Irish writer Dermot Healy has made that final bend toward home

  • Updated: July 5, 2014 - 2:00 PM

It was in Ireland about 10 years ago when I was introduced to the work of Dermot Healy, a poet, novelist, playwright and memoirist who lived in Sligo. My husband and I had been visiting a friend in Galway, who pressed several books on us as we were leaving — “Last Night’s Fun,” Ciaran Carson’s book about traditional Irish music, and “The Bend for Home,” Healy’s beautiful memoir about moving as a child from a village in Westmeath to the town of Cavan.

I thought I knew contemporary Irish writers, but back then I really only knew the ones everyone else knew: Edna O’Brien, John McGahern, “Famous Seamus” Heaney, Roddy Doyle, John B. Keane.

I read “The Bend for Home” on the train to Dublin, as we sped through the Midlands. It was a good book for that journey, about rural life and Healy’s coming of age. But it was also about the unreliability of memory.

Memory, Healy wrote, “is always incomplete, like a map with places missing.” He later elaborated in an interview with the Guardian of London:

“There is a line between [fact and fiction],” he said. “In fiction, something that did not happen has to happen. In memoir, something that happened has to happen all over again. And by making it happen all over again, of course, you somehow change it. So, they’re both tricky, but in different ways.”

Healy died a week ago, on the second-to-last day of June. This would be a good time to pull out this memoir, or any of his poems or powerful novels — in particular, “A Goat’s Song” or “Long Time No See.” He was only 66, far too young to be headed home.

Also …

Cynthia Kraack and Steve McEllistrem will hold a joint book launch at 7 p.m. July 15 at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. Kraack will launch “Leaving Ashwood,” and McEllistrem will read from “The Devereaux Disaster.” Kraack is the author of four books, including “Minnesota Cold,” which won a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award; McEllistrem is the author of “The Devereaux Dilemma.” Music will be by the Patience Band.

• “Only the Dead,” the second in the Minnesota Trilogy by Vidar Sundstol, will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in October. Sundstol is a Norwegian author who lived along Lake Superior’s North Shore for two years.

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