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Buying a new book at the airport on your way to a beach holiday? Maybe not this year. The library is your next best port of call if you can’t make it to the beach. Organise a trip to the park for a lazy afternoon on a picnic blanket.
Whether you’re looking for something slightly spooky or downright horrifying, this diverse batch of beach reads has it all: YA psychological thrillers, unsettling supernatural mysteries, and page-turning whodunits.
Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses with Dublin City Libraries
2022 marks the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Considered to be one of the most important and influential novels ever written, this masterpiece of fiction follows Leopold Bloom as he makes his way around Dublin on 16th June 1904.
‘Put your pants on, Chief!’. Hollywood hates Hippies. Misogyny, sexual exploitation, violence against women and empty hedonism are synonymous with Hippies in films such as Skidoo (1968), Medium Cool (1969), Forrest Gump (1994) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). The apogee of vitriol towards the Hippy movement however, is Don Siegel’s Coogan’s Bluff (1968) - a maverick Sheriff's Deputy, Walt Coogan (Clint Eastwood) is sent to New York City to extradite convicted murderer Jimmy Ringerman (Don Stroud). New York is an appalling landscape of violence and disease, its denizens driven mad by America’ murderous foreign policies - a civilization lost, unloved, and uncared for.The maniacal violence of the Metropolis is manifested in the character of Ringerman - a Hippy cult leader deranged by LSD and corrupted by power. Using the ‘far out’ argot and symbolism of the counterculture, his Svengali power over his Hippy followers is absolute: his docile and obedient ‘family’ are weaponised to serve their master’s deviant urges. One year after the release of Coogan’s Bluff, the Manson Family carried out perhaps the most infamous, bizarre and perverted murders in Post-War American history. Siegel’s preternatural depiction of the manipulation of a susceptible corps of the bewildered by an evil and ambitious charlatan is the auteur’s diagnosis of a psychotic superpower, where violence begets violence.The seemingly ad-hoc and indiscriminate violence of the Hippie is at odds with the sectarian and laconic violence of Coogan. Eastwood’s character embodies the etiquette of the ‘Old West’, the individualism of justice where Coogan is judge, jury and executioner. The outsourcing of Justice to the private realm foreshadows Harry Callaghan in Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971) - the Criminal Justice system that fails to protect women and the most vulnerable leads Callaghan to vigilantism to exterminate the child murderer Scorpio (Andrew Robinson).There is a distinct political ambiguity in Siegel’s canon of work: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is seen as both a parable of the dangers of Soviet style Communism and a critique of Red Scare McCarthyism; Coogan’s Bluff and Dirty Harry are casually portrayed as a ballad to the facistic values of the unreconstructed American cop, or are Coogan and Callaghan the sword and the shield of the weak and vulnerable in a dystopian United States of America?Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Coogan’s Bluff, and Dirty Harry, are available to borrow on DVD from Dublin City Libraries. Submitted by Tom in Drumcondra Library.
‘The book is better’ is a well rehearsed librarian’s film review. Well usually the book is better, but in this case, ‘Jaws’ is the original summer block busting film and a watershed (pardon the pun) in cinema history. You can’t turn on the television these days without ‘Jaws’ or the sequels being screened on one station or another. Everybody can quote the lines, wear the t-shirt, and play the theme tune on the piano. But what of the book from which it originated?To some extent the success of the film resulted in the book being eclipsed and latterly somewhat dismissed. But the novel sold 5.5 million copies in USA by the time the film was even released. Written by Peter Benchley, published in February 1974, ‘Jaws’ spent 44 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The film rights to the book were bought before it was even published, with the film directed by Steven Spielberg shot and released shortly after in June 1975. So it’s got to be worth a read right?FilmThe characters are recognisable from the film, but differ in many regards. Similarly the story varies on major areas of plotline, not least who survives to tell the tale, and the fate of the fish. The story is pretty much akin to the film - a great white shark is dining on bathers off the coast of Amity a seaside resort town, Long Island, New York.The local police chief tries to temporarily close the beaches to keep bathers from harm, and figure a way to deal with the shark. He finds there are more slippery fish to deal with on land than the one in the water. Particularly in wrangling corrupt Mayor Vaughan and his selectmen who want to retain those tourist dollars and keep the beaches open for financial health of Amity.The chief must hire Quint and Hooper’s expertise, leave his wife and kids, and take to the seas to deal with his community’s pest control issues. So far so familiar, but there are key differences which make this an edgier take than the film, and may for some, be unpalatable.Chief Martin Brody born and bred in Amity is a blue collar cop, wary of the well healed out of towners who invade the island every summer. He is a man of duty and pragmatism in service to his community. Quite a lot of the films lighter moments are channelled through Spielberg’s chief Brody. But Benchley’s Brody is sullen; he wears his working class roots in earnest, his police stripes with great pride, and his authority with dedication. Benchley’s Brody is wracked with self doubt and insecurities about his worth and potency. He is driven by a will to prove his value and protect those around him.BookBook version Ellen Brody is a different fish to the film version Ellen Brody. Benchley’s Ellen Body is to an extent a trophy wife. She’s a step up for Brody from his own people. She’s missing her life before marriage and children. She fears she settled for Martin Brody. Her need to feel vital sees her turn sexual predator, her flirtations leading to subsequent infidelity that will either drive her away from or back into her husband’s arms. She’s not the Spielbergian archetypical Mom and certainly won’t be offering anyone coffee ice-cream.Mayor Larry Vaughan is willing to sacrifice consumers to keep beaches and business open. Exploiting the coastal environment in which he exists, he maintains devotion to the almighty dollar. Benchley doesn’t give Vaughan a moment of humanity – he’s not a crazy anchor motifed suit wearing caricature. There is no ‘My kids were on that beach too’ moment of redemption here. Vaughan is the villain. In fact it transpires in the book Vaughan is actually protecting a real estate deal with mafia investment. To Mayor Vaughan the shark is an economic problem, not a public health issue. Benchley’s Mayor Larry Vaughan is the manifestation of rogue materialism. Vaughan eventually cuts his losses and does a runner.Ichthyologist Matt Hooper is a charmless man. He is a rich graduate, slick, egotistical and unlikable. He is a man of science, but conversely not a man of reason. Potentially he may be able to control nature, but as we see he cannot even curb his own desires. His dalliance with another man’s wife, in satisfying his lust and realising his blinkered selfish will, is a harbinger of wherein lies his fate. His scientific equipment and college earned education are all there is between him and the shark. There is no bottle of red and white wine, this Hooper doesn’t care about anyone except himself.Quint is a professional shark hunter the skipper on a small vessel called the Orca. Quint is the indigenous sage. He knows things about his local environment. He has learned through experience not books. Quint though is driven by his will to conquer and master all he surveys. He uses instinct and brute force. Quint in the book is particularly cruel and nihilistic- a harpoon too far in the books case. (I have to say at this point that Robert Shaw’s ‘Indianapolis Speech’ is the best scene in ‘Jaws’ bar none, maybe even the best film monologue ever. ‘So eleven hundred men went in the water, 316 men came out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb’. But Benchley didn’t write it).The shark is dispassionate, a cold eyed monster, with no anthropomorphic traits, its motivation is pure survival. The shark can be read as anti-capitalist allegory, the shark as a basic threat to profit that must be eradicated. Or the shark may represent the unpredictable force/ mans primal fear of nature. Or some sort of castration symbolism and comment on modern manhood. Or whatever you’re having with your chips and mushy peas. The shark in the book ‘Jaws’ doesn’t have the same fate as the film.The shark hunting in the book is a matter of livelihood, and prestige. The relationship between the men on the Orca is tense and terse – ego reigns. They do not get along and seem to really hate each other. There is no bonhomie, no joining together. They are all motivated by separate drives. If they just put aside ego and operated as a collective, for the greater good, they might stand a better chance of survival. But with this individualism - who lives, who dies is unpredictable – can they redeem themselves?Book versus filmSo why bother with the book if the film is so good? Well the book is a solid page turner and a great summer read. It is a rawer take on all scores than the film. ‘Jaws’ can be read in COVID-19 days as a teaching on the pandemic, the economy, on political mistrust. A basic indiscriminate force of nature threatens death upon a society already beset by problems. Politicians protect the economy ahead of public health. Business as usual reigns in the hopes the contagion will kill only a few in its lifetime and burn itself out.Alright it may be regarded as a dime store read but it actually has a literary lineage. ‘Jaws’ greatly resembles Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘An Enemy of the People’ in which the mayor of a small spa town copes with a water contamination that might drive away the tourists and the town’s chance of survival. The comparisons to Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ too are inevitable, with the pursuit at all costs of a large fish. And it’s not so far-fetched as you’d imagine either - the book is reminiscent of the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, where fatalities numbered 4, and 1 seriously injured by a bull shark.‘What had once seemed shallow and tedious now loomed in memory like paradise’, Peter Benchley.Submitted by Sleeve Notes Drumcondra Library.
“Bloomsday,” is thought to be the day that he had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle and is named after one of the protagonists from Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. By the time Nora Barnacle and Joyce finally married in 1931, they had lived together for 27 years, traveled the continent and had two children. The couple first met in Dublin in 1904 when Joyce struck up a conversation with her near the hotel where Nora worked as a chambermaid. She initially mistook him for a Swedish sailor because of his blue eyes and the yachting cap he wore that day, and he charmed her so much that they set a date for June 14 but she didn’t show. He then wrote her a letter, saying, “I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me—if you have not forgotten me!”. This led to their first date, which supposedly took place on June 16, 1904. One of Joyce’s signed erotic letters to Nora fetched a record £240,800 ($446,422) at a London auction in 2004.Movie TheatreThere are about 400 movie theaters in Ireland today, but they trace their history back to 1909, when Joyce helped open the Volta Cinematograph, which is considered “the first full-time, continuous, dedicated cinema” in Ireland. More a money-making scheme than a product of a love of cinema, Joyce first got the idea when he was having trouble getting Dubliners published and noticed the abundance of cinemas while living in Trieste. When his sister, Eva, told him Ireland didn’t have any movie theaters, Joyce joined up with four Italian investors (he’d get 10 percent of the profits) to open up the Volta on Dublin’s Mary Street. The venture fizzled as quickly as Joyce’s involvement. After not attracting audiences due to mostly showing only Italian and European movies unpopular with everyday Dubliners, Joyce cut his losses and pulled out of the venture after only seven months. The cinema itself didn’t close until 1919, during the time Joyce was hard at work on Ulysses. (It reopened with a different name in 1921 and didn’t fully close until 1948.)Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, and was later a frequent companion among the bars of Paris with writers like Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud. Hemingway recalled the Irish writer would start to get into drunken fights and leave Hemingway to deal with the consequences. "Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you're drinking," Hemingway said, "Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline—his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban. 'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'"Shakespeare and CompanyJoyce began writing Ulysses in 1914, and by 1918 he had begun serializing the novel in the American magazine Little Review with the help of poet Ezra Pound.But by 1921, Little Review was in financial trouble. The published version of Episode 13 of Ulysses, “Nausicaa,” resulted in a costly obscenity lawsuit against its publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and the book was banned in the United States. Joyce appealed to different publishers for help including Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press but none agreed to take on a project with such legal implications (and in Virginia Woolf’s case, length), no matter how supposedly groundbreaking it was. Joyce, then based in Paris, made friends with Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a gathering hub for the post-war expatriate creative community. In her autobiography, Beach wrote: All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.
Two classic post-war novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre and The Human Factor by Graham Greene and two contrasting judgments of the British establishment’s nemesis, Kim Philby. Suave, sophisticated, and a Soviet spy: Philby was hero-worshipped by his contemporaries in the pubs and clubs frequented by the British Intelligence Service and the ‘Old Boy’s Network’.The betrayal of the British ruling class, the class that had once ruled an Empire was most keenly felt by his friends to such an extent that they refused to believe him to be a traitor even after Philby tipped off Burgess and Maclean that they’d been rumbled (the more petit bourgeois MI5 believed he was a traitor in 1951). Despite all the evidence, Philby remained in situ within the Intelligence Service where his effortless charm and perfect Establishment credentials laid bare the dogmatic Imperial assumptions that bedevilled the British ruling classes and its new geo-political role. Explanations regarding Philby’s betrayal can be divided into two camps: the first and more prevailing view is that Philby’s treachery was borne from selfishness - Philby enjoyed the thrill of playing both sides - spying as sport. The second view is that Philby was a committed Marxist-Leninist and was exercising politically sound praxis - his was an honourable act.It is the sense of Philby’s selfishness that informs John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy (1974). The novel’s main protagonist, George Smiley is summoned back to ‘The Circus’ to root out a Soviet spy lurking at the heart of the British Establishment. Smiley is the opposite of Philby in almost every sense. Whereas Philby was clubbable, Smiley is shy and introverted - Philby was dashing and handsome, Smiley is donnish, cuckolded, small and fat. The traitor, ‘Gerald the Mole’ is portrayed as prideful and arrogant, an opportunist whose treatment of friends is the opposite of the mores of a ‘British gentleman’. Le Carre’s view of Philby is well documented - he considered him to be traitor and a murderer, a loathsome creature- the antithesis of the compassionate and reserved George Smiley, the true ‘British Gentleman’.Philby’s double-life can be seen in Graham Greene’s own cleaved ideology: at once he was England’s most famous converted Catholic (until Tony Blair) at another he was a Communist sympathiser. This duality of conscience and ideologies perhaps imbues Greene’s The Human Factor (1979) with a more empathetic view of Philby’s perceived treason. The great betrayal in Greene’s novel lies with less with Maurice Castle’s ‘honourable’ spying on the Soviet Union’s behalf but in the British Establishment’s covert support of the South African apartheid regime. Castle longs for retirement and the quiet life, however his antipathy for the racist policies and Afikaner Nationalism of the South African government lead the novel’s protagonist to a principled and moral judgement to betray the British establishment.Greene, who was an acquaintance of Philby’s and wrote the foreword to Philby’s autobiography My Silent War questions the moral certainties associated with treason. Consider Sir Robert Casement: to many he was in the vanguard of fighting to bring to heel the wickedness British Imperialism, to others he was a traitor who stabbed his country in the back at the time of its gravest need. A square in the Yasnevo district in Moscow was renamed in Kim Philby’s honour in 2018, close to the old KGB headquarters.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.Submitted by Tom in Drumcondra Library.
Charles Dickens, one of the most popular and accessible novelists died 150 years ago in June 1870. His novels are still popular and they have been adapted for television and cinema. They have been turned into popular musicals on stage and screen. Many novelists have acknowledged his influence and expressed admiration for his novels.At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory by his affectionate but feckless parents. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. When he died, the world mourned, and he was buried - against his wishes - in Westminster Abbey. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children.Dickens created an array of memorable characters - Miss Havisham dressed in her wedding finery every day since she was jilted at the altar in Great Expectations. The contrasting characters Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. In David Copperfield, the novel he described as his favorite child, Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. One of the most swiftly moving and unified of Charles Dickens’s great novels, Oliver Twist is also famous for its re-creation through the splendidly realized figures of Fagin, Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and the evil Bill Sikes of the vast London underworld of pickpockets, thieves, prostitutes, and abandoned children. Victorian critics took Dickens to task for rendering this world in such a compelling, believable way, but readers over the last 150 years have delivered an alternative judgment by making this story of the orphaned Oliver Twist one of its author’s most loved works.His novels were originally published in instalments in weekly or monthly magazines. This is the reason there are some dramatic “cliffhanger” scenes which made the reader want to know what happened in the next instalment. This helps to make them “pageturners” for modern readers. (It also allowed Dickens to get feedback from his readers about what they thought of his stories and characters before he had finished his novel!)There are 24 ebook and eaudiobook copies of Dickens’ novels available on Borrowbox and you will also find there an excellent biography of the author by Claire Tomalin.Claire Tomalin is the award-winning author of eight highly acclaimed biographies, including: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft; Shelley and His World; Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life; The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens; Mrs Jordan's Profession; Jane Austen: A Life; Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self; Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man and, most recently, Charles Dickens: A Life. A former literary editor of the New Statesman and the Sunday Times, she is married to the playwright and novelist Michael Frayn.Submitted by Philip in Finglas Library.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.