So a few things are bothering me that occurred over the last week…”grinding my gears” so to speak. None of them are really as important as what happened on The Late Late Show in Ireland this past Friday.
For my non-Irish readers, this is Ireland’s version of Leno or Letterman. Apparently the rules followed by late-night talk shows in the US are not observed in Ireland. The show is hosted by one, Ryan Tubridy, or “Tubs” as he is known among viewers, who has some work to do before he could be considered a decent talk show host. Now, I don’t live in Ireland and I don’t claim to know everything about Mr. Tubridy or The Late Late Show, but I have watched episodes of the show online and have sense enough to form an opinion of my own. It’s been my observation that Mr. “Tubs” has a tendency to talk over his guests. Cutting guests off mid-thought and an irrepressible need to constantly insert his opinion are a couple of traits one can’t help but notice when watching him in action. Don’t misunderstand me. Mr. Tubridy may be a fine fellow and may be beloved by Ireland’s TV viewers, but to me he needs to work on his etiquette. I first thought maybe it was a cultural difference and that it might not be so offensive to cut people off or talk over them in Ireland, though I had my doubts about that. I mean, sure there are numerous differences in Irish and American culture, but I don’t think the basic rules of politeness are very different between Ireland and The States. After asking some Irish friends, I have learned that my opinion is shared by many and, no, it is not “ok” to speak over your guests. I thought so!
I have watched episodes and clips of the show in the past on YouTube, but rarely get through an entire segment due to Mr. Tubridy’s tendency to be rude to guests. It irritates me. I wasn’t going to miss October 11th’s installment of the show, however, because Martha Long was a scheduled guest. Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows she’s my favorite author, so if she’s making a television appearance I’m going to watch it.
There was some lovely talent on the show…a choir, a band, etc., but I couldn’t help but think as I sat there for what seemed like an eternity…”Where’s Martha?” After an hour it became clear to me…she must be shoved to the end of the program. Great. I’m not sure how things work in Ireland, but here in the States the last slot is not exactly the slot of honor on a talk show. Here in the states it’s usually reserved for some up-and-coming band of little importance or some struggling comedian who has yet to make a name for themselves. Basically, the last slot is “cushion.” This slot is less than ideal because if you’re last…you may not be on the show at all! Yes, if the host takes too long with a “more popular” guest, the last slot is axed. Sorry, better luck next time. Or, you might get 3 minutes on the air to prove you were actually there. When this happens, however, the host is usually gracious and ensures they are brought back on the show and guaranteed a decent slot.
Needless to say when it dawned on me that Martha was in that last slot, I was disappointed. I knew my favorite author–an extremely popular, best-selling author in Ireland–was not going to get a decent interview before she even appeared. Disappointed isn’t even a strong enough word. I was a bit perturbed to be honest. A top-selling author, deserving of a decent interview slot, was given the “cushion at the end” slot. Not cool, Late Late…not cool.
I sat watching, wondering why over-publicized singing contestants and cats deserved more air time than an established, best-selling author. Sounds like The Late Late Show needs a little lesson in prioritizing. I’m sure the staff of the show is lovely, and God love the woman who asked Martha to be on in the first place, but really she was not treated with the respect she deserved. Of course, that’s not even mentioning the disappointment experienced by all her fans who had been advocating this appearance and waiting anxiously for it to air! I’m sure there were numerous people left sitting on their sofas that evening, mouths ajar, asking the television “Is that IT?”
So, finally, Martha appears and it becomes clear rather quickly that Mr. Tubridy has never even glanced at her books, much less read them. He was obviously fed a few questions and facts from producers earlier in the day. I’m sure he’s a busy man and doesn’t have time to read every book or watch every show, but as host I would think it was his duty to at least familiarize himself with his guests before they come on. Something–it appears–he failed to do. The interview was a bit awkward, Mr. Tubridy attempting to talk over Martha numerous times. I understand why this time, it’s because he was trying to rush her through her answers because they had used up too much time on previous guests. According to twitter, the interview received mixed reviews. There will always be negative opinions when you come on a show to promote a book, movie, or product…that is a given. The majority of the twitter reviews were positive for Martha and negative for “Tubs.” Most found the interview unprofessional and rushed, and wished they had more time to hear Martha’s story. Others, most of which had never heard of Martha, were left confused and unable to figure out who Martha really was. This isn’t difficult to understand. Given ample time, Martha’s story could have become clear and her sense of humor, remarkable story, and personality could have been better understood. That wasn’t to be, however, because Mr. Tubridy would ask these very intimate questions that required a detailed answer and expected her to answer them in a few seconds. Sorry, but if you ask someone about an episode of abuse and expect them to answer you in a few seconds…it isn’t going to happen! Instead of promoting Martha’s books as is the purpose of any talk show interview, Mr. Tubridy succeeded in leaving people so confused about his guest some of them decided her books weren’t worth reading. That’s a shame because her books are most definitely worth reading. So, my opinion is this…if you’re going to bring on a guest who rarely ever makes public appearances and has a very deep, complicated story to tell they’re going to need more than a few minutes for the interview. Otherwise more harm is done than good.
This interview combined with talking with other fans and articles and reviews (like this one) I’ve read about Martha’s books made me wonder about some things. Things like how well-received Martha Long’s books are in the UK, US, and Australia. Fans and critics are raving about her books in those places! Then in Ireland there’s a different scenario. Her books top the best-seller lists. Fans are eating the books up, loving them. From a fan perspective, she’s beloved and immensely popular. Every author is going to get good reviews and bad reviews, it comes with the territory, but Martha receives infinitely more positive reviews than negative. A much better positive-to-negative ratio than the average author for a fact! However, critics and the “literary powers that be” in Ireland are not so supportive. Her book was almost immediately tagged as “Misery Lit” and from then on was not taken seriously by Irish critics. Apparently there is an abundance of books in that genre in Ireland, leaving critics to take a rather blasé attitude toward these true stories of abuse, poverty, and corruption in Ireland. While these stories are shockingly true, they are looked upon as boring! Martha’s books, however, don’t really fit into that category for me though…and anyone who actually takes the time to sit down and be serious about reading them almost always comes to the same conclusion. While Martha does tell some stories of miserable times she endured, hers isn’t a story of self-pity and misery. Rather, it’s a story of hope, courage, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Rising from mind-blowing poverty to a life of comfort and success. With her books, Martha Long paints a picture of Dublin and it’s people. With 7 books she provides a snapshot of the way of life in Dublin for a particular period of time (the 1950s through 1990s). While other countries embrace her story, her own country has blown her off. Not the fans, mind you…they know a good story when they read it, but the so-called “literary minds.” This recent appearance on The Late Late Show is no exception.
Sadly, it appears nepotism is still alive and well. Of course Ireland isn’t the only place it exists, but it certainly is thriving. I’ve read numerous articles and books and have spoken to several former Irish citizens and the consensus seems to be the same. With the exception of a few, success is almost always found beyond the Irish sea or across the Atlantic. To achieve any semblance of success, many have to travel beyond the rocky shores of Ireland. Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s people are virtually unmatched when it comes to kindness. Irish people are, with good reason, proud to be Irish. It’s a shame this Irish pride must often be observed from other countries! People wishing to be successful should have the opportunity to find that success in the land they love. Some do, but not enough! Ireland is and was home to some of the worlds most brilliant minds!
Martha is one of a few who have managed to find success while remaining at home, but not as a result of warm reviews by Irish critics. A brilliant UK publisher and amazing Irish fans are who brought the bulk of Martha’s success. Martha is one of the few authors who genuinely loves her fans and credits them with her success at every opportunity. The fans in Ireland loved her books and because of them, she was given the opportunity to continue writing them. They brought her success to a level that her books were picked up by publishers in the United States. Since her first book was published her popularity has spread far beyond the borders of Ireland. She has fans in countries all over the world. Because of them, Martha’s story will live on and the world will always have a reference for life in Dublin in the 20th century.
If RTE, namely The Late Late Show, wishes to rectify its mistake of giving Martha Long the brush off, I think it would be well-received. If given an appropriate amount of time (i.e. more than a few minutes), I think the citizens of Ireland who haven’t discovered her yet will fall in love with her like her well-established fans already have.
This was, of course, one person’s opinion…and everyone is entitled to their own. I do know, however, that I am not the only one who holds this opinion. And there you have it.