Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Solace' by Belinda McKeon

Belinda McKeon's first novel, Solace, recently won the Best Newcomer of the Year title at the 2011 Irish Book Awards. Certainly this was deserved recognition: Solace combines many virtues, including a strong narrative drive, a vivid portrait of Ireland on the cusp of the Celtic Tiger's implosion, and an impressive exploration of the varieties of parent-child relationships. Best of all, however, is McKeon's style - clean, unfussy and tender when reaching below the skin of her characters. She certainly moves over some of the ground of the late great John McGahern, but unlike some other contemporary Irish writers who have been influenced by him, she still consistently strikes her own note.

In the latter part of the book, and particularly in the story of the central character's father, Tom, there is much that is both moving and wise. Recommended.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Write a Poem special edition

This year the 'Teaching English' Write a Poem competition reaches its tenth anniversary. It's a fine idea which has often featured our own pupils, and the English Support Service led by Kevin McDermott has published a special edition of the winners over those years. Read it above via Issuu (click once for a larger view, again for a close-up).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TY Extended Essay: Stockett, Oyeyemi, Martin

Here is the first of the Extended Essays written last term by Transition Year pupils, this excellent one being by Alex Owens. She writes:-

"The theme which I have chosen for my extended essay is Racism and Relationships.  The three books that I choose for the essay are The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Jupiter Williams by S.I Martin and The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi.  I have chosen racism as my theme purely because of one book I read over the summer which was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I loved this book because of the way the author herself wrote it and the plot behind it. How these young boys see their father defending a black man for alleged rape towards a white women. You see their views on it and what they think of it even as young boys.  The way in which black people were associated back then interests me a lot. It is the first book which I really got a taste of what life was like for coloured people and how they really were treated. I decided to build my essay around the theme of racism because I enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird so much and I want to explore other books like it."

Read Alex's full essay here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Genres in story-telling

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.

This 10-minute video by Red Giant should prompt good discussions in class about genres. It's also witty and just good fun.
(Spotted on Twitter by Tom Barrett)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Noel Coldrick's book selection

Our Library continues to highlight favourite book selections by members of staff, and is currently featuring one from Mathematics teacher Mr Noel Coldrick, which can be seen above via Issuu (click once for closer view, again for full view). 

Challengingly he recommends Joyce's Finnegans Wake (the borrowing statistics for this from the Library are probably fairly low), and other novels such as Pat Barker's Border Crossing and D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Writing Prompts

The Writing Prompts Tumblr blog by Luke Neff is an excellent source of ideas for writing, with lots of striking visual material, and well-designed text. One example here : this might work well for a teenager - describe an 'inward event'.

Check out our full list of sites for English teaching here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

'Teaching English' magazine, Winter 2011

The Winter 2011 edition of Teaching English magazine, from the English Support Service, is out, and can be seen above via Issuu (click for a closer view, again for the closest, and use the arrows to scroll).

This edition includes the winners from the annual poetry competition run by the magazine, a piece by JMG of this Department written on the eve of the rescheduled English Literature paper in the Leaving Certificate in 2009, a brief view of the texts prescribed for the 2013 Leaving Certificate (we are doing Translations, How Many Miles to Babylon and The Great Gatsby), and a piece from the English Teachers' Association of New South Wales in Australia on 'The Relationship between English and Literacy Education.'

Monday, January 16, 2012

English Prizes, 2011-12

Congratulations to the winners of this year's English Prizes, Opeline Kellett (senior) and John Clarke (junior). Book tokens have also been given for good entries to Jasmine Blenkins O'Callaghan (V), Hollie Canning (II) and Callum Pery-Knox-Gore (I).

The Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes, and the Shakespeare Prize, are later this term.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Whin Bush Backwards

Our colleague Ronan Swift is launching his second album, A Whin Bush Backwards, on Thursday 26th January at Bewley's (doors open 8.15pm, entry €12 including a copy of the CD - can't say fairer - and all proceeds go to continued relief in Haiti). An interview with Ronan about his first album, Farewell Future Wives, was our first podcast almost three years ago. 

The new collection features a fine set of musicians (also performing at the gig) highlighting Ronan's vocals and guitar, and his trademark excellent lyrics. Let's pick out 'My Bookcase', a journey through the author's reading over many years, including Laurie Lee, Dickens and Primo Levi, about which Ronan talked in Chapel a while ago. And there's lots more to enjoy in a top-class production.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Transition Year Work Portfolio 2011-12

TY pupils can click this link to see the Work Portfolio titles for this year. This document will continue to be accessible via 'Department Documents' to the right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Junior Play 2012

Auditions for the 2012 Junior Play, John B. Keane's The Field, are being held in the BSR at 1.15pm today. Have a go!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Guest at the Feast

Colm Tóibín's latest book, A Guest at the Feast: a memoir, is part of a new venture from the most famous of all paperback publishers, called Penguin Shorts. These books are only available in e-form, with others by authors such as Helen Dunmore and Anita Brookner, and cost £1.99 sterling. E-readers such as the Kindle make this kind of publishing both possible and promising. On the iTunes model, it's easy and tempting to download a short book for a modest cost.

Certainly Tóibín's contribution is a very attractive one. The richness of the material makes it feel like a much longer book than it would no doubt seem in paper form. Tóibín ranges over his childhood in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, with great skill and affection. There are fine passageson his mother and her hunger for literature, on the memorable arrival of the Fleadh Cheoil to Enniscorthy in 1967 (the night before the author's father was hit by a fatal stroke), on discovering Dublin as a university student, on the last sad days of the composer Frederick May, and on Tóibín's peripheral brush with the child abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church. About all these he writes with delicacy and sympathy. His prose seems a little loosened up from some of his fiction, and far less depressing than it can be there.

As he writes, "All of us have a landscape of the soul, places whose contours and resonances are etched into us and haunt us. If we ever became ghosts, these are the places to which we would return."  His returnings in this e-text make it well worth the modest outlay.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Books of the Year 2011

Last year we put together our 'delicious list' of books of the year (including Christmas gift lists) from a myriad of different publications and websites and it was very popular. So here we go again. This post will be regularly updated over the next month, as more lists come out.
  1. The Daily Telegraph : Books of the Year from authors such as Andrew Motion (poet Alice Oswald's Memorial, her take on the Iliad) and Ali Smith (Down the Rabbit Hole by the Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos) with Part II here; also, Biographies rounded up by Nicholas Shakespeare (including Ann Wroe's "lovely and original" book on Orpheus and Gordon Bowker's biography of James Joyce), Fiction (Julian Barnes's Booker-winner The Sense of an Ending, Cedilla by Adam Mars-Jones). Another Books of the Year from reviewers.
  2. The Scotsman: Books of the Year from Scots contributors, including Sally Magnusson (Claire Tomalin's new biography of Dickens).
  3. The Irish Times : Favourite Books of 2011 from many, including Belinda McKeon (Richard Beard's Lazarus is Dead), Stuart Neville (Declan Burke's Absolute Zero Cool), and Patrick Ness (yet another vote for Ali Smith's There But For The). Eileen Battersby's Books of the Year starts with Hisham Matar's The Anatomy of a Disappearance.
  4. The New Statesman : a long list of contributors, including John Lanchester (Nicola Shulman's Graven with Diamonds: the many lives of Thomas Wyatt, courtier, poet, assassin, spy) and Julie Myerson (Jeanette Winterston's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?).
  5. The New York Times : 100 Notable Books of 2011, including The Keats Brothers by Denise Gigante, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, as well as the 10 Best Books of 2011 (including Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife) and Michiko Kakutani's Picks for 2011 (Obreht again, and Don DeLillo's short story collection The Angel Esmerelda). Editors and critics pick their books of the year as well, including Executive Editor Jill Abramson who chose Edmund de Waal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes (now available in a new illustrated edition).
  6. Marginal Revolution: Tyler Cowan's lists include Best non-fiction (including John Sutherland's The Lives of the Novelists) Best Fiction (Audur Ava Olafsdottir's The Greenhouse) [via @iamreddave]
  7. The Atlantic: 5 Books of the Year (including Philip Larkin's Letters to Monica), and  Runners-up (including David Lodge's novel about H.G. Wells, A Man of Parts).
  8. The Guardian: Books of the Year from many, including Chimamanda Adichie (Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side), Julia Donaldson (Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd's A Monster Calls) and Helen Dunmore (Sean O'Brien's new collection of poems November). The newspaper's Best Books of 2011 articles include poetry, fiction, economics and children's books. And here is Nicholas Lezard's Pick of Paperbacks in 2011, starting with Diego Marani's New Finnish Grammar. Also, Guardian readers choose their favourites.
  9. The Sunday Times (no link - subscription needed): Part I in the Culture section included Fiction from Peter Kemp and Eithne Shorthall (including Edward Aubyn's conclusion to the brilliant Melrose series, At Last, Kevin Barry's City of Bohane and Jonathan Buckley's intriguing Telescope), History from Dominic Sandbrook, Memoirs from Robert Collins, Poetry from Alan Brownjohn (Michael Longley's A Hundred Doors) and much more. In Crime Fiction, Declan Burke's Absolute Zero Cool, 'among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre... evokes the best of Flann O'Brien and Bret Easton Ellis'). David Maybury on his blog links to Amanda Craig's selection of children's books of 2011, her 13+ novel of the year being Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, "an exuberant thriller set in a post-apocalyptic landscape."
  10. The Observer: Books as Christmas gifts - which would you give, which would you like to get? -  from Diana Athill (Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: a life), Julie Myerson (Jacqueline Yallop's novel Obedience) and many more. And also sub-sections, such as Thrillers (including two novels about memory loss, S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep and Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind).
  11. Amazon.co.uk: Best Books of 2011 starts with Elizabeth Haynes's debut thriller, Into the Darkest Corner, a real page-turner, and includes Jennifer Egan's widely-praised A Visit from the Goon Squad. Click further for the rest of 50 choices, including at no. 19 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.
  12. Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti has a tremendous round-up of children's literature lists of 2011.
  13. The Globe and Mail (Canada): The Globe 100: the very best books of 2011, including Elizabeth Hay's novel Alone in the Classroom, Colm Tóibín's short story collection The Empty Family and Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz.
  14. NPR Radio: Five 2011 That Stay With You by Heller McAlpin includes the ubiquitous Booker Prize winner, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, and Joan Didion's Blue Nights.  Also independent booksellers from around America have their own choice - Unpacking My Library: writers and their books by Leah Price looks good. Maureen Corrigan's pick includes Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, which sounds Hiassen-like.
  15. The Daily Mail: Columnists choose their favourites, including Sandra Parsons (Jeanette Winterston's memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.
  16. Reading Matters : this blog has four posts on other bloggers' choices as books of the year, with lots of books not appearing in other lists, including Ida Hattemer-Higgins's The History of History: a novel of Berlin.
  17. Shelf Unbound: Top 10 Books of 2011 include the widely-praised Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, and Damascus by Joshua Mohr. 
  18. Brain Pickings from Maria Popova : several lists, including 11 Best Illustrated Children's and Picture Books of 2011, including some gorgeous illustrations. Also, 11 Best Biographies and Memoirs, starting with the very successful Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.
  19. The Kansas City Star: Top 100 Books of 2011 including The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.
  20. The Seattle Times: 22 Gift Books for Ardent Readers by Mary Ann Gwinn, including Ex Libris: the art of bookplates by Martin Hopkinson. 
  21. St Louis Post Despatch: Favourite books of 2011 points out that several fascinating novels seemed to take place outside of cities and deep inside dark woods including Charles Frazier's Nightwoods. Lots of snappily-introduced books in this one.
  22. The Millions: lots of A Year in Reading articles, such as Michael Schaub on Seth Fried's promising The Great Frustration
  23. Goodreads: the readers' social network has the results of a Best Books of 2011 poll, including in Non-Fiction The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins and in Fiction 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.
  24. Time magazine: 10 Best Fiction Books of 2011 includes Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog - "a kind of seedy hard-boiled modern epic." 
  25. Huffington Post: Best Books 2011.
  26. Slate: Books for the Discerning Stocking includes two classic thrillers, Conrad's The Secret Agent and Graham Greene's A Confidential Agent
  27. Salon: over 50 writers choose their favourite books of the year, including Sebastian Barry, who went for The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg, set in the Lodz ghetto, and Paula McCain, who chose Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Also, there is Laura Miller's Best Fiction selection (Patchett gets in again), and her Non-Fiction choices, including James Gleick's The Information.
  28. Evening Standard (London): lots of lists, including Crime (the great Carl Hiassen's Star Island) and Older Children (Gill Lewis's Skyhawk). Also a round-up of Most Chosen Books of the Year.
  29. Washington Post: Jonathan Yardley's selection of Year-End Picks mentioned that nothing lived up to older fiction such as J.G. Farrell's Empire trilogy, or P.G. Wodehouse. However, he did pick Edna O'Brien's Saints and Sinners and The Cut by George Pelecanos.
  30. Vancouver Sun: 2011's Top 10 Books by Tracy Sherlock - again Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and Patrick Dewitt's The Sisters Brothers.
  31. Brainpickings: lists include Best Photography Books of 2011 and 11 Best Science Books.
  32. London Independent: Children's Books of 2011Book of the Year ('the one you wouldn't lend'), Susan Elkin's Teenage Books of the Year (such as Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution and Catherine Erskine's Mockingbird, based on the Virginia Tech shootings). History books in 'the year of tyrannies overturned' features the Wyatt biography also mentioned in the New Statesman list above). Also, Digital Literature recommendations include some interesting innovative apps and short 'plain-text' works.
  33. Seattle Times: 32 of the Year's Best Books - 21 of which are fiction, including Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks and Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child.
  34. The Economist: Page-turners from 2011, including Jason Burke's The 9/11 Wars and Janine di Giovanni's autobiography Ghosts by Daylight: a memoir of love, war and redemption.
  35. Newsweek/The Daily Beast: contributors and writers give their choices of favourite books of the year - including an intereresting sounding story, Deborah Baker's The Convert, and the versatile Geoff Dyer's essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition.
  36. Irish Independent: Celia Keenan's choice of Young Adult books includes Siobhan Parkinson's Bruised and Roddy Doyle's A Greyhound of a Girl.
  37. John Self: The Asylum blog always provides an interesting selection - Twelve from the Shelves 2011 includes several short novels, and foreign fiction in translation like The Loft by Marlen Haushofer and Italo Calvino's Mr Palomar.
  38. Vanity Fair: The Best Books of 2011 You Haven't Read by Elissa Schapell looks at books which aren't getting enough attention on other lists, such as Someday This Will Be Funny by Lynn Tillmann.
  39. Los Angeles Times: Holiday Books sets out the lists nicely as book covers - hover over them for more. For instance, the Fiction and Poetry list. David Ulin's review of the year is here, and includes James Gleick's The Information : a history, a theory, a flood.
  40. The Boston Globe (limited access without subscription): Crime best books of the year include The Cut by George Pelecanos - also, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, science, chldren's books available.
  41. Austin Statesman: round-up by Joe Gross, with his own favourites, including Joan Didion's Blue Nights.
  42. School Library Journal: their excellent Best of 2011 round-up includes Apps, Graphic Novels, Technology, Fiction, Non-Fiction and more.
  43. Book Trust: Books of the Year by Nikesh Shukla : "Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Harvill Secker) is my favourite book of the year ...  It is subtly political, it is overtly honest about humanity, it is textured and still and tense and all the parameters you want to give it. But it is also funny."
  44. Wall Street Journal: Twelve Months of Reading from 50 people, including Lee Child (Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson) and Michael Ignatieff (Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet, also recommended by us here). 
  45. Publishers' Weekly: Staff Picks include Hitch-22 by the late Christopher Hitchens, and The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas. The official lists are many, including all the standard categories, such as fiction.
  46. Library Journal: Best Books  - the Top 10, including the always interesting Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature - why violence has declined, and several other lists.  
  47. Egypt Independent: in this year of all others, it's good to get a different angle on books of the year from this publication - 11 Egyptian authors choose their favourite books of the year, one in which for obvious reasons publishing was disrupted. 
  48. San Francisco Chronicle: 100 recommended books from 2011 in many categories, including in fiction Chris Adrian's retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Great Night. A shorter selection is the Top 10 books of the year.
  49. Chicago Sun-Times: selections by book reviewers from the paper. Roger K. Miller selects Ian Kershaw's final book on Hitler, The End
  50. Houston Chronicle: Maggie Galehouse includes in her selection Roddy Doyle's new book of short stories, Bullfighting
  51. ABC Online: Louise Maher's Top 11 Books of 2011 includes John Larkin's The Shadow Girl.
  52. The Poetry Foundation: their staff choose their favourite books from 2011, such as Negro League Baseball by Harmony Holiday. 
  53. Time Magazine: Lev Grossman's Top 10 Moments in Reading in 2011, including Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist and Top 10 Fiction (doesn't go down well with many in the comments section).
  54. Best of Arabic Literature in English 2011: a different angle to most of the other lists.
  55. PBS (audio and transcript): Ron Charles of the Washington Post includes Ann Patchett's State of Wonder
  56. LA Weekly writers give their selections, such as The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. 
  57. January Magazine: lots of lists, including two on crime fiction, such as Alan Glynn's Bloodland.