Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Books Dylan read

Bob Dylan's memoir, Chronicles, offers a way to understand the mind and art of its author at a crucial juncture, when Dylan is finding the voice that speaks to and for a generation. Over several pages of the volume, Bob Dylan discusses all the books which influenced him as a very young man. The list of books which he read is astonishing: Rousseau, Ovid and Poe; the Greek classics, Lord Byron, Shelley and Balzac; Dostoevsky and Dickens; the Inferno.
"The books were something," Dylan writes. "They were really something." One can see how his early saturated lyrics must have come out of this intense period
of reading.
On Tuesday evening October 9th Galway City Writer in Residence, the poet Michael O'Loughlin, will be present in the City Library to introduce and talk about Dylan's favourite books and their possible influence on his lyrics and music.

Gerry Hanberry, poet and musician, will be present to sing a few Bob Dylan songs and will examine some of Dylan's references to Tacitus, Gogol, Dickens, Machiavelli, Dante, Ovid and Howl.

Galway City Library
Tuesday 9th October 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Adventures in Reading

Readers may be interested in the following books which have been added to stock at Galway City Library:

A Sultan in Palermo, by Tariq Ali; Verso
Ali's characters are masters at negotiating their complex society whether as Muslims in a Christian regime, peasants in a feudal system, or women in a patriarchal world. Their power, though contingent and temporary, comes from solidarity - it is by banding together and considering the common good that Ali's characters are able to effect meaningful, if short-lived, change. In the end, this novel speaks to the power of human ingenuity to find non-violent means to subvert the hegemonic order. -Liz Winer

Landscapes of War, by Juan Goytisolo; City Lights
For over three decades now, Juan Goytisolo's war against conformity has been a beautiful and courageous thing to behold. Whereas Spanish readers can read Goytisolo regularly, the provincial character of contemporary Anglophone culture deprives us of his observations on Islamic culture and society. Goytisolo's reflections make disturbing reading. They could not be further removed from the banal homilies on the plight of particular peoples that grace the Western media in times of crisis and are forgotten. (Intro.)

Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, by Carol Ann Harris; Chicago Review Press
This is a fascinating look at the mega-success of Fleetwood Mac in the mid-1970s, after the former British blues band recorded the laid-back rock songs of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks that made the album Rumours one of the most popular of its era. Buckingham was arguably the most talented member of the group, as well as its most unstable. At once arrogant and insecure, he was lost in a haze of substance abuse and ego in 1977 when the band's magnum opus, Rumours, made them international megastars.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Books which help define the dignity of a working life.

The writer Harriet Rubin in a wonderful piece in the New York Times on July 21st 2007 quoted the chairman of an international company as saying

“Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”

Harriet Rubin is a great believer in the power of words and language. On her website she tells us that her favourite sources of information are not business books at all but histories, biographies, works of fiction and poetry. “The reason is that the language is richer, more evocative. When language is richer, I believe, one’s mind opens in new ways.”

The chairman of an international company she is writing about is Dr. Sidney Harman, Executive Chairman of Harman International Industries.

Harriet Rubin reports that Dr. Harman could never could find a poet who was willing to be a manager. So Mr. Harman became his own de facto poet, quoting from his volumes of Shakespeare, Tennyson, and the poetry he found in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Camus’ Stranger to help him define the dignity of working life — a poetry he made real in his worker-friendly factories.

“Mr. Harman reads books the way writers write books, methodically over time. For two years Mr. Harman would take down from the shelf The City of God by E. L. Doctorow read the novel slowly, return it to the shelves, and then take it down again for his next trip. ‘Almost everything I have read has been useful to me — science, poetry, politics, novels. I have a lifelong interest in epistemology and learning. My books have helped me develop a way of thinking critically in business and in golf — a fabulous metaphor for the most interesting stuff in life. My library is full of things I might go back to.’ ”

Harriet Rubin’s most recent book is Dante in Love. She tells us that the journey through The Divine Comedy may seem daunting, but the rewards are well-worth the struggle. The goal is to become a writer and poet, with Dante as our guide. He has already made the journey, and he's left behind is his guidebook, The Divine Comedy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adventures in reading

Readers may be interested in the following books which have been added to stock at Galway City Library:

An Iliad, by Alessandro Baricco, Vintage
One of the greatest stories of all time is briskly retold. Baricco tells of his realization that the poem "as it has come down to us was unreadable." Well, yes and no. But there's much to be said for Baricco's skilful distillation of Homer into a trim narrative. The story is told as a kind of oral history spoken (from beyond the grave) by the combatants, and by their sorrowing women. Both celebration and condemnation of war, this Iliad manages to speak to yet another generation that needs desperately to hear its message. (Kirkus Reviews).

Three Trios: Poems, by Judith Hall, Northwestern U.P
Brings together, for the first time, translations of two ancient texts. The Apocryphal Book of Judith may be the more familiar one. Less familiar may be the possibility that hidden within this narrative is another older sequence, a pagan one. It is possible that the Book of Judith was such a disguised book of common pagan prayer. Three Trios is composed out of this audacious possibility. "Each book of Judith Hall's has been astonishing, the writing like that of no one else; elegant, resonant, a bright surfacing from the depths of language, experience, and imagination, all conveyed with a sure, original artistry." --W. S. Merwin

Always Astonished: selected prose by Fernando Pessoa, City Lights
"The awakening of a city, whether in fog or otherwise, is always for me more appealing than the radiant dawn over country meadows. A sunrise in the country makes me feel good: a sunrise in the city makes me feel better than good. Yes, because the great hope it possesses brings me, like all hopes, that faraway and bitterly-longed-for taste of not being reality. Morning in the country exists; morning in the city promises. One makes for life; the other makes for thought. And I will always feel, like those great damned souls, that thinking is worth more than living." (Extract)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Books and Reading and Empowerment and the rock star Nick Cave

"As I grew older and entered my teens, my now-deceased father decided it was time to pass on to his son certain information. Here I was thirteen years old and he would usher me into his study, lock the door and begin reciting great bloody slabs of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, or the murder scene from Crime and Punishment, or whole chapters form Nabokov’s Lolita. My father would wave his arms about, and I could tell by the way it empowered him that he felt he was passing on forbidden knowledge. I would sit and listen to all these mad words pouring from his mouth, happy to be invited into his strange, anomalous world. I would watch my father lose himself in the outpourings of his own creative energy and although he would have laughed at this notion, what my father was finding in his beloved literature was God. Literature elevated him, tore him from normality, lifted him out of the mediocre, and brought him closer to the divine essence of things. I had no notion of that then, but I did see somewhere that art had the power to insulate me form the mundanity of the world, to protect me. So I set about writing some really bad poems."
(The Flesh Made Word, by Nick Cave for BBC Radio 3, July 1996)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adventures in Reading

Readers may be interested in the following books which have been added to stock at Galway City Library:

Good Blonde and Others, by Jack Kerouac
Beat doesn't mean tired, or bushed, so much as it means 'beato' the Italian for beatific: to be in a state of beatitude, like St. Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart. How can this be done in our mad modern world of multiplicities and millions? By practising a little solitude, going off by oneself once in a while to store up that most precious of golds: the vibrations of sincerity. ( Jack Kerouac, who coined the phrase 'the beat generation.')

The Disappearance: A Novella and Stories, by Ilan Stavans
These provocative stories read almost like newspaper dispatches, conveying facts and stopping short of analysis. Stavans believes that "writing isn't about finding any words to express myself but about finding the right words. There is a plethora of examples to be found in the local bookstore - good ideas that have been poorly articulated. I'm allergic to verbal excess. What can be said at all can be said clearly. Complex ideas can be expressed with simplicity. This conviction of mine may be the result of my love affair with dictionaries. It may be a reaction to the obtuseness of academia, where language conceals rather than reveals meaning."

Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa, by Antonio Tabucchi
Tabucchi has imagined the dreams of twenty artists whom he loved from Pessoa to Caravaggio, from Goya to Garcia Lorca. Elaborately imagined, this book is a mini-catalogue of great artists' dreams and also the author's interpretation of the last three days in the life of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Tabucchi's rich language and his magical-realist charm tinge the volume with a visionary glow. A lovely little book that keeps ringing in your head long after you've finished it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist

Nicola Barker, Anne Enright, Mohsin Hamid, Lloyd Jones, Ian McEwan and Indra Sinha are the six authors shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007.

The six shortlisted books were chosen from a longlist of 13 and are:

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction panel commented on each of the titles as follows:

Darkmans – an ambitious and energetic contemporary ghost story with a vibrant cast of characters, set in modern day Ashford.
The Gathering – a very accomplished and dramatic novel of family relationships and personal breakdown in Ireland and England.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – this is a subtle and thoughtful examination of the raw meat of Anglo-Saxon capitalism, and one man’s personal response to working within it.
Mister Pip – Mr Pip is well-rooted in dramatic and frightening events in Papua New Guinea, with vivid characters and a fascinating literary frame of reference.
On Chesil Beach – a tight and beautifully written narrative which sustains high emotional tension throughout.
Animal’s People – Indra Sinha is an engaged campaigning novelist. The book clearly draws from real life events in Bhopal, but is a sustained imaginative creation in its own right, with intriguing parallel use of new media.

The winner of The Man Booker Prize 2007 will be announced on 16 October 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Clifden Arts Week 30th Anniversary

The 30th Clifden Community Arts Week takes place from 20 - 30 September. As part of the festival the following events will be taking place in Clifden Library.

On the 20th of September a Reading by poets Kevin Higgins and John Walsh.
Kevin’s first collection The Boy With No Face’ was published by Salmon in 2005 -‘a master of the grin and bearing it’. John’s collection, ‘Johnny Tell Them’ (Guildhall Press) ‘gives us an insight into the twists and turns of his personal journey’. They are joint organisers of the successful North Beach Poetry nights. Admission €5. Clifden Library, 1:00pm

21 September
Reading by poet Enda Coyle-Greene
Enda Coyle-Greene lives in County Dublin. Published widely in journals and anthologies, her work has also been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and Lyric FM. Her first collection, Snow Negatives, received the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2006 and is forthcoming in 2007 from Daedalus Press.
Clifden Library, 1:00pm

Reading by poets Gerardo Gambolini & Jorge Fondebrider
Poetry reading by two visiting Argentinian poets Gerardo Gambolini and Jorge Fondebrider. Gerardo has published three collections of poetry and is currently translating the stories of John Mc Gahern while Jorge has published many collections and, also with Gerardo, the first bilingual anthology of contemporary Irish poetry published in a Spanish speaking country. The reading will be chaired by Joseph Woods, director Poetry Ireland. Arts Week would like to thank Joe and Poetry Ireland for their help over many years.Admission €5
Clifden Library, 4:00pm

22nd September
Children’s Workshop: Members of the highly acclaimed Fidget Feet Company will conduct this year’s Children’s Workshop.
Clifden Library, 12:00pm

24th September
Reading with poets Eamon Grennan & Sean Lysaght
Eamon’s latest book is ‘The Quick of it’ and a new collection, ‘Out of Breath’ is forthcoming. Sean Lysaght, whose latest collection ‘The Mouth of a River’ was published in 2007 will also read. The readings will be introduced by Michael Coady. Admission: €5. Clifden Library, 1:00pm

25th September
Honouring the centenary of the birth of sculptor Seamus Murphy (1907-1975): Padraig Trehy gives a talk on the making of his acclaimed documentary ‘Words into Stones’ about the artist. Sponsored by Chris Shannahan. Admission: €5.Clifden Library, 1:00pm

Talk by Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill
Marking the centenary of Marconi’s wireless station at Derrygimla - a talk by writer and local historian Kathlenn Villiers-Tuthill. Admission: €5.Clifden Library, 4:00pm

26th of September
Reading with poets Nessa O’Mahoney, Michael Coady and Tony Curtis
Nessa has just completed her Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Wales, Bangor. Her collection ‘Trapping a Ghost’ was published in 2005. Tony is a popular Irish poet. He has published seven collections and his latest book is ‘The Well in the Rain’. He is a member of Aosdana. Michael Coady is a long time associate of Arts Week and also a member of Aosdana. He has received a number of awards in Ireland and the U.S.A. His most recent book of poetry, photographs and prose is ‘One Another’. Sponsored by Mary Downe. Admission: €5.
Clifden Library, 1:00pm

Talk by Jim Carney
To mark the centenary of his birth: Louis MacNeice and his Connemara roots, a talk by journalist and broadcaster Jim Carney. Admission: €5.
Clifden Library, 4:30pm

27th of September
Reading with Letterfrack Writers’ Group
Clifden Library, 1:00pm

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Public Library and the Common Man

The Public library must always be a place for the beating heart…a place where man can come to terms with all of his visions, wishes, dreams and experiences. Many of our expectations and how we deal with them are well-expressed in the writings of Albert Camus. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. He was of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, and with a deep interest in philosophy.

The speech he made on receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature might be called a fanfare for the common man. He said: "That is why true artists scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge. And if they have to take sides in this world, they can perhaps side only with that society in which, according to Nietzsche's great words, not the judge but the creator will rule, whether he be a worker or an intellectual."

Albert Camus and the Public Library, extracted form his work The First Man.
"At about the same time they started at the lycée, a public library was opened in the area, halfway between the street where Jacques live and the heights where the more refined districts began. The public library was built on the border between these areas.
It was open three times a week, including Thursday, in the evening after work, and all morning Thursday. The room was square, the walls entirely filled with white wood bookcases and black clothbound books. There was also a small table with a few chairs around it for those who wanted quickly to refer to a dictionary.
To be entitled to borrow books, you just had to show a rent receipt, and then you received a folding card where borrowed books were noted.
Devouring everything indiscriminately, Jacques and his friend swallowed the best books at the same time as the worst, not caring in any event whether they remembered anything, and in fact retaining just about nothing, except a strange and powerful emotion that, over the weeks, the months and the years, would give birth to and nurture a whole universe of images and memories that never yielded to the reality of their daily lives , and that surely was no less immediate to these eager children who lived their dreams as intensely as they did their lives.

Actually the contents of these books mattered little. What did matter was what they first felt when they went into the library, where they would not see the walls of black books but multiplying horizons and expanses that, as soon as they crossed the doorstep, would take them away from the cramped life of the neighbourhood.
Then came the moment when - each of them provided with the two books they were allowed - they slipped out on to the boulevard. They would part quickly and dash to the dining room to open the book on the oilcloth by the light of the paraffin lamp.
Each book had its own smell according to the paper on which it was printed, always delicate and discreet. And each of these odours, even before he had begun reading, would transport Jacques to another world full of promises kept, that was beginning now to obscure the room where he was, to blot out the neighbourhood itself and its noises, the city, and the whole world, which would completely vanish as soon as he began reading with a wild exalted intensity that would transport the child into an ecstasy so total that even repeated commands could not extract him: ‘Jacques, for the third time, set the table.’

As a Goalkeeper for Algeria, Camus found the missing link between football and existentialism..."All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football".