One-Minute Book Reviews

June 16, 2010

A Bloomsday Celebration of the Portrait of Dublin in ‘Ulysses’

Filed under: Classics,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:43 pm
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James Joyce’s Ulysses inspires celebrations around the world on the anniversary of the day on which its action takes place – June 16, 1904, known as Bloomsday after its main character, Leopold Bloom. Nowhere is the day observed more elaboratedly than in Dublin, where the novel is set.

John Gross writes of the role of Dublin in Ulysses in an essay on Joyce in Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, 2007), edited by Joseph Epstein:

“The city itself is brought to life to an extraordinary degree. As piece of urban portraiture, there is nothing like it in English, apart from Dickens’s London. We are led through a maze of courtyards, lanes and quays, though pub and library, schoolroom and hospital, cemetery and brothel. Voices and faces, hoardings and headlines, birdcries and traffic sounds, are all noted. So are Reuben J. Dodd, solicitor, and the one-legged sailor skirting Rabaiotti’s ice-cream car, snuffling Nosey Flynn and bald Pat the waiter (“Bald deaf Pat brought quite flat pad ink. Pat set with ink pen quite flat pad”). Shopfronts slip past. We are in a city on the move, a city of criss-crossing routes and chance encounters. And it is rendered in an appropriately dynamic manner. The profusion of detail would pall, if everything were described from the same fixed neutral standpoint. But as it is, every scene has its own tone. Joyce’s prose registers the individual sensibility and the distinctive aura.”

A listing of Bloomsday-week events in Dublin appears on the site for the city’s tourist board,  known as Visit Dublin. Ireland’s James Joyce Centre has background on the celebrations.

This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on June 16, 2008.

You can also follow Jan Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

March 17, 2009

‘Passive suffering is not a theme for poetry’ (Quote of the Day / W. B. Yeats)

Members of an isolated British reading group write letters about their favorite books in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Dial, 2008), a bestselling novel set mainly on a Channel Island in 1946. But one character rages against William Butler Yeats, the Irish Nobel laureate. The complaint: Yeats edited The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892–1935 and said in its introduction that he had left out all the great World War I poets, including Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, because

“ … passive suffering is not a theme for poetry.”

This well-known quote was controversial from the start. But it suggests how much poetry has changed: Many recent collections, such as Frances Richey’s The Warrior and Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy, include poems that involve “passive suffering.”

What do you think of the change? Does poetry need less passive suffering and more active engagement with life? Or are modern poets proving that Yeats was wrong?

Read Yeats’s full quote and more on The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892–1935 www.english.emory.edu/LostPoets/Yeats.html.

A review of and reading group guide to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society appeared on this site on Nov. 25, 2008 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/. A review of The Warrior was posted on July 27 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/ and of Elegy on March 10 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/.

nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1923/yeats-bio.html

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

September 7, 2008

London Bookies’ Favorites for 2008 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:02 pm
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UPDATE, Sept. 9, 2008, 3:30 p.m.: After the shortlist was announced today, London bookies listed the odds for the eventual winner of the prize: William Hill has named Sebastian Barry the 2-1 favorite to win the Man Booker Prize in October. The odds-makers at Ladbroke’s called Aravind Adiga the favorite with Linda Grant close behind www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1136.

Netherland has 3-to-1 odds in its favor with a leading betting agency

Was it Hurricane Gustav? In my wisdom I didn’t think to Google “bookies’ favorites” + “2008 Man Booker” + “shortlist” before predicting that Joseph O’Neill’s novel Netherland would waltz into the final six on Tuesday. Now that I’ve hit the “Search” button, it seems that I am far from alone in my view. In fact, it appears that only people who don’t think Netherland will make the shortlist are those who think that “God Save the Queen” is the national anthem of Venezuela. But even with the 3-to-1 odds in his favor, O’Neill will be far from a sure bet to win if he makes the finals. He was born in Ireland and an Irish writer, Anne Enright, won last year. And he’s become a U.S. citizen, which could work against him if the judges are among the many Brits whose favorite insult for the former prime minister was to call him “President Blair.”

Note: Other favorites of those placing bets with the William Hill agency, in order, include Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44, Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture and Linda Grant’s The Clothes on Their Backs. Click here for the bookies’ odds on all the titles on the Booker longlist announced in July
www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1108.

Update: After William Hill posted its list, the Ladbroke’s betting agency released a list that named Rushdie the favorite and ranked O’Neill third. Read the Ladbroke’s list here www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1111. Rushdie won the 1981 Booker for Midnight’s Children.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2008 Man Booker Prize Finalists To Be Named Tuesday — Jan the Hungarian Predicts That ‘Netherland’ Will Make the Shortlist

The latest in an occasional series of posts in which Janice Harayda, a former vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle, predicts the winners of or finalists for major book awards*

The six finalists for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction will be named Tuesday, winnowed from among the titles longlisted in July www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/thisyear/longlist. If Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland doesn’t make it, it will be a shocker that’s the literary equivalent of the Sarah Palin selection in reverse. It’s not so much that the book is one for the ages — though it’s the best 2008 novel I’ve read — but that it’s so much better than most Booker finalists. (Who can forget that the 2007 Man Booker judges gave us one finalist, Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip, that was written at a third-grade reading level? And that this was a frontrunner for the award that eventually went to The Gathering.) A review of and readers’ guide to Netherland appeared on this site on June 24 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/. Check back around 5 p.m. Tuesday for the shortlist or a link to it.

*under a nom de guerre inspired by that of the late Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy Snyder, better known as “Jimmy the Greek”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

June 15, 2008

A Bloomsday Appreciation of James Joyce’s Portrait of Dublin on June 16, 1904, in ‘Ulysses’ (Quote of the Day / John Gross):

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

James Joyce’s Ulysses inspires celebrations around the world on the anniversary of the day on which its action takes place – June 16, 1904, known as Bloomsday after its main character, Leopold Bloom. Nowhere is the day observed more elaborately than in Dublin, where the novel is set.

John Gross writes of the role of Dublin in Ulysses in an essay on Joyce in Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, 2007), edited by Joseph Epstein www.pauldrybooks.com:

“The city itself is brought to life to an extraordinary degree. As piece of urban portraiture, there is nothing like it in English, apart from Dickens’s London. We are led through a maze of courtyards, lanes and quays, though pub and library, schoolroom and hospital, cemetery and brothel. Voices and faces, hoardings and headlines, birdcries and traffic sounds, are all noted. So are Reuben J. Dodd, solicitor, and the one-legged sailor skirting Rabaiotti’s ice-cream car, snuffling Nosey Flynn and bald Pat the waiter (“Bald deaf Pat brought quite flat pad ink. Pat set with ink pen quite flat pad”). Shopfronts slip past. We are in a city on the move, a city of criss-crossing routes and chance encounters. And it is rendered in an appropriately dynamic manner. The profusion of detail would pall, if everything were described from the same fixed neutral standpoint. But as it is, every scene has its own tone. Joyce’s prose registers the individual sensibility and the distinctive aura.”

Furthermore: One of the most ambitious Bloomsday celebrations in the U.S. takes place annually at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, home of Joyce’s manuscript for Ulysses www.rosenbach.org/programs/bloomsday.html.

For a listing of Bloomsday events in Dublin, visit the sites for the James Joyce Centre www.jamesjoyce.ie and VisitDublin www.visitdublin.com/events/AllDublinEvents/Detail.aspx?id=235&mid=2740.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

March 17, 2008

A Colorful Irish Politician Gets Another Hurrah in a Fine Biography

Filed under: Biography — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:59 pm
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Many people know the flamboyant Irish politician James Michael Curley only through Edwin O’Connor’s novel The Last Hurrah or its excellent film version, which starred Spencer Tracy in one of his greatest roles. But the four-time Boston mayor (who spent part of his last term in jail) has also inspired a fine biography, Jack Beatty’s The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874–1958) (DaCapo, $22.50). Did people really sing “Vote often and early for Curley” as in John Ford’s film? Beatty deals with this and other provocative questions in a lively and well-paced account that holds its own against the many good books about Irish politicians who are better-known, including the Kennedys. Any mayor who is leading a parade today would be lucky if, several decades from now, a biographer as conscientious as Beatty decided to start looking into some of the myths about his or her life.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 21, 2008

Anne Enright’s Worthy Man Booker Prize–Winner, ‘The Gathering’

The Gathering is to On Chesil Beach and Mister Pip what 18-year-old Jameson is to lukewarm tap beer

The Gathering. By Anne Enright. Grove/Atlantic/Black Cat, 261 pp., $14, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

In the 1920s a group of lay Catholics tried to save Dublin prostitutes by removing them from brothels after buying off the madams with Milk Tray chocolates or other bribes. Anne Enright builds on this historical episode in her artful Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Gathering, which imagines how the effort might have affected a young woman and her descendants.

Her narrator is 39-year-old Veronica Hegarty, a contemporary Irish mother of two who has enough wit and ironic detachment from her life to view it in quotation marks: “I could pick up my keys and go ‘home’ where I could ‘have sex’ with my ‘husband’ just like lots of people did. This is what I had been doing for years.”

But that begins to change after her brother Liam kills himself and her eight surviving siblings gather in Dublin for his funeral. As Veronica tries to make sense of the suicide, she reflects on her family’s sorrows – cancer, mental illness, alcoholism, an infant’s death, a mother’s seven miscarriages. None of it disturbs her more than a scene of sexual abuse that she accidentally had witnessed years earlier. An Oprah show might focused on the effects of that experience alone. Enright digs deeper and begins where television typically leaves off. In adulthood, Veronica realizes, “we always feel pain for the wrong thing.”

Best line: No. 1: “There is something wonderful about a death, how everything shuts down, and all the ways you thought were vital are not even vaguely important. Your husband can feed the kids, he can work the new oven, he can find the sausages in the fridge, after all. And his important meeting was not important, not in the slightest.” No. 2: “There are so few people given to us to love. I want to tell my daughters this, that each time you fall in love it is important, even at nineteen. Especially at nineteen. And if you can, at nineteen, count the people you love on one hand, you will not, at forty, have run out of fingers on the other. There are so few people given to us to love and they all stick.”

Worst line: “I sweep my arm along the table of yellow pine, with its thick, plasticky sheen.” Send that “plasticky” back to the same neologism factory that gave us “garlicky.”

Recommendation? Not for book clubs that think Western literature peaked with Mitch Albom and Fannie Flagg. But it could be great choice for groups that like literary fiction. Grove/Atlantic has posted a reading group guide that is more extensive and thoughtful than most publishers’ guides.

Reading group guide: Available online at www.groveatlantic.com.

Published: 2007

Furthermore: The Gathering isn’t likely to have the popularity of the best-loved Booker winners, such as The Remains of the Day. It themes are too downbeat and the sex is too frequent and explicit. But it is a far better novel than the favorites for 2007 Man Booker Prize, On Chesil Beach and Mister Pip, which it defeated www.themanbookerprize.com. The story is richer, the characters better developed and the settings more fully evoked. The Gathering is to On Chesil Beach and Mister Pip what 18-year-old Jameson is to lukewarm tap beer. It is also better than the 60 or so pages that I read of the 2006 winner, The Inheritance of Loss www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/05/20/. Anne Enright is what every literary novelist should be: a good storyteller who has something worthy to say.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

October 16, 2007

Irish Novelist Anne Enright Wins the Man Booker Prize, and the Judges Dodge a Bullet

Whew. That was close. No, not the betting on which of the frontrunners for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Lloyd Jones‘s Mister Pip and Ian McEwan‘s On Chesil Beach, would win (though only a hair’s breadth separated their odds at the end).

What was really a squeaker was how close the judges may have come to honoring one of those novels, neither worthy of a major international award. Tonight the prize went instead to the Irish novelist Anne Enright‘s The Gathering, which was all but impossible to find in the U.S. in the days leading up to the ceremony (based on my efforts to obtain a copy through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, independent booksellers, and libraries). I hope to review it as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime you can read more about The Gathering at www.themanbookerprize.com.

Tomorrow: Full color makes its debut on One-Minute Book Reviews with a discussion of the cover of Katha Pollitt’s Learning to Drive (reviewed today) and comments on book covers generally. That post is part of a new series that occasionally will discuss the covers of books reviewed on this site and why they do or don’t fit the books.

Thank you for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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