Siobhán Mannion has won awards for her short fiction and radio drama. She works as a radio producer for Raidió Teilifís Éireann and is currently completing a collection of short stories. She shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
1. Decca Aitkenhead and Cathy Rentzenbrink at the ILF Dublin
I went along to this event without knowing anything about either author because I had enjoyed an interview Cathy did with Lionel Shriver the night before. Both women have written about their experience of a traumatic loss. For me, there were two particularly striking moments that afternoon: when Decca stood up to do her first public reading from All at Sea; and when Cathy’s father spoke, from the audience, about the change in his daughter since writing The Last Act of Love. The whole discussion was extremely moving, as well as very funny at times, especially on the topic of what not to say to the recently bereaved. The interviewer, Martina Devlin, knew just when to let things go their own way.
2. ‘The heart compared to a seed’ by Leonardo da Vinci
Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection is currently on at the National Gallery of Ireland. I was reminded of the level of industry and creativity required before da Vinci could get around to drawing anything at all – making his own paper, ink and goose feather quills. My favourite drawing on show is an intricate sketch of a human heart, which comes from a notebook he kept while conducting human dissections. It turns out not to have been as accurate as some of his other anatomical work, but it is his unfailing curiosity, and ongoing enquiry, that matter. And it is thrilling to think that, five hundred years ago, the artist’s hand touched the paper displayed inside the suspended glass.
This is the first English-language feature from Norwegian director Joachim Trier. At the centre of multiple narratives is the story of a grieving husband and two sons, beautifully played by Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg and talented newcomer Devin Druid. The film has a lot to say about small moments of human interaction, the ways we connect in a technology-driven world, and the damage we unintentionally inflict on those closest to us. I thought about these characters for a long time afterwards.
4. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
In this anniversary year, I’m re-reading one of Charlotte’s lesser-known works. I enjoyed it as a teenager, although it does take a while to get going. Outwardly, Lucy Snowe is a quieter heroine than Jane Eyre, but equally present in this novel is the psychological complexity, along with real emotional depth, and a vivid depiction of a woman struggling to make her way in an inhospitable world.
Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City, recently wrote an incredibly powerful piece for the Guardian as a personal response to the Orlando atrocity. She talks about the issue of invisibility, and the many dangers inherent in it. And she highlights some stories, from over the decades, of people fighting their entire lives to be recognised.
Artwork from Leonardo da Vinci’s Embryological Drawings of the Fetus