Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Recommendation 4 : Love and Summer

Old Columban William Trevor's first novel since The Story of Lucy Gault seven years ago is on this year's Man Booker Prize longlist. Love and Summer starts On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye: from Number 4 The Square to Magennis Street, into Hurley Lane, along Irish Street, across Cloughjordan Road to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Her night was spent there.

That opening is almost deliberately downbeat and un-interesting, but it turns out to be a gentle tease, and also to hit on two of the driving ideas of the book, and indeed of all Trevor's work: place and time. As with so many of Trevor's novels, individuals struggle to fulfil themselves in the stultifying environments; in the new book, farmer's wife Ellie is a particularly tragic figure, and her sympathetically-drawn husband could come from McGahern or Kavanagh.

Love and Summer shares many of the preoccupations of Lucy Gault, which we're studying for next year's Leaving Certificate, but unlike the earlier novel it's more tightly focussed in time and place, staying in Rathmoye over the course of that summer and not attempting Lucy Gault's great reach. And while Lucy Gault slowly dies away in images of forgiveness and calm, Love and Summer leaves its characters - and us - in raw abandonment.

The book is just 212 pages long, but in its emotional wisdom, narrative drive, structural elegance and beautiful prose it's far bigger in every way than most modern fiction.

You can read the start of the novel on the Irish Times site here. Sebastian Barry's review in the Guardian is here, in which he points out that Trevor is a writer, writing like a sculptor, in that he creates a mass of material and then happily, passionately, brilliantly takes away, takes away, swirl of sentence by swirl of sentence.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tubridy Show

Departmental colleague Evan Jameson was on RTE Radio 1's Tubridy Show this morning, as part of a discussion about book clubs (he represented that rare breed in book clubs, men). Among the books he discussed were Philip Roth's I Married a Communist, Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, and Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man.

Listen again here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Many thanks to Adrian Weckler, tech editor of the Sunday Business Post, for his kind complimentary remarks on Twitter recently about this site and our podcasts in particular.

Wordle posters

We've used Wordle quite a bit over the last year. The UK-based Teachit ('English Teaching Online') is now selling ten posters for classrooms created using Wordle :

The featured texts are Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Frankenstein, Holes, Sylvia Plath’s ‘Metaphors’, Of Mice and Men, John Agard’s ‘Poetry Jump-Up’, Romeo and Juliet, Skellig, The Crucible and Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’. We’ve also given each Wordle-produced design a few tweaks, so that our posters capture something in the mood of each text.

Buy from Teachit here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Leaving Certificate results 2009

Many congratulations to our recent leavers, who achieved outstanding results in the Leaving Certificate results released last week. The overall points average was 445, the highest in the history of the College (full details are on the College site here).

The English results again maintained our very high standards, with 97% of our candidates taking the exam at Higher Level (nationally, 64% do) :-
  • 14% of all our candidates achieved an A at Higher Level (nationally, 6.6% of all candidates achieve this).
  • 31% achieved a B (nationally, 17.4%).
  • 46% achieved a C (nationally, 24.9%).
These results are almost identical to last year's fine performances, with 91% getting an A, B or C at Higher Level (90% last year), compared to 49% nationally.

See previous results by clicking on the years for 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oscar Wilde's Grave

Another in our occasional series about visits to the graves of famous authors (previously- Hopkins, Keats). Recently Ronan Swift spent a weekend in Paris, and writes :-

Perhaps an impending trip to Paris was what made me include Oscar Wilde's De Profundis into my summer books list, but I don't think there was a conscious link. Maybe I desired an encounter with the memory of my idealistic, youthful self who first engaged with this arresting work some seventeen years ago. Above all I suppose I wanted to be moved by beautiful language, intensity of feeling and as the title suggests, something profound.

The re-visit hasn't been disappointing. The bare historical facts (of course from Oscar's side of the story) of his relationship with 'Bosie', or rather the portrait Wilde produces of the destructiveness of the friendship, is harrowing. His propensity to forgive is admirable. The determination to find hope, joy and further artistic achievement in the future beyond his imprisonment is inspiring but of course deeply saddening when we know from our perspective how those dreams were never properly realised.

It all amounts to a transformation from being a man who symbolised the quest for pleasure in material things and the delights of frivolity to one who finds all his consolations in spiritual values. Reading his words, hearing his voice as he outlines his new-found value system is both intriguing and instructive.
When my friend Oliver heard I was visiting Paris this weekend that has just passed he insisted I use his empty appartment. When he mentioned that it was one minute's walk from Pere Lachaise cemetery I had to accept.

Youthful...idealistic...back-twinged...bald: it was time to pay my respects in person to one of Ireland's greatest and most poignant lives in letters.

The full text of De Profundis is here.