Review by Eugene McGloin
THE BOOK went back on sale in Sligo town yesterday afternoon, the one all about Gerry Ryan.
Written by his female friend, Melanie What's Her Name from South Africa.
Simple test for any book: Is it worth reading?
Couple of canards to dispose of first: The book is not 'all about' Gerry Ryan, RTE's €600,000 a year shock jock of Radio Two.
The author has lived an interesting life and has highly interesting other stories to write, or to tell.
Was Melanie's book ''written''.....or dictated by her? There is a reference on page 192 to a ''diplomatic core!!'' No Harm Done
Would a senior ambassador, such as Melanie Verwoerd once was ever write such a completely incorrect phrase???
The phrase can only be ''diplomatic corps,'' which SOUNDS the same as ''core.'' So was the book dictated on a tape recorder or Skyped???
No harm done either way; there is an immediacy about her story as it unfolds here which is not always present, or possible, if you don't catch a torrent in its teeming.
Some such as Pat Kenny and Louis Walsh publicly told us they would not be reading this book.
The book, much like Christy Moore's 1985 song about the Stardust, was injuncted in the High Court and hastened off the shop shelves in Sligo and elsewhere after a few hours last month.
Now it is back with a full statement inserted, describing the generous and lengthy nature of the valued friendship between the court applicant, David Kavanagh and Gerry Ryan.
David Kavanagh emerges as a REAL person in the orbit of Gerry Ryan. You understand why he wanted the issue clarified now beyond doubt....and cared enough to do that and, at the same time, not, crush a fine book. He was correct in all his courses.
The typed statement now added at the front of the book certainly does David Kavanagh a service. It does the reader a service too and offers a fuller, fairer, picture.
Gerry Ryan himself? He will surely love this book....wherever he reads it.
The rarified atmosphere of what passes for ''celebrity'' in Ireland attracts parasites and sycophants. They feed from a PR machine to a national media which has its quota of slop-soakers.
Ryan's REAL friends will have no issue with the story told here or with the character infills. They reveal colour and harshness and a rich pageant of Life. And reveal Death in Gerry Ryan's case.
We certainly gain insights from Melanie Voerwoerd's book. It is important that national media dont get to filter EVERY chapter in Irish society to (only) the way they see it. We have enough of that already.
Did I like Gerry Ryan? Like the curate's egg; he was good in spots. I like him more after this book. But you don't have to like Ryan at all to enjoy the book.
Do I like Melanie Vorwoerd? The one who wrote, or spoke, this book, Yes, deffo. Why so?
Well, I am more than half way there and the tale she narrates is an AUTHENTIC story.
Her story of being The Other Person in two countries is a useful study of societal contrasts. Imagined and idealised views places sometimes have of themselves emerge, South Africa and Africa but Ireland too.
In Ireland, not just The Other Person but being 'The Other Woman.' We all thought that era was dead and gone and with O'Leary in the grave.
Ho hum, this past month we saw scorn and spite --- and subterranean stuff -- poured down upon an acclaimed adult. Some of it parboiled down to that petty enough reason, if truth be told.
To paraphrase Mr Yeats a famous occasion: Ireland you have disgraced yourself again.
In her native country, Melanie was also The Other Person, ie she was white not black. That status was a two way mirror in the milieu of the melting pot that her native country was in her adulthood. Her country in flux and in flames 30 years back, as Ireland often was.
Her upbringing in South Africa afforded her enormous privilege; she even married into the ruling white elite. In a paler echo of Madame Markievicz here in Sligo she renounced it and worked openly to dismantle that system of privilege.
Her book reveals that being 'white' is NOT a safe passport at all in many parts of Africa.
There is a wonderful story here of menace against whites by authorities in Kenya while Gerry Ryan -- before he really knew her -- is interviewing her live on air.
He asks her to hang on while he went to news on the hour at 11am....and she was left to ponder/judge if her safety might be in imminent danger!
Rings Too True
Some of Mandela's ANC were equally unworthy and venal people, apprentice despots if they got away with it. They have been a huge disappointment in the new South Africa, much as happened Ireland 100 years ago and afterwards.
Again, Melanie's book -- which is endorsed by Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- deals with that flawed ethos, with no punches pulled.
There are other reasons I like this book. Melanie's account of working for an Irish charity and voluntary board rings too true. I believe her account 100%. Read the book and then her 'notes' in the matter. Nuff said.
There are too, too many stories now, with a similar thread-line, which emerge when you use a Google search of various Irish charities -- which in their own worldview are too often legends at their own breakfast table.
Do I recommend the book? Yes. Definitely. Even if I'd disliked its premise, I'd have been an early converter after the author's use of 'The Ship Song' by Australia's Nick Cave and of which Irish singer Camille does a 'to-die-for' version.
Easons are currently promoting ''When We Dance - A Memoir'' by Melanie Voerwoerd (Liberties Press) as part of its ''3 for price of 2'' promotion range.