Pursued by a Bear »

  • Feeling listless? We can help

    November 24, 2009 @ 2:35 pm | by Fiona McCann

    So it’s the listing time of year. One must simply get over and get on with it, particularly because not only are we at year’s end this time, but decade’s end to boot. So here’s the thing: we’re making a list of the ten most influential books of the last decade. If you care whether Dan Brown beats Dave Eggers for a place in the limelight, or have an opinion about Dawkins versus Klein versus Diamond versus Fukuyama, we’d love to hear from you. Does Sebastian Barry merit inclusion for The Secret Scripture? And what of Seamus Heaney’s District Circle, or has Dennis O’Dricoll’s Stepping Stones had more of an impact on you than the poet’s most recent collection? Would Brokeback Mountain have had such an influence without the Ang Lee film version? Does anyone really care about Ian McEwan (because I’m struggling to understand his inclusion on so many of these lists myself)? Did Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs say more about women in the 21st century than all of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club choices put together?  Can any of you even remember back as far as the beginning of the decade any more? What were the books that most influenced you over the past ten years, and why? Tell us, quicksmart, and influence our list of influentials.

  • Posthumous publishing

    November 23, 2009 @ 6:56 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Course, we all think we deserve another Nabakov. And he’s been dead for over thirty years now, so should what he thinks – or thought – even matter at this point? These are the questions which arose around the publication of Vladimir Nabakov’s The Original of Laura, a book  the Russian-born author stipulated should be destroyed after his death. Instead, it was consigned to a vault by his wife Vera, only to be removed therefrom by the couple’s son Dimitri, who finally, towards the end of his own life, went against his father’s dying wishes and published it. John Banville argues that if Nabakov had really wanted it destroyed, he would have ensured its destruction and that, regardless, an author on his deathbed is not the best judge of what should be done with his work. Tom Stoppard disagrees, making the point that we owe it to the author to respect his dying wishes. Now that it’s out there, reviewers are divided about the result, a book of the work in progress comprised of images of the series of index cards on which he had made the notes for the book he never finished. But is it fair to judge him on something he himself believed should never see the light of day? Does any of this matter given that the man himself has long shuffled off this mortal coil? And if you feel the author has been badly treated, would it stop you from buying the book? Your thoughts, please.

  • McCann wins National Book Award

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:00 am | by Fiona McCann

    I always wanted to be able to say that, and now I can, thanks to Colum McCann, who won the prestigious National Book Award  for fiction last night for Let The Great World Spin. For his book about a young Irish man and the characters he meets in 1970s New York, McCann goes home with $10,000, a funky bronze statue, and some serious swagger, given that he now joins the ranks of previous winners like Jonathan Franzen, Susan Sontag, Philip Roth, E. Annie Proulx and John Updike. Not bad going. And speaking of awards, John Banville made another shortlist this week . . .

  • Thaoghairising etc

    November 18, 2009 @ 12:11 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Attended my first evening of Chaos Thaoghaire, a storytelling and games night with an imaginative impetus, encouraging tall tales, creativity and cunning (i.e. cheating). Though our team didn’t win the coveted Chaos Thaoghaire belt (despite managing to fool several of our competitors with our spooky story about the ghosts of Rose Hall in Montenegro), we did get to hear some cracking stories, the highlight being Sunday Tribune journalist Una Mullally’s eerie tale that involved Michael Jackson, a Dutch castle owner, a medium from Blanchardstown and her grandmother’s nightdress. . . . These elements combined, believe me, were a helluva lot scarier than the individual components may suggest. Those interested in signing up for future events should high tail it to www.chaosthaoghaire.com.

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  • Updater

    November 13, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Saw: My first ever 3D experience at Cineworld last night watching the heartwarming Up. A moving human story of one man and his lifelong dream was no less real and universal for its magic and fantastical elements. I fancy one of those collars for my dog Lola, too.

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  • Update

    November 10, 2009 @ 7:14 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Reading Wolf Hall: So far so well observed, though I wish I didn’t already know what happened in the end. Will reserve judgment until I finally reach the long-awaited (for so many reasons) end.

    Seen An Education: wonderful performances, though memoir-based films always make me suspicious. Was Lynn Barber really so astute and worldly, with such intelligent comebacks to deliver her elders, at seventeen? I had such high expectations that I was inevitably disappointed in little ways – and spare me the montages, please – but Rosamund Pike was truly delightful, and Alfred Molina gave a moving turn as Barber’s astoundingly naive father).

    Heard Nothing new and worth commenting on, of late. Feel a bit musically bored, in fact. Any recommendations?

    Noted The brouhaha over the lack of women authors on Publisher’s Weekly’s ten best books of the year. Your thoughts?

  • Offset your weekend, and your carbon footprint will follow

    November 6, 2009 @ 12:34 pm | by Fiona McCann

    So, Offset has already kicked off and I’m only getting to post about it now. What can I tell you? It’s been that kind of week. It may already be too late to attend this three-day conference in Liberty Hall bringing together illustrators, graphic designers, street artists and the like, among them Scottish artist David Shrigley, the illustrator Serge Seidlitz as seen on MTV, and American artist Tara McPherson as well as squillions of other fabulous speakers and creative doodlers. Lookit: it’s already started, and tickets are as hard to come by as Willa Wonka’s golden versions, so I need those who snarfled up tix to report back here with all the information about what the rest of us missed. In the meantime, ahem, I’ll be off to the launch of this new book by one of my esteemed colleagues (disclaimer: yes, I know him. What with him being my colleague). If it piques your interest, read an extract here. Otherwise, enjoy le weekend.

  • Amazon’s Top 100

    November 3, 2009 @ 6:21 pm | by Fiona McCann

    No surprise to see Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol topping the list of Amazon.co.uk’s 100 Bestselling New Releases for 2009, but what’s this? Grow Your Own Drugs at number three? Not the recreational kind, mind, but still, it’s a turn-up for the books (shocking pun intended) to find an ethnobotanist on the list, just pipping Antony Beevor no less for the bronze. According to the site, they’re the bestselling new releases based on shipments up to October 28th, and they’re quite an eclectic bunch, all told. It’s a fascinating snap shot of – well, of what exactly? Can anything be deduced from these examples (and remember, Irish Amazon shoppers get redirected to the .co.uk site too) about the state of reading in Britain and Ireland, particularly given the heartening presence of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Beever’s D-Day: The Battle for Normandy in the top ten? Or are we to deduce that the demographic that buys online is of a Beever-buying disposition? Stieg Larsson features twice in the top ten, with this baking book coming in at number ten. Which reminds me: Can we stop calling them cupcakes over here? They’re BUNS for crying out loud! And what I want to know is: has anybody out there read this James Wong book? What’s so great about it, or better-stated, why are so many people buying it? As for the Irish contribution to the top 100, we’ve got Coleen Nolan’s autobiography and the Guinness Book of World Records. Who says we aren’t a literary nation, then?

  • The weekend, and things resulting therefrom

    November 2, 2009 @ 12:59 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Well, there’s the Impact longlist published, and with 156 titles on it, it’s hard to know why they bothered. Eileen Battersby gives her summation of the lot here, though I think I’ll wait till the shortlist appears myself. Meanwhile, there’s my interview with Marsha Hunt, whose show Brown Sugar on Jimi Hendrix opens tonight, and here‘s something delicious from Salon on grammatical rules and pinning down language. “The only truly unbreakable rules of grammar and usage are the ones that, when broken, result in a genuine failure to communicate. The rest is a form of covert class warfare, and today’s usage reproofs constitute a status-protecting thump on the head delivered by the upper middle class to uppity members of the lower middle.” What do youse reckon?


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