Finally and at last! Gabriel Byrne’s new book, Walking With Ghosts, is now available in the United States.
For those of us who have enjoyed his first memoir, Pictures In My Head, the wait has been almost agonizing. Why? Because we already know what a fine, engaging, and imaginative writer he is. This new book appears to take those qualities and shift them into a different perspective, where the wisdom that comes with living and the experiences of both loss and success come together to form a new prism. I am reminded of one of my favorite “poems for the Apocalypse” (poetry that has sustained many of us during the time of the pandemic), Derek Mahon’s “Everything is Going to be All Right.” In it, he says: “The poems flow from the hand unbidden/And the hidden source is the watchful heart.” Yes.
Gabriel’s book is published by Grove Atlantic. You can find all of the purchasing information for the hardback, ebook, and audiobook versions at their special webpage for Walking With Ghosts. In addition, there are early reviews and comments and the schedule of his Virtual Book Tour. So visit Grove and buy this book!
Gabriel Byrne’s ‘Walking with Ghosts’ is a revelation in unexpected ways
. . . [Y]ou might expect Byrne’s memoir “Walking with Ghosts” to recount the triumphs and travails of a successful actor, to deliver the inside scoop on fame and good fortune — to be, in other words, another celebrity biography filled with gossip and saucy stories. You would be disappointed.
“Walking with Ghosts” is much better than that. Sure, Byrne shares a few Hollywood tidbits — lying about knowing how to ride a horse to land a part in John Boorman’s “Excalibur,” getting scolded by Laurence Olivier for merely asking him for the time (“you should buy yourself a watch”). But Byrne, who turned 70 last year, has written something more introspective and literary: an elegiac memoir that explores the interior life of a Dublin boy who finds himself almost accidentally — and incidentally — famous. It’s a story about Ireland and exile and carrying the ghosts of family and home through time.
. . . For questioning the highest authority and breaking the rules, including smoking in the graveyard, Byrne is kicked out of the seminary. He recalls the sheer exhilaration of the train to the ferry for home, and arriving at a seaside alive with playful children digging in the sand and a “dog mad with sea joy.”
That passage is one of many that show the mark of a real writer, a born storyteller with a poet’s ear. “Walking with Ghosts” — Byrne’s second memoir, following “Pictures in My Head” (1994) — dazzles with unflinching honesty, as it celebrates the exuberance of being alive to the world despite living through pain. His portrait of an artist as a young boy is steeped in nostalgia of the best sort, re-creating the pull of home. In her poem “Nostos,” Louise Glück writes “We see the world once, in childhood/The rest is memory.” Somehow Byrne has created that onceness for us.
This Time, He Stars In His Own Story : Gabriel Byrne, known for his contemplative performances in “The Usual Suspects” and “In Treatment,” contends with his unlikely path to acting in his memoir, “Walking With Ghosts.”
Byrne did not intend to write a celebrity memoir, the kind bubbling with frothy anecdotes about Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, though he has worked with both men. When he does write about his career, it is mostly to recall moments of incongruity — like the drunken bender he went on after the explosive reception to “The Usual Suspects” in Cannes — when he has felt uneasy with success.
He said he wanted the book to explore memory and identity, issues complicated for him by being so long gone from Ireland.
“The moment you leave the country, your relationship with it changes,” Byrne said. “For me, it’s always been a conflicted relationship. I’ve always missed the country, the people, the landscape, the humor, the shared references, the fact that you don’t have to explain yourself.”
In the back of his mind as he began writing, he said, were A.E. Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad,” with its “blue remembered hills,” and William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” which couples nostalgia with the harsh reality that the past is irrevocably gone.
[Note: Read Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798, by William Wordsworth, at Poetry Foundation.]
Elisabeth Schmitz, the vice president and editorial director at Grove Atlantic, said she had been attracted to the memoir by Byrne’s singular voice, and by the fact that he behaved not like a movie star, but like a writer. She recalled their first meeting, for breakfast in a Soho hotel. She brought him a stack of books, and it turned out he had already read most of them.
“I showed up with the manuscript, and I’d written all over it, and I thought he would sit there and go through it page by page,” she said. “But he just wanted to talk about books.”
Can you go home again? That is the tantalizing question raised by “Walking With Ghosts.” But when he last visited the town of his childhood, Byrne found that it looked completely different. And when he stopped by his old house, peering through a crack in the door, he found that it was altered, too. The world he remembered no longer existed.
“I realized that the landscape doesn’t belong to you, and what you think of as home doesn’t belong to you,” he said. “What you do own is the memory.”
This is a lovely introduction to Gabriel’s new book and the themes that are central to it. Sarah Lyall noted:
I can’t wait to read Gabriel Byrne again. My Kindle version just dropped this morning, so I’ll be rather busy now. Bye! heart