Loose Leaves



Margaret Atwood to be honoured by NUI Galway

It’s the season of honorary doctorates, and next Friday at NUI Galway the renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood (pictured) will be conferred with a doctorate in literature. The author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and critical essays, she won the Booker prize in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.A regular visitor to Galway, she’s a former keynote speaker at Cúirt International Festival of Literature. The citation at NUIG will be given by her fellow Canadian Elizabeth Tilley, lecturer in English at the university and past president of the Association for Canadian Studies in Ireland. The honour is being conferred not just in recognition of Atwood as an artist but also to acknowledge her role as a spokeswoman for free speech, responsible government, ethics in science, and conservation. “Atwood’s last three novels have been called ‘speculative fiction,’ as opposed to science fiction, and her knack for prophesy has recently extended to the banking world; her book on debt [Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth] – the ways in which it functions in society, as well as in literature – was published in 2008, before the collapse it foresaw,” says Tilley, adding that Atwood’s novels The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood all prophesy disaster.

Squaring up for an Irish literary death match

Todd Zuniga’s Literary Death Match, billed as a cross between a writers’ salon and The X Factor, comes to Dublin on Friday. Zuniga, founding editor of Opiummagazine, dreamed up the concept back in 2006, since when events have been held in Beijing, Chicago, Edinburgh and Paris, among other cities, as well as previously in Dublin. At next week’s public reading, at the Workman’s Club on Wellington Quay at 8pm, four writers get no more than seven minutes to perform before an audience and panel of judges. The contenders for the Dublin event are Niamh MacAlister, Virginia Gilbert, Gareth Stack and Stephen James Smith. Zuniga, its host, describes his mission as being to celebrate literature as a brilliant, unstoppable medium. “Our format delivers great literature, comedy and high jinks – and, most importantly, keeps people’s smartphones in their pockets.” Tickets cost €7.

Feting Trevor and Bowen in Mitchelstown

Elizabeth Bowen in the 1950s will be conjured up by the author and academic Clair Wills at this year’s Trevor/Bowen Summer School, in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, from July 15th to 17th. It’s not every part of Ireland that is blessed with not one but two great writers, and this event is adept at feting both simultaneously. Bowen’s Irelands is the topic to be discussed by Susan Osborn, who edited Elizabeth Bowen: New Critical Perspectives,published by Cork University Press in 2009, and is working on a book about Bowen’s relationship with the Bloomsbury set of Virginia Woolf et al. Osborn’s talk has the added value of taking place at St Colman’s Church in Farahy: Bowen is buried in its churchyard, and her long-demolished ancestral home, Bowen’s Court, was close by. The historian Margaret MacCurtain will look at the short story – a form in which both Bowen and Trevor excel – as a source of Irish history; Gerard Dineen’s talk is titled An Infinite Well: William Trevor’s Childhood Memories of the Towns of Cork. Another highlight will be a reading by Mairead Rooney of Not a Single Star, the winning story in the summer school’s short-story contest. Competition judge, novelist and fellow short-story writer John MacKenna praised how “wonderfully underwritten” was this tale, narrated by “a gentle, imperfect, decent and totally credible man”. See mitchelstownlit.com.