books & reading

Dublin Literary Award Winner Colum McCann Reading and Q&A

Colum McCannTo mark the occasion of Colum McCann winning the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with his book Let the Great World Spin, Pearse Street library played host to a reading by Colum McCann and a question and answer session between Niall MacMonagle and the author.

(Photo: Jason Clark Photography)

In this fascinating session Colum talks about his personal experience of 911, and how he chose to confront it obliquely in his writing, rather than head on as Roth and DeLillo chose to do. He discusses the process of developing and managing the many characters, voices and narrative strands of Let the Great World Spin.  The conversation then turns to the issues of identity and place and a familiar motif in Irish writing, the writer leaving home to live and write abroad.

Laos Coroner is Crafty Crime Solver

Colin CotterillLondon-born writer Colin Cotterill has lived and worked in various countries, but he has spent most of his latter years in either Thailand or Laos, and it is in the latter that his series of novels starring coroner Dr Siri Paiboun are based.

The first thing to say about this series is that humour is bountiful and makes this mystery series a joy to read. As the state coroner, and an unwilling one at that (the position being foisted upon him as he was about to retire, and being the country's only remaining doctor), he nonetheless is in the ideal situation to get involved in investigating curious deaths. Siri is in his early seventies, and though a communist and well connected, he has a rather sardonic view of his country's regime and the everyday effects of its societal changes.

Dublin Revealed: author readings in the Central Library

Paul Murray, Carlo Gébler, Kevin Barry Dublin City Public Libraries and Ireland Literature Exchange presented a series of talks and readings, 'Dublin Revealed' in the Central Library in May 2011. Three of these talks and readings are available to listen to here.

Right: Paul Murray, Carlo Gébler, Kevin Barry

Go Wild In The Country!

Who could ignore the sage advice of Bow Wow Wow? A rainy, muggy Summer Solstice day reminds me that books are one of the cheapest and most potent transportation devices we have. There are few better things in life than getting out into the open air. Work/life commitments means this happens less often than we would like. So grab a copy of one of these books, find your favourite chair, crack open your favourite tipple (a nice bottle of Summer Lightning or Old Peculiar maybe), and let your mind go a-wandering.  Altogether now: ‘Summer Is Icumen In!’…or maybe not….

Akenfield by Ronald Blythe Akenfield, Portrait Of An English Village by Ronald Blythe (1969)

Akenfield was a publishing sensation when it first appeared in 1969. The journalist Ronald Blythe compiled a series of interviews with a variety of farm labourers, blacksmiths, farmers, teachers, district nurses and other village folk from Sussex. Akenfield cut through any misty romanticism about rural life and showed a way of life that was often more about subsisting than anything else. An incredibly moving book, Akenfield reminds us just how hard some people had it.

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Winner 2011 Colum McCann

Colum McCann, award winner

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is the winner of the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The novel was chosen from a shortlist of 10, and a longlist of 162 books by 166 libraries  - representing 126 cities in 43 countries.

'New York, August 1974: a man is walking in the sky. Between the newly built Twin Towers, the man twirls through the air. Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other: Corrigan, a radical Irish monk working in the Bronx; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son; Lara, a drug-addled young artist; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the skyline of New York. In the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, these disparate lives will collide, and be transformed for ever.'

Colum McCann, born in Dublin, Ireland, is the author of five novels and two collections of stories. He has won numerous international literary awards. Zoli, Dancer and This Side of Brightness (published in the UK by Bloomsbury in July 2010) were international bestsellers and his fiction has been published in over thirty languages. He lives in New York

Carlo Gebler Transcript

Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part Two)

In my first post on Swedish crime fiction I focused on Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson, the two best known and most widely read Swedish authors. But of course they are but two from a lengthy list of talented crime authors emanating from that country; given its relatively small population (9m), Sweden must surely rank as the bastion of fiction crime writing. In this second post I want to draw your attention to four more authors I think worthy of your attention, so I hope you won't be disappointed!

Håkan Nesser

Inspector and Silance

After Larssen and Mankell, the next Swedish crime writer to come to mind is Håkan Nesser, a multiple award winner whose books have also been turned to film (you might get the DVDs on Amazon). Nesser's books are well written with good plots, and have for me proved absorbing reads. The principal character, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, might differ from most crime detectives you encounter; he likes good food, fine wines, owns an antique bookshop, and seems generally cheerful and untroubled. Top of my list is Borkmann's Point 5 star, where Van Veeteren assists in an investigation while on holiday. I can also highly recommend The Return 3.5 star (where he investigates a murder from his hospital bed); The Inspector and Silence 3.5 star (a girl goes missing from a religious sect and the inevitable body or two shows up); Woman with Birthmark 3 star (a woman seeks revenge following the death of her mother); and The Mind's Eye 2.5 star (dead woman with husband accused - guilty or not?). This last is the one I liked the least, but you may well disagree, I have read some reviews that rate it very highly.

Terry Pratchett

cover of Mort the Graphic NovelIn a moment of blink and you might miss it moment, Terry (or Professor Terry or Sir Terry or Sir Terence) Pratchett met the Queen when she met some of the Staff of Trinity College. (He is an adjunct professor in the Department of English) Irish resident Fantasy Author Diane Duane put the video up on her site.

I have read most of Terry Pratchett's books and enjoyed them mightily.  Though when I first met with them I didn't enjoy them as much and many people I know have said that they didn't like the first few either.  Many fans would suggest you try Mort.  There is quite a good suggested reading order.

May is Busy Month for Childrens Book People

October is the month for Children's Book Festival, and Christmas is the time most children's books are bought, but May is shaping up to be the busiest month in the calendar for people interested in books for children and young people - at least in Ireland - it's been a whirl of award ceremonies, book launches and 'talking heads' events and I've been lucky enough to attend many of them. I'm even getting used to seeing lollipops served alongside the wine - though I haven't tried that mixture yet!

It started with the announcement of the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards in the National Library on 16th - which I've already blogged about - congratulations again to Chris Haughton for winning the overall award with 'A Bit Lost' and to Sheena Wilkinson for receiving the Children's Choice award for her novel 'Taking Flight'. Sheena also gets the prettiest coat award for her lovely floral affair - sorry I don't have a picture!

Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part One)

Map of SwedenSwedish crime writing has always had a good reputation, and its popularity is greater now than ever, largely because of the movie and TV spin-offs which have served to highlight two writers in particular, namely Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. There are several others, but I will write a second post soon where I will focus on those other fabulous writers. There is just too much material for one post! So in this post I am going to concentrate on the two biggies, introducing you (as if I need to) to the books that give us those now famous characters, Liz Salander and Kurt Wallander.

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