Bookmark with Mark Mehigan

From the books which made him laugh to the ones that made him cry, comedian, podcaster and now author Mark Mehigan gives Bianca Luykx his recommended reads…

Mark, howya? What book are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I am taking a break from Bee Sting to enjoy Calypso by David Sedaris. It’s a collection of semi-autobiographical essays that ultimately follows Sedaris as he deals with both ageing and grief. He is a master of evoking laughter and tears in the same breath.

Where do you like to read?

I wish I could say that I shuffle around the city with a worn old paperback permanently wedged beneath my arm but the reality is that I mostly read for about ten minutes in bed, right before turning out the light and watching Instagram reels with no sound on.

What book did you look to when writing your own?

I read a lot of A.A. Gill’s work growing up. There was something brilliantly un-self pitying about the way he described his own battles with alcoholism – and battles with life – that is definitely something I try to convey in my own work. I don’t think any tone should be off limits when it comes to writing about suffering. Too many topics are treated with reverence when I believe a balance of humour and honesty is equally as powerful. Obligatory shout out to Ernest Hemingway though because he completely altered the way I look at the written word.

Mark Mehigan

How did you feel when you saw your book on the bestsellers list?!

It’s surreal. As a child, I would have dreamed of this moment. As an adult I probably would have too, but for all of the wrong reasons.

How long did it take you to decide to write what is such a personal story, warts and all?

Once I decided to write the book, there was no option other than to be honest and unmerciful when it came to my experiences with alcohol. It’s uncomfortable to do so but I think the only way to move forward with the conversation around problem drinking is to make it more acceptable to show the uglier sides of yourself and what you’ve been feeling. Hearing others share about the darkest aspects of their journey and then realising I am not alone in the way that I think, has been totally liberating to me.

How did you find the writing and where did you do most of it?

I loved it. I do believe lots of comedians secretly take themselves incredibly seriously and the opportunity to write something with a little more ‘meaning’ was something I jumped at. I wrote the majority of the book at my desk in Dun Laoghaire over the course of six months and spent hours on end writing, deleting, second-guessing, doubting, panicking, editing, before ultimately accepting the work for what it was and sending it over to the publishers.

You are quite clear that this is not a self help book! Has any particular self help book ever helped you before?

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl changed my life. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle probably contains the recipe to an entirely harmonious existence – if I was able to implement those practices on a daily basis.

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What is the first book you remember loving? 

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. Cried my eyes out. Never knew a book could do that. I think I was 9.

What about a book that changed your life?

Americanah: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie helped me realise how eye-wateringly ignorant I was when it came to race. It’s also one of the most stunningly written books I have ever read. I think it should be mandatory reading for many. It is a masterpiece.

You like making people laugh, what writer makes you laugh?

A.A. Gill has a better turn of phrase than any contemporary writer I can think of. It is a treat to read his words.

You may not like crying as much! But is there a book that made you cry?

The Kite Runner; Coram Boy; Goodnight Mr Tom. I bawled my eyes out at all of those growing up.

A book that is your comfort read?

The Outsiders or Catcher in the Rye.

A book that should be on every shelf?

East West Street – Phillipe Sands.

Image via Instagram, Mark Mehigan

A book that left you thinking about it days later?

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne.

An author you admire?

Hemingway. He possessed such a thwarting genius that severe mental illness or generational trauma couldn’t even stifle. I love him without knowing him.

A quote from a book you will never forget?

“Do you enjoy being a writer, Mrs Avery?” asked Julian.

“No, of course not, she said. “It’s a hideous profession. Entered into by narcissists who think their pathetic little imaginations will be of interest to people they’ve never met.”

John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies.

A book you listened to on Audible and loved?

Every book I have ever listened to on Audible has been about quitting cigarettes, losing weight or learning how to share character traits with Apex Predators. Usually downloaded last minute at the boarding gate whilst I wait in the non-priority queue to get on the plane. By the time the food trolley goes down the aisle, I’ve already disengaged.

This Is Not A Self Help Book by Mark Mehigan, published by Gill Books is out now, priced at €18.99

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