Posts Tagged ‘ Writing ’

Book Review: Delirium

Though the number of dystopian novels is on the rise, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium breaks through the mould and redefines itself as a love story first and foremost set to a dystopian background. The world in which Delirium is set plays its formidable part in the story but underneath that world lays burning questions about love and how it is perceived in the real world, away from fiction.

‘It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected the cure’ is the opening line of this book and immediately thrusts us into the world of Delirium. To the people of this world, love – or amor deliria nervosa as it is known – is something that needs to be eradicated. It is a danger that causes chaos, instability and ultimately, death. Continue reading

New Year: New reading challenge!

irelandAt this time of year, we are all thinking of new beginnings and resolutions. I have been looking around at a few bloggers who really have their teeth into the New Year to an unusual extent. These writers have not merely made a few resolutions; they have set challenges for themselves and they encourage us to join them in their efforts to scale new heights. I thought I would feature in my piece a couple that I have bookmarked for my own interest.

While I am fascinated by the wide variety of challenges, it is the reading or writing ones that are dearest to my heart. On my trawl through Google’s rich archives, I came across an American blog site run by book and film enthusiast Carrie Kitzmiller, which is a veritable treasure trove of literary challenges. Books and Movies!  blog site has one challenge in particular that might appeal to the discerning readers of this news site and that is the 2013 Ireland Challenge (now in its fourth year).

The details are broadly as follows: the challenge runs from January 1st – December 31st and any book with an Irish connection and in any genre qualifies for the challenge. Apparently, re-reads are allowed (which is very generous I think) and you can count any book read for this challenge towards another challenge if you so wish. Interested book lovers just need to register on the site and can upload reviews (and link to their own blogs) as they go along.

Finally, there is a graded commitment scheme so you just choose your level of participation and away you go. For example, the lowest level is Shamrock at four books read, moving up to ten books and more read for the Ceilidh challenge. I assume that you could aim cautiously and then upgrade if you were flying through your James Joyce. Mind you, I feel that Ulysses probably ought to count as more than one book due to sheer size!

If you are more of a writer than a reader (though I admit most writers read and vice verse) you could do a lot worse than check out Irish writer Alison Wells’ Head Above Water blog site for some early year therapy. Alison has begun a series of thirty-one blog posts designed to help with getting your creative juices flowing (and keeping them flowing). Each post will ‘explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas’, as Alison writes in the introduction to her blog series.

Each post will give you something to think about, something to reach for or suggest sources for inspiration. For instance, on the January 6th post Alison gives a link to a Ray Bradbury interview on tips for young writers. There you will find plenty of food for thought from an expert writer. Keep checking back over the rest of January to see what else Alison comes up with to inspire and encourage your creative muse.

Check out the links given in the text for more information.

A Difference of Opinion, Unresolved

Two prolific writers have left us in as many days this week. On Monday Maeve Binchy passed away from a short illness and many have written of her delightful character and steady literary output, culminating in some 15 novels. I have been assured of her prodigious ability in the fiction genre and quality of her narrative but, alas, I feel somewhat ashamed at my ignorance of her work. She was native to my own Ireland; you could not enter a bookshop without noticing Binchy alongside Banville on the fiction shelf.

The other was an American and he passed away on Tuesday at the ripe age of 86. Gore Vidal was at first an author of novels but he could turn his hand to any production literary. His prolific career spanned over 60 years and he chalked up tens of novels, numerous plays, screenplays and a phenomenal number of essays. His first major novel that earned attention in the literary world was The City and the Pillar, a ‘coming out, coming of age’ novel, dedicated to Vidal’s first love interest Jimmy Trimble. Trimble died while serving for his country in World War 2 and it is widely known that Vidal was deeply affected by this and indeed said himself that he never could feel what he felt for Trimble for anybody else ever again. This early loss in Vidal’s life hardened him and from then on was not a man sentimentalism, but one of cynicism.

His literary output was enormous and is only overshadowed by his peer of the left, Noam Chomsky, but his most brilliant skill was that of the orator. He was a quick-witted, sharp-tongued and eloquent master of speech. His grandiloquence was rivalled only by the Anglo-American Christopher Hitchens. Indeed, a comparison that is not without its merit is the one proffered upon Vidal by some, who speak of him in the same breath of Oscar Wilde. It is true that he was very open about his sexuality, he was extremely witty and humorous and was a contrarian in every sense of the word.

As a contrarian it is only natural to have some who are hostile and some that are just downright resentful of you in the worst ways. Gore Vidal had very public disputes with a number of individuals like Norman Mailer, for instance. Following a number of taunts from Vidal, Mailer threw a glass of whiskey in his face and headbutted him. William Buckley threatened to ‘sock’ him on live television. He had a number of disputes but, later on in life, his main one was with the United States.

He was increasingly scathing about some aspects of the US. His main critique of the US was that the US was a modern-day Imperialist power; he called it a ‘militarized Republic’ and not a democracy. He was also critical of the education system stating on live American television that “We have the worst educated population of any first world country… your lack of education is the joke of the world”.

Many were bewildered by Vidal’s conspiratorial tendency later on in life. In an interview on War and Iraq he stated that the American people had more to fear from the Bush Administration than from Militant Islam. None were more bewildered than Christopher Hitchens. The pair met in the 70’s when Hitchens was working for the New Statesman. The two contrarians took to each other quite well, which is surprising because usually when two charismatic contrarians with fantastic ego’s collide, the result is almost always ugly.

They remained friendly and some years later Vidal phoned Hitchens and asked if he would be his heir when he passed away. Hitchens was duly flattered and gladly accepted. They’re saddening divorce, as it were, came following the September 11th attacks on the US, and the consequent decision of the US to invade Iraq. Gore Vidal was staunchly against such an invasion while Hitchens was vocally for it. He lost many friends over his support, Vidal being undoubtedly the most notable. Vidal then, publicly, insinuated his retraction of his proposal as Hitchens as his heir. Hitchens agreed.

Hitchens wrote an article entitled ‘Vidal Loco’ which suggested that Vidal’s old age, coupled with his incessant anti-US rhetoric and conspiratorial tendency had overshadowed the career of a great novelist, essayist and general all-round literary giant. Speaking positively of Vidal pre-21st century he said that he ‘had the rare gift of being amusing about serious things as well as serious about amusing ones’. The world seems a little less colorful since the parting of these two great contrarians, and it is even more bitter knowing they both passed away without resolving their only disagreement in life, the one that will separate them forever.

Maeve Binchy dies at the age of 72

16 Novels, more than 30 years of writing and endless fans is the legacy that Maeve Binchy leaves behind. The wonderful and much loved Irish author died on Monday after struggling with illness throughout most of her adult life. But even at 72 she had a  much younger spirit and loved life, saying that after a brush with death in 2002 she lived every day as if it were her last.

Her best known works are possibly Tara Road and Circle of Friends as Hollywood turned them into films, but all of her stories, no matter if in short form or packed up into the parcel of a novel, are about real life, no hyped up glam or only beautiful people fill her pages, but the struggle of everyday life, joy, love and friendship overflow from her work into the readers minds and heart.

She didn’t start out as a writer but graduated UCD (University College Dublin) and became a teacher. But Maeve wanted to see the world and in her long summer holidays she would travel, her shipping guide always at hand telling her which ship was going where. Wanting a change she gave up her secure teachers job and pension to become a free-lance writer and soon was called to be a woman’s editor at the Irish Times. With a steady flow of work coming in from London Maeve moved there in the mid seventies to the Irish Times office in Fleet Street and started working on her first novel Light a Penny Candle. Setting herself strict deadlines and word-counts she would get up at 5am every morning to write before work and her discipline and structure paid off when in 1982 her first book was published.

At the age of 37 she married children book author Gorden Snell and with the invention of fax and emails they both moved from London to Dalkey, where Maeve had grown up, and would sit side by side in their upstairs office and write for several hours every day. Very disciplined her motto was “if you want to write just do it” and shelves filled with her work all around the world prove her right.

Inspired by Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, Maeve Binchy created a whole new form of literature. One filled with women who learn to be strong and independent, who begin to trust in themselves, be who they want to be and love life, friends, family, home and most importantly themselves.

Outselling other great Irish writers like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, Samuel Beckett, W.B Yeats, Maeve was quietly proud always encouraging others to write as well. She paved a beautiful path for other female writers to follow and was always generous in sharing her experience with her colleagues.

Maeve Binchy will be missed, not only by the Irish nation but by her fans across the world, but she has one final gift to her readers, her last book has just been finished and will be published later this year.

She will be cremated in a private ceremony following removal on Friday morning to the Church of the Assumption, Dalkey.

“I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy with one of her two beloved cats in her home in Dalkey

The CBI Book of the Year Awards 2012 (Gradaim Leabhair na Biana CBI 2012)

Last month saw the announcement of the shortlist for the annual awards for excellence in children’s books. The Children’s Books Ireland Awards (formerly the Bisto Awards) have been running for twenty-two years and have highlighted a wealth of talent in that time. This year is certain to be no exception judging by the very impressive shortlist of nine titles. Perennial favourites Roddy Doyle and Oliver Jeffers have made the cut and Siobhán Parkinson has clocked up two nominations (one book in Irish and one in English). Here is the complete list:

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle                                                       

Bruised by Siobhán Parkinson

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan

Maitriόisce by Siobhán Parkinson

My Dad is Ten Years Old and it’s Pure Weird by Mark O’Sullivan

Ó Chrann Go Grann by Caitriona Hastings (illustrated by Andrew Whitson)

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers 

The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden

Will Gallows and the Snake-Bellied Troll by Derek Keilty

The prestigious awards, the winners of which will be announced in May, were designed to honour excellence in illustrating as well as writing in children’s literature. The awards are open to anyone born or generally resident in Ireland for work in the Irish or English language. There are six prize categories, which will be judged by a panel of seven judges, guided by Keith O’Sullivan as the Chairperson.  The selectors will have no easy task ahead of them if O’Sullivan’s comments are anything to go by. He has commented on the quality of the nominated titles saying,

This year’s shortlist features nine excellent books which all offer young readers a rich and satisfying experience. With subjects which range from difficult contemporary issues to stories of whimsy and fun, each book is beautifully crafted and brilliantly conceived.

The nine titles on the shortlist have been whittled down from a whopping seventy titles, so some hard decisions have obviously been made already. There are separate awards for fiction and illustration as well as an overall Book of the Year Award and The Special Judges Award. New authors are eligible for the Eilís Dillon Award for a First Children’s Book. Eagerly anticipated no doubt, will be the winner of The Children’s Choice Award, which is chosen by ten junior juries from around the country. I am sure that this is the prize that the writers and illustrators would most like to win, as it is a vote from the young readers themselves.

Children’s Books Ireland also run an interesting shadowing scheme that enables participating school groups to read and votes on the books alongside the actual judging process. Their results will be announced after the official awards are given in May. Schools can apply for information packs through the web site. One of the great things about these awards is that children can become involved rather than merely sit on the sidelines. It is just one more way to encourage the next generation of avid readers.

May the best author win!

Further details:  and