Thursday, February 24, 2011

James Joyce

Congratulations to Navan Library for hosting a book club on Joyce.   Under the guidance of Conor Farnan the group are currently working their way through Ulysses aiming to complete the study by 16 June.

Conor is currently doing his Ph.D. on Paul Durkan and may also be remembered from his student days in St Pats when he contributed to their literary magazine, Criterion 2003, with a poem - an irishisation or modernisation of Howl [if I remember correctly]!

Well done Conor!   You are well appreciated.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Difficult to read?

I mentioned before Josipovici and his book, What Ever Happened to Modernism, in which he expresses his profound disappointment at the resistance to or lack of awareness of European modernism right across the board in England.   He quotes Beckett who is talking here about art though it may well be applied to our current bestseller lists: '...there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desires to express, together with the obligation to express'.  

Many of the  books published today may be witty, sensationalist, written with panache but they will never challenge, say, Borges.   Read him and he reaches right to your core.   I did and realised that there is so much more to a 'good book' than the realist-type narrative so popular now.   Josipovici says that the latter give a 'sense of security, of comfort even' and draw 'us for a while out of our confusions ... into a world that makes some sort of sense'.   They are, in effect, easy reads.

All of which brings me to an article by Nicole Krauss in yesterday's Observer in which she says that she is surprised her fiction is labelled 'difficult'.  [Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer and is  author of The History of Love and Great House].   Her reasoning is simpler than Josipovici.   She  believes that in the west, we are moving towards the end of effort.   'We have arrived at this place where we just thoughtlessly plunge towards whatever the thing is that will allow us to make less of an effort.   We're programmed to do the easier thing'.

Can I suggest we ignore the 'bestseller lists' and discover the exhileration, joy and wonder in the books of the European and Latin American authors?  Discover literature!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Also-Ran

Lots of talk in the papers about the late Beryl Bainbridge who was nominated five times for the Booker Prize but never won to the chagrin of her many devoted readers.   Her never-failing sense of humour on each occasion would now be tickled by the decision of the Booker judges to create  a Man Booker Best of Beryl!   They are asking the public to vote on which of her five nominated novels they think most worthy of the prize.   They are:  The Dressmaker, The Bottle Factory Outing, An Awfully Big Adventure, Every Man for Himself, Master Georgie.  

Vote online at and the winner will be announced in April.