After the Rising – Orna Ross

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

After the Rising by Orna Ross

After the Rising by Orna Ross

“If you have not seen the day of Revolution in a small town where all know all in the town and always have known all, you have seen nothing.” — Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Scribner Classics, 1996. p. 106.

Though partially of Irish stock, I confess to scant knowledge of the Emerald Isle’s history apart from the dates of the 1916 Easter Rising and the gaining of Independence in 1922. So Orna Ross’s After the Rising was a compelling introduction, not least because the beguiling lilt of her prose situates one sure-footedly in a deceptively sleepy burg beyond the Irish Sea. Using various first-person narrative voices in the form of letters and diaries, the novel moves between the events of 1922, the 60s and 70s when the predominant narrator is at school and university, and 1995, when she returns to her village for her mother’s funeral and to confront the family’s history, rent by national politics and local rancour. Such a weaving back and forth between periods allows for an overview of the novel’s historical reach, reminding readers that today’s fervent youth will be but a dusty phrase in tomorrow’s history books.

If I was surprised to find little overt description of the divide between Catholics and Protestants, which I had always thought central to Ireland’s history, this is perhaps more of a comment on my ignorance about the conflict. Sectarian undertones are clearly present, but Ross prefers to filter the narrative through the gossip, grudges and friendships of the fictitious village of Mucknamore, where tribal identities and ingrained prejudices score more deeply into villagers’ lives than religion does. Generational hatreds feel bitterly yet bewildering personal as they are wont to become in small communities. In this, both Ross and Hemingway are on the nail.

Most importantly, this is herstory, the history of the land told through the voices of its women. As such it comes closer to the grain of what the struggle was all about. While all conflicts have their economic and political elements, I believe they tend fundamentally to be about cultural identity (though Marx might disagree): the ‘us’ and the ‘other’. The impression I got was that while the fight for a free Ireland was paramount, cultural identity politics were also of prime importance in deciding what flavour of an independent Eire was sought. The denouement happily expresses a loosening of some of these most fiercely held views, enabling the hope for a more tolerant future to creep in.

After the Rising is part of Ross’s Irish Trilogy, of which the next book, Before the Fall, will soon be completed by In the Hour.

Read more here.


Shared from WordPress

Nick Andrew Landscape Paintings – http://wp.me/p3Ca1O-58g


A long but excellent essay. Introduced me to Langston Hughes’ formidable poem

http://samadlerbell.com/the-uses-of-patriotism/


The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

Cover of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

A brilliant read. The two main characters, brothers and hired assassins, are grudgingly revealed through the narrator’s voice, and deWitt is ruthlessly Spartan in his prose. With the feel of a literary road movie, we are moved through a series of alien worlds at the pace of a dawdling nag. We never wholly come to know these rough environments, and they remain strange, as the protagonists are estranged from polite society. Yet through their mystery, somehow they beautifully and increasingly reveal the characters’ tenderness and humanity. This book promised much, and for me it truly delivered, never relying on the stereotypical tropes you might expect of the Western genre it moves within.

Available from: Amazon


Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Uncompromising obsession and its consequences

I first picked this book up in my local bookshop and read the opening paragraphs without purchasing it. They left me with a rankling desire to know how the book develops. Once I finally bought it, I devoured it in hours rather than days. It is truly one of the un-put-down-ables.

Like Christos Tsiolkas’s first book, Loaded, Barracuda is a compulsive, emotional read, told with enormous sensitivity and passion. It occupies the same shelf in my mental library as Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys, Agustin Gomez-Arcos’ The Carnivorous Lamb and Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask. Like these works, it is not so much a “gay” novel as an exploration of humanity – in this case, the probing of one young man’s uncompromising obsession and the consequences of this on his own life and the lives of those around him. It explores the dynamics of competition with unflinching honesty, and carefully documents the protagonist’s journey through hell and his ensuing catharsis in its most primal expression.

Definitely the best book I read in the year.

Available from Amazon


One Night at the Jacaranda – Carol Cooper

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

In search of love, a delightful miscellany of contrasting London types sign up for a night of speed-dating at the Jacaranda pub. Following the trials and tribulations of an undercover journo desperate for a feature, a GP with custody issues, a single mother, a terminally ill cat-lover, an obsessive misogynist and an ex-con, among others, Carol Cooper has written a light, witty and enjoyable book about the perennial quest for one’s better half.

Available from Amazon.


Thoreau in Love – John Schuyler Bishop

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

JTBishop_TiL

Thoreau in Love by John Schuyler Bishop

Pages torn from Thoreau’s personal journal inspired this fictional account, postulating on the idea that the missing pages, covering his youthful sojourn in New York, would reveal a gay dalliance, were they extant today. Suffice to say I adored this book. It is wholeheartedly a romance in the rough, passionate, slightly bawdy and infinitely tender way of two young men in love. Above all it is an intelligent book, one which appears well researched and which seems to pay deep respect to Thoreau’s character.

Available from Amazon


House of Silence – Linda Gillard

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

LGillard_HoSA young woman for whom family signifies betrayal and abandonment, and who has learnt to maintain her emotional isolation, falls for a seductive young actor whose sprawling web of relatives she welcomes as icing on her romantic cake. Yet invited for Christmas at their chilly old mansion presided over by a flighty matriarch, cracks in the family’s happy façade cause her to question the enigmatic past of this apparently idyllic family. Steering skilfully between the genres of romance and mystery, Linda Gillard has written a captivating read that will keep you guessing till the end.

Available from Amazon.


Gift of the Raven – Catriona Troth

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Rather than a full book review, in these posts, I simply jot down a few lines on books I’ve enjoyed.

Gift of the Raven

Gift of the Raven by Catriona Troth

“The people of the Haida Gwaii tell the legend of the raven – the trickster who brings the gift of light into the world.”

An emotionally raw tale of an outcast, abused and orphaned boy, whose “hair is black like night, and [whose] skin is the colour of Auntie Jean’s strong tea” and his quest to find his father. “I’ve never seen anyone who looks like me but that’s okay because I belong here anyway”. This story about the budding relationship between a father and son touched a deep emotional chord for its sincerity and the delicacy of its prose. One of those books where the tears are never far from welling up, but a tremendously uplifting read.

Available from Amazon


The “Why Cheap Art Manifesto” by the Bread and Puppet Theater

A couple of days ago, I discovered this manifesto on cheap art put out by Vermont’s (formerly NY’s) Bread and Puppet Theater in 1984. While I’ve been aware of the B&P Theater’s work ever since my student actor days in Auckland, New Zealand, in the early eighties, this manifesto was a new find. I share it here as I think it chimes nicely with my own project, Barcelona Free Art, a guide to art you can see for free in Barcelona. It inspires me regarding why we produce art.

The Bread and Puppet Theater company, which this year is celebrating “50 years of sublime arse-kicking puppetry”, was established in the early sixties by Peter Schumann, a sculptor, dancer and baker recently emigrated from Germany, and his wife Elka (apologies if I quote liberally from their website, but the hour is late). Its aims were (and are) to highlight issues like “rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood”, and it has gone from strength to strength, creating bigger and braver productions over the years.

Anyway, without further ado, the manifesto:

Cheap Art Manifesto_Bread & Puppet Theater_lge

You can purchase your copy here.

Further info: http://buff.ly/1G3p23S 


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