than 21 books, Delaney has interviewed more than 3,000 writers for his BBC and international television and radio shows (Bookshelf, The Book Show, The Frank Delaney Show) including the great literary names of our time.
A judge of many literary prizes including the famous Booker Prize, Delaney has also made documentaries for the BBC on characters as diverse as Joyce, Shaw, and Wilde.
Delaney was born in Tipperary, Ireland and currently resides in Litchfield County, Conn. and is married to the novelist Diane Meier.
Follow Frank Delaney on Twitter: @FDbytheWord.