War of Words over World's Worst Writer

Keep a straight face at the Celebrate Literary Belfast finale

If you haven't an inkling who Amanda McKittrick Ros is, follow in the footsteps of CS Lewis and take part in a celebration of probably the world’s worst writer.

CultureNorthernIreland is challenging lovers of awful literature to see who can read the longest passage of Ros’s work while keeping a straight face. The night is a fun end to the Celebrate Literary Belfast festival, and takes place at the John Hewitt bar on Tuesday September 26 at 7.30pm.

Ros was born near Ballynahinch in 1860 and is the author of melodramatic novels such as Delina Delaney, Helen Huddleson and Irene Iddesleigh, which are full of heaving bosoms, meaningful glances and trembling lower lips.

'The trials of a tortured throng are naught when weighed in the balance of future anticipations,' she wrote in Irene Iddesleigh, the story of a marriage doomed from the offset by unrequited love.

'The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy, and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthly future, and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible, and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.'

Frank Ormsby, editor of Thine in Storm and Calm, an anthology of Ros’s work, said that 'she alliterated obsessively'.  Even if one has forgotten her work for a few years, you only have to read a few paragraphs and you find the smile broadening on your face. You begin to realise why her work had such an appeal.'

Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley and Siegfried Sassoon were all fans. The evening takes it lead from meetings of The Inklings, a group of Oxford dons including Lewis and JRR Tolkein, who competed to see who could read her work aloud for longest before starting to laugh. Prizes are rumoured to include a Barbara Cartland novel, book tokens, a copy of the Writers’ Handbook and a return train ticket to Larne, where Ros lived.

David Lewis, Director of the CultureNorthernIreland website and furtive devourer of her work, said: 'Any writer who is proud of ‘disturbing the bowels’ of her readers and can describe critics as ‘auctioneering agents of Satan’ is worthy of praise in my book.'

'Ros was an inveterate social climber, claiming to be descended from King Sitrick of Denmark. She even changed her name from Ross to Ros, linking herself with the old family of de Ros. In fact she was a school mistress who married Andrew Ross the station master at Larne Harbour.'

Although it will be a hard act to follow, performance poet and festival writer-in-residence Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, will have the last word at the Celebrate Literary Belfast festival by giving his unique poetic take on an action-filled month.

So if you’re a lover of bad literature, have a twisting tongue and a poker face, come along to the John Hewitt on Tuesday September 26 at 7.30pm.

As McKittrick Ros said: ‘I expect I will be talked about at the end of 1000 years.’ Almost 70 years after her death, so far she’s right.