Pursued by a Bear »

  • Dublin Writers Festival programme

    April 29, 2009 @ 12:52 pm | by Fiona McCann

    The DWF (what? I’m not writing the whole thing out again) line up has been announced, with Seamus Heaney (surprise!) headlining. Others on the list are Zoë Heller (I interviewed her last year on the publication of her latest book, The Believers and can bet she’ll be entertaining, whatever your feelings about her work) , Geoff Dyer (everyone’s talking about him of late. John Self has a great interview here and you can read James Wood’s review of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi here), and Steve Toltz, whose Booker shortlisted book A Fraction of the Whole was described by our own Claire Kilroy as “The funniest novel of 2008″. More information on the rest here - so who’s going to what, and why?

  • When music and literature collide

    April 28, 2009 @ 11:25 am | by Fiona McCann

    Read my wrap of this year’s Cúirt festival here.

  • Me me me!

    April 27, 2009 @ 5:45 pm | by Fiona McCann

    I’ve been memed, tagged or otherwise accosted by Sinful Origami Paper’s Gray Wright.

    Not wishing to be curmudgeonly about it, here goes my first ever meme (a word interestingly composed of the words me me. Hmmm). Consider this a cultural post, then.

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  • A little link love

    April 23, 2009 @ 10:50 am | by Fiona McCann

    Interview with Geoff Dyer over on Asylum: well worth a read.

    Lovely illustrations from Chris Judge’s LA trip over on Scamp.

     The postcards Andre Jordan may send always make me smile on A Beautiful Revolution.

    And over on yon Guardian, folks are going off on the subject of songs about first love.

  • A-Cúirtin’

    April 22, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Cúirt‘s kicked off, and I’m not there – yet. Anybody catch Joseph O’Neill on Monday? Or Colm Toibin and D.R.  MacDonald? Any upcoming highlights to, er, highlight? Anyone have an opinion on this year’s programme (too many readings? not enough?), and whether discussions (Joseph O’Connor with Philip King, Aidan Higgins with Neil Donnelly) work as a format, or whether the element of chemistry experiment is too risky to replace a reading, or indeed, whether questions should EVER be taken from the audience?

  • Molly Fox’s Birthday

    April 21, 2009 @ 3:32 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Deirdre Madden has made the Orange Prize shortlist for Molly Fox’s Birthday (a book I’m currently reading). More anon when I finish it.

  • Britain’s Got Talent, says Britain

    April 20, 2009 @ 1:41 pm | by Fiona McCann

    I’m not saying Susan Boyle hasn’t got talent – she clearly has, in spades, and those kind judges so keen to remind her how unimpressed they were when she walked on stage have generously conceded the dangers of such preconceptions. But there’s something so crassly manipulative about this over-edited version of eyes rolling, raised eyebrows and grimaces, followed by awe! hands over mouth! surprise! applause! dewy eyes! that is far too directive to allow for any natural response. This whole episode tells us just how we’re supposed to react, and even when, though the audience is screaming and shreaking so much and Ant and Dec are so busy being loudly gobsmacked from the wings that you can barely hear the singing. Which is what we’re all supposed to be so moved by. Look, it’s clear Susan Boyle has a great voice, and did a smashing, shattering job on a moving song. I just would have liked to have decided all that for myself.

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  • The Arrival

    April 16, 2009 @ 1:17 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Anyone (Bueller? Anyone?) who reads this blog on a regular basis knows only too well that I’m always banging on about words. Word order, word magic, the written word, the spoken word, the last word. “But a picture is worth,” you might suggest, and I would snort, perhaps, or roll my eyes up into the back of my skull where I store my own pictures, thank you, many of which are made of words. Except not today.  Today, thanks to a very hungry caterpillar, I received a copy of a book without words, and it has moved me beyond them. Anyone else had the great, sweet pleasure to read/see The Arrival, by Shaun Tan?

  • How much is that doggy?

    April 15, 2009 @ 10:26 am | by Fiona McCann

    The presidential pooch has arrived – Bo is in the house. The White House specifically, and let’s face it, he is a pretty cute and cuddly specimen. But wouldn’t you know it, the grand unveiling of a bouncy Portuguese water dog got me thinking about dogs in the arts, this being an arts and culture blog. There’s the obvious TV stock of doggy characters – Lassie, Benji and the Littlest Hobo bound to mind – not to mention that Dalmation business and that recent staggering phenomenon Marley and Me (the staggering part being that it was a phenomenon at all). In the literary world, Lord Byron was fierce fond of dogs, and penned a famous epitaph to his own dog, Boatswain, while Rudyard Kipling went mad for them, writing poems in their honour to beat the band. One of my favourite literary dogs is Charley, the poodle whose travels with John Steinbeck made for a book of musings on America. He particularly endeared himself to me by not pee-ing on the Great Redwood Trees, much to Steinbeck’s annoyance. I like a dog who refuses to a lift a leg to his master’s transcendental notions. Any other great literary / cinematic / poetic / musical canines to add to the list?

  • Happy birthday Mr Heaney

    April 14, 2009 @ 11:16 am | by Fiona McCann

    Happy (belated – oops!) birthday to a Nobel laureate with a fierce way with words. Attempting to choose a favourite from among Seamus Heaney’s offerings means finding all those perfect pinpointings of language once again, and revelling in them. So will it be Personal Helicon (“I rhyme / To see myself, to set the darkness echoing”) or Postscript (“You are neither here nor there, A hurry through which known and strange things pass / As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways / And catch the heart off guard and blow it open”)? Or Casualty, or The Skunk, or all the other possibilities, poems that move me newly on new readings? Today, I’m choosing (and pasting below) the first Heaney poem I ever met, the introduction, like that for so many Irish children, made in school when mid-term breaks were part of my lexicon. Now it’s your turn to choose a favourite. If you have one. If not, here’s mine.  (more…)

  • Bell X Wha?

    April 10, 2009 @ 9:34 am | by Fiona McCann

    Vicar Street, Holy Thursday. Bell X1 played a blinder, but you could hardly hear them over the din. Maybe it’s coz I’m getting a little bit older (SWIDT?) but last night’s crowd brought out the curmudgeon in me. Facing into a dry Good Friday, the Vicar Street punters were clearly maximising till midnight, and the result was a cacophony that almost drowned out the band. Almost. But then the brass came out and with Paul on piano and the trombone tooting, everyone finally shut up. Magic. Any of y’all catch the gig?

  • Bollywood boogie

    April 9, 2009 @ 11:37 am | by Fiona McCann

    ‘Sup all you Slumdog fans – or specifically, those of you who were foot tapping and knee jiggling through that last sequence of all-cast dancing. Bollywood is coming to Dublin, in the form of a five-minute short by Fishfilms, and dancers are in demand. The big blow-out boogie at the end is to be filmed on Sunday, April 19th, and all you have to do to be part of it is learn the dance steps below, and send an email to dublinbollywood@gmail.com with your name, phone number, playing age (?) and dance ability.  Via Culch.ie and Critical Junk.

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  • Update

    @ 9:51 am | by Fiona McCann

    Reading: Molly Fox’s Birthday, by Deirdre Madden, having just finished The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (a pacey rags to riches story with a twist, giving frightening insight into India. It’s an accomplished debut, and though it lacks the weight and wonder that marks a book out for generations to come, it’s still worth a read), and Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson (beautifully gentle, crafted story that rings of loss and strange connections).

     Watching: Lots. I’ve been on a lot of flights. Saw Benjamin Button – meh. Though Mr Gateau’s rewinding clock was touching and effective, and there were some gigglish struck-by-lightening scenes, the rest was more of the same overwrought, emotive gum that’s getting churned out at a great rate of late, achieving its tear-jerking aim only through the boredom that resulted from watching three-odd hours of it. Also Revolutionary Road – not bad, though hard to separate from the book, which, unsurprisingly was better. And snippets of Australia, which is not the kind of film to watch on a six-inch screen.

    Attended: The opening night of All My Sons at the Gate. It’s a timely production of a play with an alarming contemporary resonance, that deals, as Arthur Miller often does, with the moral choices faced by men in a world where money maketh the man. The Gate production is a straight-up affair, allowing Miller’s text to do its thing, to play out the stories of ordinary Americans in a moral, human context. Len Cariou is powerful as Joe Keller (in one exhausting, emotionally-charged scene he seizes, electrically) , Barbara Brennan is emotionally fierce as Kate, Peter Gaynor is compelling as George Deever and while the other performances don’t quite meet the measure of these three, it still makes for some gripping, lingering moments. Read Peter Crawley’s review here.

     Missed: David Byrne on Monday. Don’t want to talk about it.

  • ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy

    April 7, 2009 @ 1:48 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Some folk I know can love a song without having any notion of what’s being sung. The music takes precedence, and lyrics get sidelined in the listening process. Not me. I’m a lyrics lady, and can swing in favour of a band or singer simply by the order of words, the poetic content they put to melody. Favourites include – kind of obviously – Leonard Cohen (“Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”), Tori Amos (“No one’s picking up the phone / Guess it’s clear he’s gone / And this little masochist / Is picking up her dress”), The Magnetic Fields (“It makes me feel blue / Pantone 292″), Bonnie Prince Billy (“A fireman her husband was/and so to give him duty/I duly tried to light a fire / upon his rightful booty”), Bell X1 (“I was other people’s children / I could always be sent home”), Sigur Ros (Ok, just kidding about the Sigur Ros bit). But you get the picture, and the list goes on and on. All time favourite? Bah, Hallelujah of course, for its perfect marrying of lyric to music (“It goes like this / the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall / and the major lift”). Yours?

  • Impac Award (unimaginative post title)

    April 2, 2009 @ 6:24 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Another day, another shortlist, and this time it’s for the Impac Award. The eight finalists are now tantalisingly close to a cool €100,000, which wouldn’t go astray in these difficult times. Now, the appearance of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist or Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao on the list might make it seem a little after the fact, but only because the Impac has a particularly lengthy lead-in time (If I understand the rules correctly, in order to qualify for the 2009 awards novels had to be published either in English between January 1 and December 31 2007, or first published in an English translation between those dates). Books are nominated for the award by libraries all over the world, with a panel of judges winnowing it down to the shortlist, and then choosing a winner. So let’s see then: you could get whingey about the lack of female authors or Irish authors, or you could accentuate the positive for once, and point up the presence of a Dominican-American, a Pakistani-British, a French, a Norwegian and three American writers. Which sounds like something you could get your teeth into. Except for David Leavitt – spare me.

  • Wendy and Lucy

    April 1, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Wendy and Lucy is a small film set in a Pacific Northwest that thrums and squeals with trains passing through and passing by strange towns where you can’t get “an address without an address, or a job without a job,” yet people live, count time, are passed over. Modest, pared down yet fully, touchingly human, it’s like an on-screen Will Oldham song, unadorned, honest and wholly American. It also boasts an appearance by the aforementioned Mr Oldham himself as Icky, but it is a mesmserising, Michelle Williams, who plays Wendy with pitch perfect honesty and understatement, that really steals the show. Oh, and a very endearing dog. Anyone seen it (the film, not the dog)?
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  • The foolingest day

    @ 9:58 am | by Fiona McCann

    “JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?”


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