Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It must be read, discussed, and celebrated. There’s nothing better than gushing with a friend over a new favourite novel, or sharing a beautiful verse of poetry with family. With the movement towards digital media consumption, it is difficult to find a space where literature continues to be discussed on a national broadcaster. Radio, however, is a traditional media that remains a strong supporter of literature, poetry, and drama.
In Ireland, we are lucky to have numerous radio shows dedicated to literary discussions. Earlier this year, RTÉ Radio 1’s The Reading List, presented by writer and broadcaster John Kelly, was a well-produced weekly radio show that examined various novels by writers such as Truman Capote, James Baldwin, and Jean Rhys. With guest authors like Colm Tóibín, John Boyne, Eimear McBride, and Paul McVeigh, the show delved into the novels’ plots, the sociological context surrounding the books, as well as the lives of the authors. Although only half an hour long, the literary chats were intriguing and gave insights into some of modern literature’s greatest works. All episodes can be found here.
John Kelly also presents the Mystery Train on Lyric FM, a two-hour long show broadcasted multiple times a week. The show includes an eclectic mix of music, from jazz, alternative, and blues to dream pop, classical, and rock. Although more music inclined, the show features weekly guests who join John to help choose tracks for the playlist. These guests are musicians, singers, writers, etc. On the 10th of December, Clonakilty-based author David Mitchell, who penned such works as Cloud Atlas (2004) and The Bones Clocks (2014), helped pick the tracks and discuss both his literary and music inspirations. His feature episode can be found here and all Mystery Train episodes can be found here.
Radio 1 also broadcasts a weekend book programme, The Book Show, which was presented by Sinéad Gleeson up until recently. Each week, she chats with various authors, speakers, and publishers about recently published books, famous literature, and literary events. She was recently joined by the intelligent and exuberant Lisa Coen and Sarah Goff Davis, masterminds behind the independent publishing house Tramp Press to discuss their latest publication, The Unforeseen by Dorothy Macardle. The Book Show episodes can be found here.
Although there has been a rise in online book forums and websites, radio remains an undoubtedly important resource for literary culture in Ireland. Programmes dedicated to literature on national broadcasters allow us to connect and celebrate our shared literary culture and heritage. Long may they last!