Friday, 29 November 2013

Fund Razor for Loffa FC

Shave it Off!

Tonight I am having my hairy face returned to what constitutes 'normal' in my world.

I have been growing facial hair for the month in order to raise some funds for LOFFA FC, the sporting arm of LOFFA (Laois Offaly Families for Autism).

In LOFFA parents of autistic children get together to provide valuable support through subsidised services, information sharing, mutual support and lobbying (although that's not all they do).


Vertigo - W.G.Sebald

"Yes, said Lukas, there was something strange about remembering. When he lay on the sofa and thought back, it all became blurred as if he was out in a fog."

I have been meaning to reread Sebald for some time now and GermanLitMonth seemed like the perfect time to do so. I read  Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz in the year or so preceding his death, which came so shockingly soon after finding his work. The books all formed what was clearly a cohesive body of work, distinctive and original. In memory, I have found it difficult to separate them. My plan is to reread all four in order, with perhaps a year between each one.

Vertigo was just as I remembered it, an intimate voice, speculative, knowledgeable and humorous but revealing, beneath the knowledge and cosmopolitan gloss, a deep chasm floating beneath the cultural and personal history of the narrator. It is this chasm which gives rise to the feeling of vertigo which haunts the book.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Solace - Belinda McKeown

Solace is a beautifully crafted book, reminiscent in its way of the work of John McGahern. Character and place are carefully and convincingly delineated, as if they really mattered.

The story: Mark, who is (fitfully) writing a PHD on Maria Edgeworth in Trinity College meets Joanne, a trainee solicitor who like Mark is from the environs of Edgeworthstown in rural Longford. They get together and quickly and unexpectedly have a child on the way. Mark's father Tom and Joanne's (deceased) father were on both sides of a feud to do with property so the relationship is not popular with Tom.

Tom is a small farmer and wants Mark to spend more time on the farm which causes a different kind of tension between father and son. Communication is usually moderated by Tom's wife/Mark's mother Maura. Joanne has an uneasy relationship with her own mother and siblings and despite having fallen out with her father before he died, she was left a house in Dublin in his will. Any more would start to give away too much.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Top 102 Albums Minus 12 Like Flies on Sherbert

Top 102 Albums Minus 12 
Like Flies on Sherbert - Alex Chilton

While the first two Big Star albums seem to strain for commercial greatness and the third attempts to see how far the mix of strained emotions and beauty can be pushed Chilton's first official solo album mixed a sense of collapse, the decayed body of rock'n'roll and the electric jolts needed to get the corpse to kick again.

Chilton had been hanging around the CBGB's scene, playing in a band with Richard Lloyd and releasing an EP on key New York punk label Ork Records. He was producing The Cramps and founding Tav Falco's Panther Burns. He throws out chords with a couldn't give a fuck shrug but its some shrug.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Embers - Sándor Márai
(Translated by Carol Brown Janeway)

"A lamb was brought, a white lamb, and our host took his knife and killed it with a movement I shall never forget . . . a movement like that is not something one learns, it is an Oriental movement straight out of the time when the act of killing still had a symbolic and religious significance, when it denoted sacrifice. That was how Abraham lifted the knife over Isaac..."

Embers is set in the first half of the twentieth century. Much is set in the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The two main protagonists are trained as soldiers and move in circles that intersect slightly with the circle of the King / Emperor. (King in Hungary and Emperor outside) The General, Henrik, is from a wealthy aristocratic Hungarian family and Konrad is the son of impoverished Polish Aristocrats who have had to sell much of their property and possessions to put their son through military academy.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

City of Bohane

City of Bohane - Kevin Barry

"This is the Bohane river we're talking about. A backwater surge, malevolent, it roars in off the Big Nothin' wastes and the city was spawned by it and was named for it: city of Bohane."

I came to City of Bohane on the back of some strong recommendations, some great short stories and its success in winning the International Impac Dublin Literary Award. High hopes are often hard to live up to but this book both managed to satisfy and surprise.

The book is like a film noir firework show, words and phrases going off like Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles, Rockets and Spinners, Fountains and Mines. Amoung the blast and whistle of the verbal pyrotechnics are passages that hang, burning themselves quietly into your cortex, like Chinese Lanterns.