Everything I know about love I learned from romance novelsIt's Valentines Day and I'm reading Everything I know about Love I learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books (an actual excellent blog I'd recommend to anyone interested in the genre, the D and F reviews are howlingly funny).  Her other book Beyond Heaving Bosoms is also in the libraries.  They don't take themselves seriously, but they do take the topic of romance seriously, particularly when it comes to Genre Snobbery.

Romance is often the bottom of the pile when it comes to respect, dismissed as women's and often trivialised I sometimes almost feel like apologising when I admit to reading Mills & Boons and people sometimes ask me if I read "real" books.  For me Mills and Boons are often great fun, good reads and often a palette refresher. Yes the outcome is known, but that could be argued of a lot of genre books, at the end of a murder mystery you expect to resolve the murder, spy novels expect to save the world, it's the journey that matters, the way in which the characters resolve their relationship that matters with a romance.  Most fiction involve a romance of some sort in the story, it's the believability that counts.  How does James Bond manage to have so many women fall into his arms?

Happy Valentine's and Romantic Reading!

The Next Always

Being the day that's in it, I thought I might throw a glance as to what titles classified as 'romantic fiction' featured amongst the most borrowed fiction titles (from our branch libraries, that is) during the month of January. And in doing so I was somewhat amazed that so few romance titles seemed to feature amongst the most borrowed, crime novels appearing to dominate the list in fact. But maybe that is not such a surprise, crime novels have always been hugely popular, while romance novels might be said to have a niche audience. And why so, or am I wrong?? Are we all not romantics at heart?!

Time and Tide

Anyways, while I wondered whether or not we might have seen the demise of romantic fiction to some degree, I came across this article in the Telegraph newspaper, 'Romance is a closed book: now we’re all losers in love', whose author also seems to think that crime has very much knocked romantic fiction down the pecking order. But as the author states, "feasting on felony and felony alone is not the healthiest diet", so with those words of wisdom, let me champion some romantic fiction titles that might rekindle your interest (and mine!) in the world of romance!

Pole to Pole

Scott2012 is the centenary of Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, arriving there only to find that Amundsen had beaten him to it by 35 days. The harrowing return journey, culminating in the death of Scott and his three companions, is a gripping story. In fact, the polar regions maintain a grip on the imagination, probably because so few of us ever visit them that they retain a mystery that has been lost to other places. Here’s a small celebration of all things polar.

The 15th Annual Sir John T. Gilbert Lecture

John T. Gilbert'Sir John T. Gilbert (1829-1898): Life, Works and Context' by Brendan Twomey.

Brendan Twomey delivered the 15th Annual Sir John T Gilbert commemorative lecture at Dublin City Library and Archive on 23 January 2012.

Born in 1829, Gilbert was author of the influential three volume 'History of the city of Dublin', published from 1857-59. He was a firm advocate of documenting the history of his native city using primary sources. His work on manuscripts relating to the city alerted him to the need for the preservation of Irish public records, many of which were in a neglected and vulnerable condition. He commenced a campaign, which eventually led to the setting up of the Public Records Office in the Four Courts. He calendared the records of Dublin Corporation, which date from the twelfth century, and began the series of printed volumes The calendar of ancient records of the city of Dublin.

Joseph Schmidt

Joseph SchmidtAlthough he died at the age of 38, Joseph Schmidt achieved great respect as a tenor in his short lifetime. He was born in 1904 to Jewish parents in a small Romanian town . His love of music was nurtured from an early age as his parents were very musical, he also became proficient in several languages. His first vocal training was as a classic Hebrew singer at the local synagogue in Czernowitz,  where he so excelled that by the age of twenty  he was featured in a solo recital singing Jewish songs and arias by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini and Bizet. He studied music and singing in  Berlin before returning to Romania for military service and later he became cantor of the Czernowitz synagogue.

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day 2012

Today, Tuesday, 7th February, is Safer Internet Day.  Safer Internet Day is organised by Insafe each year in February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world. This year Safer Internet Day is centred around the theme 'Connecting generations and educating each other, with the slogan: "Discover the digital world together... safely!"'

Watch this video from Insafe:

Charles Dickens's 200th Birthday!

ScroogeFirst we had the 130th anniversary of the birth of James Joyce, now today, 7th February, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s other greatest novelists, Charles Dickens!

And to mark the occasion, Laurence Foster has re-created Charles Dickens’ first public performance in Ireland, and the performances (Dickens in Dublin) are taking place in a number of our branch libraries (details below - but do check with location, may well be booked out at this stage).

Student of Open Learning Centre (OLC) wins Léargas Language Learner of the Year Award

Paddy receiving his Award - photo courtesy of LéargasOLC user Paddy O’Connor was awarded a Léargas Language Learner of the Year Award at a ceremony at All Hallows College on September 26th, which was the tenth anniversary of the European Day of Languages. Four European Language Label Awards were presented to projects promoting language learning as well as four Language Learner of the Year Awards. The purpose of this award was to recognise outstanding achievement by individual language learners. Paddy was nominated by the Open Learning Centre.

Norway Revisited

Bergen, NorwayBack in March 2011 I wrote a post on Jo Nesbo, probably the best known and most widely read of the Norwegian crop of crime writers. Jo had been to Dublin, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Eason's bookshop where he was in conversation with leading Irish crime novelist John Connolly. Since then I have been meaning to revisit Norway (metaphorically speaking on this occasion, have been to Bergen, wonderful in the sun if you can get it!) and talk of some of the other, maybe less well known, Norwegian crime novelists. Then, on the 22 July, the horrendous attacks in Oslo and Utøya that left so many dead and injured, and which are said to have changed Norway forever. And it felt somehow wrong for a time after that to write at all about crime fiction and applaud the many wonderful writers and novels coming out of Europe in general, and Norway in particular. And the very incident itself I know, has impacted not alone on Norwegian society, but also on Norwegian crime writers, and it might be fair to say that their future writings will have the shadow of the Oslo/Utøya tragedy over them. In this regard you may want to read the article "How do you write crime fiction in the wake of a massacre?" that appeared in the Guardian in November 2011.

James Joyce Anniversary!

James Joyce(Reproduced with the permission of Dublin: One City One Book.)

Today, Thursday, 2nd February, is the 130th anniversary of the birth of James Joyce!

Arguably Ireland’s greatest literary genius and a leading proponent of modernism in fiction, James Joyce was born at 41 Brighton Square to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray, and spent his earliest years there and in Castlewood Avenue. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College and at Belvedere College before going on to University College Dublin (on St Stephen’s Green), where he studied modern languages.

Right: James Joyce. Image of Joyce reproduced from the original glass negative held in UCD Library Special Collections by kind permission of Helen Solterer. (click image to enlarge)

Joyce left Ireland with Nora Barnacle in 1904, and was to spend the rest of his life in Italy and France, paying his last visit to Ireland in 1912. Joyce died in Zurich on the 13th January, 1941, and is buried in Zurich's Fluntern Cemetery.

Joyce's collection of short stories, Dubliners, and the choice for Dublin: One City, One Book 2012, was first published in 1914 by Grant Richards Ltd., London.