‘Ulysses’? Just a tweet, says Paulo Coelho

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00

LOOSE LEAVES:The content of James Joyce’s Ulysses adds up, apparently, to no more than a tweet. That’s the view of the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, who this month criticised writers he sees as following Joyce’s lead by favouring style over content. He told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper:

“Today writers want to impress other writers . . . One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. If you dissect Ulysses, it gives you a tweet.”

Of his own work, on the other hand, Coelho modestly asserts: “I’m modern because I make the difficult seem easy, and so I can communicate with the whole world.”

Coelho (pictured) clearly has no fear of taking on the sacred modernist texts, insulated as he is by 140 million worldwide sales of novels such as The Alchemist and, more recently, Aleph. He is also a noisy advocate of social media, which enables him to speak to his readers directly and eliminate the critical middleman.

“Twitter is my bar,” he says. “I sit at the counter and listen to the conversations, starting others, feeling the atmosphere. He is expected soon to reach 15 million followers on social networks.

Predictably, though, his comments on Joyce have attracted scorn. “Coelho is, of course, entitled to his dumb opinion,” writes Stuart Kelly in the Guardian, “just as I am entitled to think Coelho’s work is a nauseous broth of egomania and snake-oil mysticism . . . Coelho and his ilk create a cocoon of their own limitations, and insist everyone outside it must feel and think like them.” To which Coelho responded by calling Kelly’s argument “banal . . . I don’t take back one comma of what I said”.

Whatever your view, it’d be interesting to see any attempts by readers to recreate Ulysses in 140 characters. Please tweet the results to @irishleaves or let us know what you think by emailing books@irishtimes.com. We’ll publish the best efforts.

Quay writers to welcome Tall Ships

Next week, for the first time since 1998, the Tall Ships will return to Dublin, their concluding port of call after stops in Brittany, Portugal and Spain. As part of the festivities, there will be a series of literary events celebrating the city’s maritime history. Among those taking part are the playwright and author Peter Sheridan, who will give a reading and a talk about his Dublin childhood, and the poet Theo Dorgan, author of A Voyage From Cape Horn to Cape Town and Sailing For Home. There will also be a talk by Fergal McCarthy on his film The Swimmer, which follows his efforts to swim from one end of Dublin to the other, using the city’s rivers, waterways and swimming pools.

The Tall Ships Races festival begins on Thursday, August 23rd and ends on Sunday, 26th; for a full timetable of events, see dublintallships.ie.

Children’s Literature Festival in Leitrim

This weekend sees Carrick-on-Shannon, in Co Leitrim, play host to its first Children’s Literature Festival with the new Laureate na nÓg, Niamh Sharkey, among the writers taking part. The festival is aimed at children aged between four and 12 and is timed to give them a story-filled weekend before the school year starts.

Many of the festival events today and tomorrow are free, but booking in advance is essential for most of them as workshops are limited to 12 children. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. For details, see leitrimarts.ie; to book, telephone 071-9650828.

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