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Oisín McKenna on debut novel Evenings and Weekends: ‘A multi-generational queer sex soap opera’

In association with Audible

By James Hodge

Headshot of Oisin McKenna
Oisin McKenna (Image: Provided)

Oisín McKenna, whose debut novel Evenings and Weekends has garnered critical acclaim in Ireland and beyond, has spoken with Attitude about his passion for the characters that have inhabited his imagination for years.

McKenna, born in Dublin and now based in London, received the prestigious Next Generation Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to pen Evenings and Weekends, which was further developed with support from Arts Council England.

Cover of Evenings and Weekends

The novel has been recognised with a 2022 London Writers Award, adding to McKenna’s accolades which include being named one of Ireland’s top spoken word artists by the Irish Times in 2017.

We also share our picks of our best recent reads, as well as our current favourite audiobook available on Audible.

Which childhood book shaped your love of writing?

A visit to see the statue of Oscar Wilde in Dublin led me to his children’s stories, like The Happy Prince, in the library at school. It was the first time that I’d heard of an Irish gay person being admired and loved.

A social commentary that inspired you?

NW by Zadie Smith. She observes the emotional intricacies of human relationships so sensitively, set against compellingly thoughtful reflections of broader society.

Who is your favourite working-class character in literature?

Elena Ferrante of the Neapolitan Quartet. The four-part series begins in 1950s Italy and charts the rags-to-riches ascent of a working-class woman from Naples into cosmopolitan society.

Which is your favourite novel about summer?

Mrs. S by Kay Patrick. It’s a very sexy queer love story. The way Patrick captures the longing relationship of two characters set against such oppressive heat is very vivid.

And what do you plan to read this summer?

I spend my holidays reading canonical novels that I’ve never read. This summer will be Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabrielle García Márquez.

What queer memoir inspired you?

Jeanette Winterson’s Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?. She’s so wise, so sensitive, such a beautiful writer.

Sum up your debut novel, Evenings and Weekends, in one sentence.

A multi-generational queer sex soap opera.

Recommended reading…

Attitude shares our best recent reads, alongside our current favourite Audible audiobook.

The Betrayal of Thomas True – A.J. West

Available in hardback from 4 July
Cover of The Betrayal of Thomas True

Sometimes you find a novel that is electric. A.J. West’s historical thriller The Betrayal of Thomas True brings to life the world of 1700s London, where homosexuals are being hunted by an informant, and it is up to the eponymous hapless protagonist to catch the culprit. West takes the best parts of its component genres to create a novel that at once educates and thrills, simultaneously shining an illuminating light on the forbidden back-street meeting places of gay men — the molly houses — through a page-turning narrative. At the same time, West’s talent as a writer — Dickensian-style vivacious characterisation and fast-paced action — make this an unputdownable read. Check out West’s recent feature for Attitude on the queer riot that history forgot, based on the true research for his book.

Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea – Rebecca Thorne

Available now in hardback
Cover of Can't Spell Treason without Tea

The cosy genre takes the bold conventions of familiar storytelling and reimagines them in worlds that are hopeful, warming and optimistic. Thorne’s Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea is a cosy fantasy love story about Kianthe (a warlock) and Reyna (the queen’s guard), who decide to turn away from their lives as warriors and open a bookshop. However, don’t let the title fool you! Their disobedience of the queen leads to many rip-roaring encounters with dragons, assassins and magic. Kianthe and Reyna are two punchy, powerful females whose adventures should be enjoyed with a nice cuppa.

Audible audio book pick…

Orlando – Virginia Woolf

Cover of ORLANDO by Virginia Woolf

Almost 100 years after it was first published, one of Virginia Woolf’s finest works — Orlando — has made its debut on Audible. Although nearly a century may have passed, never has this seminal work felt more prescient and relevant. Originally presented as a biography inspired by the aristocratic heritage of Woolf’s lover, Vita Sackville-West, it charts the rise of the eponymous nobleman before taking a fantastical twist. At the age of 30, Orlando wakes up as a woman who seems to never age.

The novel was bold in its portrayal of gender and has been considered an early reflection on transgenderism. Woolf’s story takes Orlando through 300 years of oppression of both women and gender-different people — from the Elizabethan age to the 1920s — highlighting the challenges and struggles of living under patriarchal culture, telling the tale in her signature blistering prose. This vital piece of writing is one that every LGBTQ+ person should experience.

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