Monday, July 28, 2014

Shakespeare podcasts

A recommended resource and some interesting holiday listening: Oxford University has a series of podcasts from 2010-2012 called 'Approaching Shakespeare', with lectures by Emma Smith focussing on individual plays and an ePub version of the relevant text. 

Here is the iTunes link.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendation 3: One Summer

Appropriately, our next recommendation for summer reading is about a summer. Bill Bryson's One Summer: America 1927 is the story of a few months of scarcely credible drama, built mainly around the story of the Orteig Prize for flying non-stop across the Atlantic. Bryson tells the story of this summer with his characteristic brio.  It's also interesting for readers of The Great Gatsby; although that masterpiece was about the summer of 1922, Bryson's popular history gives a very vivid sense of the same culture.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

English Matters

Notes for teachers at this morning's English Matters session in TCD.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendation 2: Eyrie

This blog is a fan of the excellent author Tim Winton, whose writing about Western Australia is powerful and atmospheric (see comments on his short story collection The Turning and his surfing novel Breath). His latest novel, Eyrie, is also recommended. It tells the story of Keely, now living in a high-rise block in Perth's port Fremantle, in the aftermath of personal and professional disaster.  

Opening with one of the most memorable hangover scenes in recent literature, the narrative structure drives us on by parcelling out what happened in the past and marrying this with a page-turning compulsion to find out what will happen to Keely in the future. The other main characters are Gemma, a neighbour and figure from Keely's past and the other main emotional centre of the book, her grandson Kai. Among the novels many strengths is a vivid portrait of Fremantle.

Read a good interview with Tim Winton by Kim Forrester in Shiny New Books here.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendation 1: Americanah

Recently out in paperback is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, an intelligent and engrossing read for the holidays. Her first novel Purple Hibiscus has been on the comparative list for the Leaving Certificate in recent years, and her novel Half of a Yellow Sun, about the Biafran War, is also recommended, as is her TED talk, 'The Danger of a Single Story'.

In one sense, Americanah tells a single story, that of the enduring love of the central character, Ifemulu and her teenage boyfriend Obinze, ('The Zed') but from this central strand Adichie spins much more - keen and often funny observations on race in America (Ifemulu 'becomes black' on arriving in the US) and Britain, sharp descriptions of contemporary Lagos, blog entries and literal strands in the form of a recurring scene set in a hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey. In the latter, Ifemulu's uncertainty about her own identity is to the fore. When she returns home, cultural and romantic uncertainties provide the climax of the novel: "She was no longer sure what was new in Lagos and what was new in herself".
Americanah could have done with tighter editing, and the ending seems both hurried and predictable. But don't let that put you off: it's very enjoyable.