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  • Books you read when you were a lad

    September 30, 2009 @ 10:45 am | by Fiona McCann

    I remember Tom’s Midnight Garden. The magic of night-time and half-lights and a friendship that bridges genders and generations. I remember Ballet Shoes, as a middle child of three girls, each one identifying with a Fossil, and how pleased and proud I was to find in Petrova the tomboy I felt. I remember Little House on the Prairie, The Hobbit, Little Women, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Peter was my first crush, sigh), the five findouters, the faraway tree and a story about two girls who swapped identities in a train station, and another about a secret garden behind an overgrown wall. I remember sneaking to the window to read by the light of the streetlamp oustide after my mother had turned the light off. I loved books as a child, still do. Which is why the Children’s Book Festival, kicking off tomorrow, makes me at once nostalgic and excited about the wealth of stories in store for young imaginations today. the festival, launched tomorrow by Philip Ardagh at Cork City Library, will run for the full month of October, and offers young readers all over the country plenty of bookish goodies, including readings, poetry performances and creative writing workshops. (More information about events near you at www.childrensbooksireland.ie). So what were the books that marked your childhood, the stories recalled, read and reread, and the ones you still remember from being young?  

  • Mistaken identity

    July 23, 2009 @ 10:41 am | by Fiona McCann

    After a recent interview with Booker prize winner Aravind Adiga, I discovered he’d thought I was Eileen Battersby all along. Read the interview in today’s paper, or online here.

  • New and lovely books

    July 15, 2009 @ 12:45 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Hurray for beautiful books, and new publishers defying trying times. Look at the lovely things Full Circle are doing, and be cheered. It’s a collaboration between the wonderful George Szirtes and artist Ronald King called The Burning of the Books, and it makes me happy just to know it exists. To judge this book by its cover, it’s a beautiful thing.

  • Heart of Darkness

    June 29, 2009 @ 8:08 am | by Fiona McCann

    Got five and a half hours to spare and a soft spot for Joseph Conrad? Then mosey down to The Joinery on Arbour Hill on July 9th, where Gavin Kostick will be giving his acclaimed performance of the entire and complete text of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. How can it possibly work? How can an audience be sustained through a five and a half hour performance, let alone Kostick himself? I’m curious, and if you are too, there are further details here. The horror, the horror . . .

  • Here’s to you, Ms Robinson

    June 4, 2009 @ 9:42 am | by Fiona McCann

    American author Marilynn Robinson has won the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction, for her third novel, Home. Having recently read both Housekeeping and Gilead, I am new to the joys of Robinson, but find her books unfold with a slow and moving grace. Gilead, at first, was a struggle. I’m out of the habit of letting things happen at such a pace, of contemplating life with that pause and measure that seems from another generation. But Gilead made it so, slowed me down, had me reflect, and gave up such moments of sweet, human beauty that I was converted. Housekeeping offered its own joys and pleasures, characters and images that will stay with me ever like a long, night-time walk across  train tracks over a dark, inviting river. And now to Home, which picks up the story of Jack Boughton, who also appeared in Gilead, and was described in this newspaper’s review as “charged with a gritty, hard-won hope. Robinson insists on the impossibility of love yet celebrates its manifestation on every page in the small, exquisite gestures of grace her flawed characters manage, in their failure, to bestow on one another.” To read Mary Morrissy’s review of Home in full, click here.  I need to find a quiet space to read it, but welcome comments from any of you who have.


  • Oxford poets scandal

    May 26, 2009 @ 12:08 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Oxford poets scandal: three words that don’t often come together, but there you have it, ladies and gents. The latest shocker from the world of wordsmiths concerns the recently appointed Oxford Professor of Poetry, Ruth Padel (Charles Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, interviewed here by Arminta Wallace), who has resigned the position after only nine days on the job.


  • Brooklyn musings

    May 20, 2009 @ 12:18 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Disclaimer: The following my ruin the ending for those of you who have not read Colm Tóibín’s latest, Brooklyn. So move along all folks to whom that applies – nothing to see here.

    As for the rest of you, there’s been plenty of talk about the merits or otherwise, but here’s what I want to know: should she have stayed or gone back? Discuss, using relevant quotation or reference.

  • Dictators and sonnets

    May 18, 2009 @ 11:11 am | by Fiona McCann

    Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti died yesterday, news which fills me with the kind of dangerous nostalgia he wrote so much about. Benedetti, a writer I read when I lived in Buenos Aires at a time that is already retreating too quickly into my past, lived in exile from his beloved Montevideo for ten years during Uruguay’s military dictatorship.  Geografías, a story from the 1984 collection of the same name, was the one that stayed with me of Benedetti stories I read during the hot summer in my sweltering home on Mexico street. Rereading it now brings me back to that place in all its familiar detail, and I am heady with the heat of nostalgia. (more…)

  • Carol Ann Duffy is new poet laureate

    May 1, 2009 @ 11:43 am | by Fiona McCann

    Carol Ann Duffy is the new poet laureate across the water, the first woman to occupy the post famously scorned by Wendy Cope earlier this year. Course the yearly stipend is not to be sniffed at -  £5,750  Sterling for a few verses on royal births and coronations, no small sum in these troubled times. Then there are the 600 bottles of sherry traditionally bestowed on the poet laureate, which Duffy has reportedy requested up front, after learning that her predecessor Andrew Motion (the first poet laureate to resign the post) had yet to receive his. The question is whether any writer should be beholden to the king or state, under obligation to trot out poems for occasions regardless of muse or inspiration, and presumably only those that toe the state line. (more…)

  • 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.

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