Monthly Archives: March 2012

Die a Little (eBook of the month)

eAudiobooks – digital books you listen to, either on a computer or a portable listening device – are becoming increasingly popular and easily available in  libraries. My local public library has a selection of ‘classics, new releases, nonfiction and bestsellers’ and since I’ve always been a fan of books that I can listen to when I’m stuck with mindless tasks (i.e.  any kind of housework), I borrow as many of them as I can.

Writers’ Week revived my enthusiasm for Megan Abbott’s work: classic crime noir by a modern author.

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Filed under Book reviews, eBooks, iPads & other technologies

The Away-Bound Train: writers on place

The curious title of this Writers Week event comes from a poem by Les Murray, one of the speakers at the session.  I say ‘speaker’ but could just as easily have said ‘reader’, as each of the four authors (Caryl Phillips, Alan Hollinghurst and Dionne Brand as well as Murray) began by reading from their own work. Australian author Peter Goldsworthy hosted this panel of novelists and poets as they revealed the importance of ‘place’ in their writing.

The contrast in these writers’ chosen settings was intense. Murray spoke of the Australian countryside, of ‘horse-dung roads’, upland farms and wind-blown paddocks; Alan Hollinghurst read from The Swimming Pool Library, describing ‘broad Georgian streets’ and market squares in a small Dorsetshire town.  Caryl Phillips chose to read one of his non-fiction pieces, a disturbing account of the ‘communal trauma’ of the days following 9/11, as New Yorkers dealt with their shock and grief in the face of ‘that huge gap’ in the city skyline. Dionne Brand read from her book-length poem Ossuaries, a work of extraordinarily rich vocabulary that I can’t wait to read in full.

Definitely a good evening! and the work of all of these authors is available in the Barr Smith Library. What would we do without libraries?

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Where in the world?

In our own Mad March of festivals and events, it’s interesting to look at what’s happening in other parts of the world. Literary festivals have become increasingly popular, drawing crowds of enthusiastic readers – perhaps this is something to point out to the doom-and-gloom sayers who seem to relish predicting the death of the book? Perth’s festival, held at the University of Western Australia, preceded ours and the Sydney Writers’ Festival will be held in May. You can listen to a range of podcasts from Melbourne’s most recent writers’ festival, with topics ranging from ‘Life stories in the Age of Terror’ to ‘The Twenty-Second Century Bookshop’.

Literary Festivals UK lists dozens of writers’ festivals, which makes me wonder if British authors ever get time to stay at home and write. The cream of this crop seems to be the week-long Oxford Literary Festival, which boasts writers like Vikram Seth, Peter Carey, Anne Tyler and David Hare.  The programme also includes creative writing workshops, walks around ‘literary Oxford’, chocolate and coffee tastings and a festival dinner called ‘Alice’s Banquet in Wonderland’.

I’m just trying to work out how to get on a plane and be in the UK by March 23rd..

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

The most popular Saint’s day in the world, celebrated in the most surprising places,  can be enjoyed in many ways. Like all of us, I have friends who will be keen to do the ‘green beer’ thing (though no one does this quite as enthusiastically as Dubliners) – my preference is for lots of luscious Baileys, both in cocktails and chocolates!

Being a Reading Woman, I will (of course) accompany these treats with some Irish lit.  The problem is  knowing where to start. Ireland is well-known for its writers, having in its ranks such famous and controversial figures as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Women writers include Elizabeth Bowen, Edna O’Brien and Jennifer Johnston; contemporary male writers include Sebastian Barry, Colm Toibin and John Banville (the latter is perennially tipped to win the Nobel Prize.)

Decisions, decisions…and any recommendations to help me make up my mind will be gratefully received…



Mad men and angry women

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?

The opening line of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous tale, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ , takes the form of a question to which there is no answer. The narrator so evidently is mad; Continue reading

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A Murder Solved (Library of the Month)

Libraries and archives are like cousins: we belong to  the same family, we look like one another and we have a lot in common. March’s ‘Library of the Month’ is an archive in Britain, London’s  National Archives  – and an author recently used material stored here to solve a seventy-five year old crime.

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Filed under Book reviews, Libraries

The Top 10: Writers for International Women’s Day

Ten brilliant women  who challenged the status quo and changed our world: a literary selection.

Murasaki Shikibu  (c973- ?) Imperial lady-in-waiting at the Japanese court during the Heian period and author of the world’s first ‘novel’, the scandalous and intriguing Tale of Genji.

Aphra Behn (1640-1689) Said to be the first English woman to succeed as a professional writer. Poet, novelist and dramatist: definitely gave her male contemporaries a run for their money when it came to being frank about the joy of sex.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Needs no introduction as the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1790) Continue reading