Juliana Adelman Having already confessed my secret love of taxidermy I can recommend Amy Stein’s photography, which uses taxidermied animals to stage scenes, without fear. And I can admit that yes, my mother showed them to me! An interesting perspective on the increasing presence of wildlife in American cities and suburban areas. Continuing in the animal vein, an email list that I belong to circulated details of a radio programme on the raising of a chimpanzee as a child by a psychologist and his wife starting in the 1960s. This is absolutely amazing weirdness from so many angles. The programme was created by WNYC Radiolab, and part of it was aired on This American Life, my absolute favourite show which I sorely miss listening to on an actual radio.
Lisa-Marie Griffith During a session at the Dublin Writer’s Festival this summer one of the chairs said she believed fictional accounts of historical periods could bring us closer to an event then historical narratives. At the time I remembered feeling appalled at such a simplistic view of what historians do but considering the detail in some fiction like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall I have been thinking about this a lot more and I am becoming increasingly curious about fictional accounts of historical events. I have just finished Peter Carey‘s Parrot and Olivier in America, a ‘reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey’. The book is worth picking up for the beautiful cover alone, a french engraving from the early nineteenth century and featured above. I tutor American history and to my shame I have not yet read de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America so this has pushed me to finally open a copy. I am interested to see how Carey’s ‘imaginings’ of de Tocqueville fare when compared with the historical figure. I have added to my long list of reading for this month Alexis de Tocqueville; Prophet of democracy in the age of revolution by Hugh Brogan. If I manage all of this reading I hope to write a post on my observations. Perhaps though my curiosity of these books is because I am trying to justify my lost hours away from my own work… This brings me to my next recommendation- The Dublin Book Festival takes place in Dublin City Hall 6-8 March. There are some very interesting sessions but ones you may be especially interested in are ‘Rewriting Ireland’s rebel history’, ‘Possibilities, partnerships and publishing in the digital age’ ‘The Google Book Settlement- where to now?’.
Christina Morin This month, I’m really looking forward to finally making it to the Linen Hall Library’s current exhibition, Burns and Burnsiana. With an extensive Burns collection acquired from Andrew Gibson and Burns’ own great-granddaughter, Eliza Everitt, the Linen Hall Library is in a perfect position to highlight Burns’ life and literature. A major focal point of the exhibit will be a 1787 Belfast edition of Burns’ first collection – the first to be published outside of Scotland. The exhibition runs until 20 March. And, in keeping with Lisa’s Dublin Book Festival recommendation, I’m hoping to head to Dublin for 10-11 March for The Abbey Theatre’s Reading Yeats programme, which will present public readings of two of Yeats’ plays: Cathleen Ní Houlihan and On Baile’s Strand. On my way to Dublin, I might brush up on my Yeats with Terence Brown‘s much-lauded critical biography, The Life of W.B. Yeats.
Kevin O’Sullivan Every time I sit down to write these recommendations, one thing comes into my head without fail: the Jesse’s Diets sketch from The Fast Show. In that spirit, this month I have been mostly reading environmental history. In the aftermath of the big freeze (remember that?), I took to belatedly reading David Dickson’s brilliant Arctic Ireland: The Extraordinary Story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41. Which fitted rather nicely with another book I’ve been reading over the past few weeks: Sara Wheeler’s refreshingly unsentimental travelogue/history/geography of the peoples above the tree line, The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle. And, since I’ve been on a (not always kept) single-person crusade for the past fifteen years or so not to eat certain types of over-caught fish, I thought it rude not to pick up Mark Kurlansky’s fascinating Cod: A biography of the fish that changed the world when I saw it on sale in my friendly bookstore. Want to know how the Basques ‘discovered’ North America, why certain town names in England end in ‘-wich’ or the details of the Anglo-Icelandic cod wars? Read this book.
Tags: Alexis de Tocqueville, American History, David Dickson, Linen Hall, Peter Carey, Robbie Burns, Taxidermy, The Abbey Theatre, The Arctic, The Dublin book festival, This American life, W. B. Yeats