Waterford-born, London-based Megan Nolan is an essayist and critic - her work has have published everywhere from The New York Times and the New Statesman (where she writes a regular column) to Winter Papers and here on RTÉ Culture.

This month she publishes her first novel, Acts Of Desperation (published by Jonathan Cape); it's a darkly funny tale of a toxic relationship and secret female desire, already acclaimed by the likes of Marian Keyes and Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård.

We asked Megan for her choice cultural picks...

FILM

I recently loved the French film 120 BPM which is about AIDS activist group ACT UP in Paris in the 1990s and the personal lives of some of the members. I find the internal struggles in the various iterations of ACT UP around the world very interesting, those arguments about what strategies to take, what moods to portray to the wider world. Should they lean into the horror and tragedy of AIDS until it is resolved, or should they also portray the joy and beauty in LGBTQ communities? Should they be angry and confrontational or placating and conciliatory? And aside from anything else it is also just a very exciting and beautiful film, buzzing with the energy of righteous anger, the camaraderie of protest, and the powerful push and pull of sexual dynamics.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

MUSIC

I've found it valuable to have a record player and vinyl about during lockdowns, as it makes for a more active listening experience, music becomes less like background noise. My favourite record is probably Townes Van Zandt’s self-titled third album which I have on most days, but I also listen to the album Rom-Com by Dublin band Tandem Felix all the time. Tandem Felix is my friend David Tapley’s band and I have really great memories of going to the album launch in The Lower Deck in November 2020 and listening to the album on repeat afterwards. It kind of came to stand in in my head for the last stint of happy normal pre-Covid life. Listening to it makes me quite emotional at times for that reason but hopeful too.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

BOOK

I love the Canadian novel Bear by Marian Engels, first released in 1976 and now being re-published by Daunt Books this April. It’s about a shy, isolated librarian named Lou who works for a Heritage Institute in a state of unending monotony. She’s summoned to a remote island to catalogue the estate of Colonel Cary, and on whose property lives a bear, semi-tamed, who she is expected to provide with water and food. Over the course of the summer she forms a beguiling bond with Bear, who begins to satisfy some long buried needs of her own. It’s such a wild, charming, funny and odd book, half folktale but totally grounded in reality too. I love to read a book and be totally mystified how the author pulls off that delicate balance.

THEATRE

I still often think of a magnificent performance of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Brecht in The Abbey which I saw in 2008, starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, a really exhilarating production, compellingly brash without losing any of the text’s intelligence.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

TV

The Investigation told the story of achieving justice for Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist who was murdered after going to speak to an interview subject on a submarine in 2018. It is a very different beast to most television based on real-life crimes. It doesn’t linger gratuitously on the moments of violence or on the killer, but instead on the frustrating, slow, unglamorous process of piecing together fragments, and the toll this takes on both Wall’s heartbroken parents and the detectives running the case. Not what you need for escapism, but very moving. In first lockdown, on the other hand, I did get much-needed light relief from Quiz, which dramatised the saga of the "Coughing Major" Charles Ingram and his wife Diana being accused of cheating on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire - I would happily watch Matthew MacFadyen in anything.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

GIG
The last gig I saw pre-Covid was Destroyer in Brooklyn Steel in New York while on a second date, a scenario which now sounds like the most impossible dream situation imaginable. Luckily it was a great one. Dan Bejar’s performance of foolssong from the most recent album Have We Met was in particular astonishing.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

ART
I was lucky to get to the briefly open Artemisia show in the National Gallery in London last summer which was overwhelming and brilliant. I often find myself looking up Nicole Eisenman paintings and staring at them online for hours, Morning Studio is a particular favourite. And I’m a big fan of Salvatore of Lucan’s work.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

RADIO/PODCAST
I have always loved podcasts but during lockdowns I’ve come to rely on them pathetically. My current favourite is Dead Eyes, hosted by actor Connor Ratliff - he was once cast in the Tom Hanks-directed HBO show Band of Brothers and then swiftly un-cast when Hanks apparently reviewed his audition tape and decided he had "dead eyes". The podcast is nominally about Ratliff unspooling this pivotal event in his professional life and also delves into all sorts of other disappointments and ego destructions he and his guests have experienced. It’s very funny and sometimes quite moving.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

TECH
The Freedom app is probably my most valuable one, which shuts down your social media and idle browsing capabilities when you need to work. I rarely write without starting a 6-hour session on Freedom.

THE NEXT BIG THING... 
I’ve been a fan of Denise Chaila for a while like many others in Ireland and it’s been great to hear people over here in the UK start to join in the buzz lately, it’s obvious she’s going to be a huge star which is richly deserved.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Acts Of Desperation by Megan Nolan (published by Jonathan Cape) is published on March 4th