Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Standing by its own Worth: Amory’s The Life of John Buncle

23 November 2011

Contributed by Eoghan Smith

The Life of John Buncle, Esq, by Thomas Amory, and edited here by Moyra Haslett, is to the modern reader a remarkable book. Although not as famous as Irish eighteenth-century novels such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, it is nonetheless a brilliantly eclectic offering of Enlightenment possibility, and, in its eccentricity, an exemplary piece of eighteenth-century fiction. Before Ezra Pound tricked the world into believing that it was twentieth-century modernism that was “making it new”, there were novelists such as Amory, whose range of styles, experimentalism and literary reference – to the point of whole-scale plagiarism – points to the great formless democracy that is the early novel.

The book is a carnival of voices, registers and media – aptly described in the introduction here as “by turns that of pastoral, sermon, romance, learned disquisition, theological debate, experimental science, poetry, travelogue, eulogy and prayer”. A sort of journey through the consciousness of the mid-eighteenth century, the novel is ostensibly a memoir of one John Buncle, who, after leaving Trinity College and becoming alienated from his father and exiled from home, travels to England to seek out a friend with whom he can live. Along the way we are treated to Buncle’s extravagantly unusual encounters with, among other things, a woman-only society of mathematicians, and a range of religious communities through which Amory advances what Haslett describes as “Whig, libertarian politics”. (more…)

Game-changing histories – tell us yours

14 November 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I have a serious question for you. You know those texts – books, articles, chapters, whatever – that changed your history world? The ones that gave your work a little jolt, that changed your whole approach to how you read and understand the past. What are they?

Because here’s the thing. And it’s ok to admit it. You know that pile of books that sits beside the historian’s bed? The ones you just had to have; all that you couldn’t leave behind. Well look closer. Notice anything? There are way too many non-fiction books for one. But look deeper again and you’ll uncover a less talked about but no less visible trend. Most historians will read anything as long as it’s not related to what they study.

Don’t believe me? Fair enough. Surely, you say, these individuals, so lucky in the first instance to get paid to do what they love doing, are so enamored by their subjects that they love nothing better than to wile away an evening keeping up to date with the latest scholarship from their chosen field. Well here’s the thing: they don’t. Read More

Revolution: A Photographic history of Revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923

9 November 2011

Contributed by Orla Fitzpatrick

This new book covers a period that is particularly fascinating, albeit somewhat confusing, for photographic historians.  The Irish revolutionary period offers a rich photographic archive.  Portraits range from official mugshots held in government archives to family portraits commissioned from commercial photographic studios. Snapshots taken by onlookers and documentary images captured by press photographers offer powerful depictions of armed combat and its aftermath. All of these could be and were manipulated and circulated for the purpose of propaganda or indeed suppressed or hidden by the various sides. The chaos which prevailed at certain times during the period scattered photographs far and wide and has left a bewildering array of personal and private collections which both excite and perplex the researcher and historian of the period.

The matter of provenance can be challenging for such a disparate group of photographs. Prints can be held simultaneously by multiple institutions and individuals. Generally speaking, the holder of the negative, if it exists, takes primacy over the print owner although many have been lost over the years. The further you move away from the original source negative the poorer the image quality becomes, so that second, third and even later generation prints can lose definition and clarity. For these reasons, when conducting photographic research, I tend to use photographs where the negatives or original prints are held by public institutions.  The assignation of a verifiable number to each image and clear provenance and copyright for the collection make them more accessible and usable than those held by private companies and individuals.

Revolution: a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923 covers the period leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916; the War of Independence and the Civil War and its aftermath. Read More

The Metaphysical Angst of Publishing

2 November 2011

By Christina Morin

The recent publication of my book has been an extremely exhilarating but also unexpectedly heart-wrenching experience. Back when I finished my PhD, I remember joking with people about how I was suffering from post-PhD blues, but I never expected such a thing to happen upon completion of my monograph. It’s not exactly that I didn’t have anything to occupy me after finishing the manuscript. Precisely the opposite actually… I was already working on a new project and was so focused on the demands of my new research that I had little enough time to mourn the passing of the old. Whereas the submission of my PhD was followed by a bewildering aimlessness caused by the sudden loss of that which had occupied the majority of my time for the previous four and half years, therefore, the monograph left my hands with a sigh of relief and the recognition that now I could turn my attention to looming deadlines and articles promised long ago. And, where I worried about my thesis being ripped to shreds by heartless examiners upon completion of my PhD, I didn’t give much thought to the emotional angst that might accompany the publication of my monograph.

In this state of blithe emotional stupidity, I was struck with the vehemence with which post-publication anxiety took hold of me. Whereas pre-publication I was able to comfort myself with the thought of peer-review processes and other such evaluation techniques by which my manuscript had been found a valid and even valuable addition to current literary criticism, all such ability left me in the immediate aftermath of publication itself. Read more

Why do we love books so much anyway?

19 September 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I’m in the midst of a move at the moment – to the University of Birmingham – which means that I’m going through that thing that we all dread: sorting out my books. The ‘what to bring’ pile must, of course, end up smaller than the ‘what to put in storage pile’, but never seems to get any lower than the ‘I’ll definitely need this at some point in the next two years’ pile. It’s a fascinating but painful process, trying to figure out what’s worth taking, what could be, and what should be boxed, quite possibly never to see the light of day again.

I’d barely begun yesterday afternoon when the questions came. (Well, actually, the match came first, but why let one fascinating story get in the way of another.) Why is there so little fiction? Should I give this back or are the seven years since I borrowed it enough for squatter’s rights? The questions were followed by fascination: where did this come from? Is this even mine? And then of course came the guilt: why did I buy this if I was never going to read it? And, indeed, should I put it into the to-read pile now?  Read More

Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

19 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

This week I have been reading James Kelly & Martyn Powell (ed) Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts, 2010). The image attached is of the Limerick Hellfire Club and was painted by James Worsdale. I did not know until reading David Ryan’s excellent article on the Dublin Hellfire Club that the painter of this fantastic image also painted both the Dublin and the London Hellfire Clubs earlier.  Although David Ryan says that Worsdale held a ‘limited artistic ability’ I love this painting. Ryan says that Worsdale ‘demonstrated a knack for obtaining lucrative commissions. Over the course of his career his subjects included George II, Princess Louisa and Mary, William, duke of Devonshire, and the duchess of Newcastle.’ The image of the Dublin Hellfire Club, which is held in the National Gallery, is the image used on the cover of Kelly and Powell’s book while the painting of Limerick Hellfire Club (above) has also been used recently for David Fleming’s book, Politics and Provincial People: Sligo and Limerick 1691-1761 (Manchester University Press, 2010). Both paintings are interesting in that they put a face to elite clubs in eighteenth century Ireland but I find this one in particularly because it includes a woman.

Second-hand bookshops: my latest discovery

15 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Like most of our readers I imagine, I love second-hand bookshops especially ones where you are guaranteed a good find and a bargain. I came across a fantastic second-hand bookshop recently while in Midleton, Co. Cork visiting family. It is a particularly well-stocked St Vincent de Paul book shop just off the main street in Midleton on Connolly Street and you can find a map here. Every book is 1 euro with the exception of children’s books which are 50 ce. That said I walked away with so many books the very friendly shopkeeper gave me the book I had purchased for my three-year-old niece for free! Apart from a mermaid book for her, I picked up 3 John Le Carre books (I am becoming a bit obsessed), Diarmaid MacCulloch’s, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, Sebastian Faulk’s, Birdsong, Ed Moloney’s A Secret History of the IRA and John MacGahern’s, That they May Face the Rising Sun. They have a good selection of history books (particularly for a charity shop) and shelves of good fiction. Some more books to stuff on to my already packed bookshelves!

Gulliver’s Marathon

2 July 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

During the Dublin Writer’s Festival I met the illustrator Chris Riddell, beloved children’s author, illustrator and political cartoonist. He was speaking with Paul Stewart to some school groups about how a children’s book is written and published. They had a fantastic way of engaging with their audience. It was only after the event while looking through his books that I realised he had illustrated a beautiful version of Gulliver’s Travels which I have on my shelf at home. I had purchased it to give it to a niece as a gift but it has never made its way out of my own collection, but considering the above cover who can blame me? The illustrations are really superb. Although I can’t make it I was delighted to hear that there is a marathon reading of Gulliver’s Travels being undertaken this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) for charity as part of the Trim Swift Festival. They are looking for readers, 5 euro allows you to read for 10 minutes with all proceeds going to Aware. They are looking for an audience too and readings take place in Suzuki Swift in Trim. It sounds like good fun!You can get more details here.

Review: Children’s Fiction 1765-1808, ed. Anne Markey

20 June 2011

Contributed by Pádraic Whyte

This title from the Early Irish Fiction series presents us with a selection of children’s stories published between 1765 and 1808. With an excellent introduction by editor Anne Markey, the book includes three tales: John Carey’s Learning Better than House and Land; Lady Mount Cashell’s Stories of Old Daniel; or, Tales of Wonder and Delight and various versions of Henry Brooke’s fable of the three little fishes from The Fool of Quality; or, The History of Henry, Earl of Moreland. This is an extremely timely and important publication as it makes a valuable contribution to studies in Irish children’s literature and, in turn, to studies in eighteenth century Irish literature more generally.

The selected writings from these three authors offer an insight into the varying ways in which much literature of the period was engaged in the struggle for young people’s minds, particularly in terms of the construction of narrative voice for the child reader. John Carey’s tale follows the lives and differing experiences of two young boys, Dick and Harry (yes, there’s also a father called Thomas) and demonstrates in no uncertain terms that diligence, hard work, and goodness will be rewarded. However, not trusting that the child reader will fully understand the moral, Carey places a note at the end, just to reiterate the point. Read more

Dublin UNESCO City of Literature- one year on

4 May 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

  Last week Dublin City Council launched the festival programme for this the Dublin Writer’s Festival 2011. A quick look at the schedule shows that this year’s festival, which takes place 23-29 May, is bigger, brighter and more ambitious than ever before. The festival will include some of Ireland’s finest writer’s including Anne Enright, Dermot Healy, Roddy Doyle, Colm Tobin, John Boyne and Seamus Heaney (I could go on).  The International lineup is also excellent and includes Michal Palin, Paul Theoroux, Paul Harding (Pulitzer winner for Fiction 2010) and Czeslaw Milosz (a Nobel laureate)There will even be a link up with other UNESCO literary cities by a live link-up. The festival will be covered by Sky Arts.

So the festival is maturing and growing up. Quite naturally of course considering that Dublin became a UNESCO City of Literature nearly one year ago (26 July 2010).  This was greeted with great enthusiasm as it has the potential of show-casing further Ireland’s literary talent, encouraging the arts and of course it might bring in a few more tourists! So a year on how is the city faring with its new title? Well on the surface things look good. Read more