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Writer to watch

Writer to watch: Oisín Curran

GG-winner Peter Behrens wrote a winter tale for us. He also recommended Oisín Curran as a writer to watch. Read what Oisín has to say about what inspires him to write.

"I met Oisín Curran in the tiny network of Mainers who live in Montreal, or vice versa. His novel Mopus is powerful, furious, and strange. Imagery that snaps a world into focus. A dream of a book."

- Peter Behrens



Charlatan
by Oisín Curran

One evening when I was twelve, my mother, who had recently become a grade school teacher, was leafing through an anthology of poetry for children when she shrieked with horror. It was a terrible moment in my childhood. Four years earlier, our third-grade teacher Ms. Pinkham had given us the task of writing a poem in class. My parents had named me for a mythical Irish poet who stars in an epic poem by W.B. Yeats. Thus, at the age of eight, I already felt an obligation toward the medium, an obligation too great to fulfill in the allotted half-hour. Overwhelmed, I flipped through our textbook looking for ideas. Near the end I came across a short poem by Phyllis McGinley. It began: 

J's the jumping jay-walker
A sort of human jeep.

...and ended: 
  
He turns your knees to jelly
And the traffic into jam.

I wrote it down, adding cross-outs and erasures to give the impression of hesitating composition. Then I presented it to Ms. Pinkham. Her eyebrows shot up. Was I certain that I had written it? I was. Upon that matter I was firm. Suddenly I was a literary prodigy. The poem was posted in the school hallway; it was referenced in parent-teacher meetings and was proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Of course, for the remainder of the school year I lived in terror that I would be discovered. Yet somehow, I never was. Until that day, four years later when my mother found Ms. McGinley's ode to the jay-walking human jeep. I remember her weeping with disappointment. And I remember weeping as well, trying to defend myself but having no defence. And by then it was too late to change course. From the moment that I had received accolades for plagiarizing, I had conceived of myself as a writer, even going so far as to win the school's short-story competition for three years running. Some say that good writers borrow but great writers steal, and it is a commonplace of literature that fiction is a well-told lie. So I could say it's appropriate that my career as a writer should begin with a theft and a lie, but this seems too glib. All I can honestly say is that by the time my mother discovered that I was a charlatan, I had come to believe my own fraud. I had lied my way into a vocation.
***


Oisín Curran's first novel, Mopus, was published by Counterpath Press in 2008. He is currently working on a second novel, which is about coming of age in a utopian cult. He lives with his wife and son in Montréal.

Photo credit for Peter Behrens: Ryan Goodrich
Photo credit for Oisín Curran: Sarah Faber



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