Friday, July 30, 2010

The Gutter Bookshop

It's a good time to wander around the city drinking coffee and hanging out in good bookshops, so here's the first of some occasional posts about independent and 'small' bookshops in Dublin. It's not an easy time for such shops, competing with internet sellers and the gathering success of e-books (the coming new Kindle looks as if it might be a big seller), and we'd like to highlight some of the best 'local' shops.

The Gutter Bookshop opened last November, but we've only just visited. It's in Cow's Lane in Dublin city centre, and you might be thinking ... cows, gutters ... doesn't sound very attractive, but actually it's a delight (the name coming from Oscar Wilde's famous epigram 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars'). Attractively designed on a corner site, with plenty of airy space behind big windows, it features excellently presented shelves and a lovely grey floor (covered with mock grass in the children's area).

Most importantly: the book selection is excellent. Pictured is the staff recommendation section, among which we spotted some books which we've reviewed here, such as Helen Garner's emotionally tough short novel The Spare Room (also in our own summer recommendation list) and Joshua Ferris's second person plural comic novel Then We Came to the End. The teen fiction section is smallish but again well-chosen.

One sign of a good bookshop is discovering an interesting and unusual book: in New Books was The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, about his inheritance of Japanese netsuke and their history (hear him in a recent Guardian podcast). We headed off with a copy of Adam Foulds's The Quickening Maze (about the poet John Clare), and across the way to the delicious Queen of Tarts to start reading...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Reading Recommendation 2: 'Keeper'

Keeper, by Andrea Gillies isn't exactly a comfortable 'summer read', as its subtitle tells you: Living with Nancy: a journey into Alzheimer's. However, if you want to go on a journey through a very powerful, important and beautifully written book, do read it. Last year it won the first Wellcome Trust Book Prize. For a four-minute audio review, click the Audioboo player below.

Read an article by Gillies in the Guardian here.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Audioboo app

No 5 in a series of reviews of iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps useful for English literature and language learning and teaching.

Audioboo is a very neat service that enables you to make short recordings on your iPhone (and via the web) and then post them. We've tried this out with a couple of 'Boo's already - on our summer reading list, and on a new Simon Mawer novel. The app (and indeed the service itself) is free, and very easy to use (go to Audioboo to download it via iTunes). The 5-minute limit imposes a good discipline, and the recording can be done 'on the hoof', unlike longer and more formal podcasts.

So below, appropriately, is a two-minute description via the Audioboo player, including some quick suggestions on how English teachers might use the service. Thanks to James Michie for the original tip.

Saturday, July 24, 2010 for English teachers

[updated November 2010 - a real shame - this service is to cease before Christmas] is a great tool for all teachers. It enables you simply to create 'drops' for documents and other files which your pupils can access (and contribute to) easily. If you have a blog like this one, you can insert a link for them to click on. Or just tell them the URL of the 'drop'.

For English teachers:
We give out lots of notes. Our pupils lose or 'mislay' them. We don't particularly feel like photocopying or emailing new copies. And many would find it handy to have electronic copies on their own laptops. gives us an efficient (and free) facility to handle this.

So, for English teachers, for example:-
1. Go to
2. Create a memorable or significant 'drop name' on the left, such as
3. Click 'Create a Drop.'
4. Follow instructions for adding files, links etc.
5. Set a password (under Settings/Access Control) and give it to your pupils if you want the drop to be private.
6. Done.

The drop is set to expire after a defined time. So at the start of the academic year, we can set it to expire automatically in a year. The free version has generous amounts of space; there's also a paid version with more features.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Reading Recommendation 1: The Glass Room

Three years ago we recommended Simon Mawer's novel The Fall. Last autumn his latest novel The Glass Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Click above on the Audioboo player for a three-minute review and recommendation.

Click here for an interview with Mawer on the Man Booker site, here for another in the Guardian, here for the New York Times article mentioned in the Boo, including a vivid photograph of the onyx wall, and here for more photos in Architecture Week.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Slattery's Sago Saga

Next week there's an interesting local venue for The Performance Corporation's Slattery's Sago Saga, adapted by Arthur Riordan from an unfinished novel by Flann O'Brien. See the trailer below, and catch the show itself at Rathfarnham Castle (July 16th to 25th). Sara Keating interviews Riordan in the Irish Times here: