Friday, 24 April 2009

Kerry Group Fiction Award

John the RevelatorThe shortlist for the Kerry Group Fiction Award 2009, worth €15,000 to the winner, has been announced. The shortlisted titles are:
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry – the Costa Book of the Year Award Winner;
John the Revelator by Peter Murphy – a mother-son story set in small-town Ireland;
Disguise by Hugo Hamilton – a story that begins in 1940’s Germany and charts the horrors of war, displacement, family fragmentation and secrets;
Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden - a book about friendship of various kinds and
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill – a novel about cricket and much more. The winner will be announced on the opening night of the Listowel Writers’ Week on May 27th.

Orange Prize Shortlist

One by One in the DarknessThe shortlist for the Orange Prize 2009, worth £30,000, has been announced. Irish writer, Deirdre Madden, who was previously shortlisted for the Orange prize in 1997 for her novel One by One in the Darkness, has again been shortlisted for her novel Molly Fox's Birthday. In the novel a playwright reflects on how her life has intertwined with those of two friends, the celebrated actor Molly Fox, and their mutual friend Andrew. It is a book about friendship of various kinds.

One of the chosen novels, The Wilderness, is a debut work by Samantha Harvey telling the story of a man in his early 60s struggling to hold on to his identity as Alzheimer's takes hold of his mind.

American author Marilynne Robinson’s Home, a follow on to her Pulitzer prize-winning novel Gilead has also made the shortlist. Home tells the story of Jack Boughton, godson and namesake of Gilead's protagonist John Ames.

Two other American authors, Ellen Feldman and Samantha Hunt, are also in the running for the prize. Feldman’s book Scottsboro tells of a young journalist’s fight to save nine youths, accused of the rape of two white girls, from the electric chair. The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt revolves around the fictionalised account of the relationship between the Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla, inventor of radio and creator of AC electricity, and a highly sensitive and imaginative young woman.

Pakistani author, Kamila Shamsie, is shortlisted for Burnt Shadows, a decades-spanning novel which travels from the nuclear detonation in Nagasaki in 1945 to post-9/11 Afghanistan, tracing the stories of three families.
The winner of the prize will be announced on 3 June. Last year Rose Tremain took the award with The Road Home. Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun, Zadie Smith for On Beauty and Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Heaney Honoured on 70th Birthday

BeowulfOn April 13th, RTÉ and the Irish Museum of Modern Art hosted an event to celebrate Seamus Heaney's 70th birthday at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Minister for Arts Sport and tourism Martin Cullen congratulated Mr Heaney and applauded his contribution to cultural life. “Seamus Heaney has made and continues to make an extraordinary contribution to our cultural life and has made us all extraordinarily proud of his wonderfully creative genius, which has been acknowledged around the globe” Minister Cullen said. Born in Bellaghy, County Derry, Heaney’s first collection of poems was Death Of A Naturalist, which appeared in 1966. His subsequent poetry, criticism and translations, including Beowulf in 1999, have helped to establish him as one of the leading poets now at work. Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 for what the Nobel committee described as “works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. Earlier this month a life-size bronze sculpture depicting one of his most famous poems, "Digging", was unveiled at his birthplace in the village of Bellaghy. And last month Heaney also received the David Cohen Prize for Literature, which honours a living writer from the British Isles for a lifetime’s achievement in literature. An exhibition featuring an extensive display of books on which Heaney collaborated will open to the public at IMMA tomorrow and run until June 14. Admission is free.

JG Ballard dies after long illness

Empire of the SunThe author JG Ballard, best known for his novel, Empire of the Sun, has died after a long illness. The author of 15 novels and scores of short stories, Ballard grew up amongst the expatriate community in Shanghai. During World War II, at the age of 12, he was interned for three years in a camp run by the Japanese along with his parents and younger sister. Empire of the Sun was based on his experience in the prison camp.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

2009 Galaxy British Book Awards - A Literary Victory for Obama

The Girl with the Dragon TattooBarack Obama’s memoir of his early life, Dreams from my Father, has been selected as the 2009 Tesco Biography of the Year award in the 2009 Galaxy British Book Awards. Obama beat off competition such as Paul O’Grady, Julie Walters and Dawn French to claim the award. Obama had also been shortlisted for the Borders Author of the Year award which was won by Aravind Adiga, author of the Man Booker winner The White Tiger. Four of the 2009 Galaxy awards went to crime books. Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year was won by the late Stieg Larsson for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in a trilogy the Swedish author and journalist left unpublished when he died in 2004.

Waterstone’s New Writer of the Year Award was Tom Rob Smith for Child 44, a murder mystery set in Soviet Russia. Another haunting tale of murder and suspense, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, won Kate Summerscale the Popular Non-Fiction Award, beating such luminaries as Stephen Fry and Andrew Marr and giving her another trophy to put next to the BBC Samuel Johnson award. Summerscale’s book also won the ultimate accolade, The Galaxy Book of the Year.

Meanwhile, there was also good news for Kate Atkinson, whose number one bestselling paperback When Will There Be Good News? was named Richard & Judy’s Best Read of the Year. Second place in the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year went to The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, while the third slot was reserved for Elizabeth H Winthrop’s study of adolescence, December.

Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming, went on to pick up the Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction Award for the James Bond novel Devil May Care.

Michael Palin was this year’s winner of the Outstanding Achievement award.

International best-selling author Stephenie Meyer, who has been hailed as the successor to J K Rowling for her popular Twilight series of vampire stories, beat the mega successful Harry Potter creator to the W.H. Smith Children’s Book of the Year for Breaking Dawn. Twilight, the first book in the cult series, about a teenage girl who falls for a vampire was recently released as a blockbusting film.

The Galaxy British Book Awards (also known as The Nibbies, because of the distinctive pen-nib trophies) are described as the Oscars of the book trade, where the glitterati and the literati mix. The Galaxy British Book Awards, started in 1990, are the only awards which take votes from both the book-buying public and the Academy of the British book industry, made up of publishers, booksellers, past winners and other representatives of the British book industry.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Bahh Band at the Courthouse - Classical Indian, with a difference...

The Bahh BandThe Bahh Band play the Ennistymon Courthouse Gallery on Thursday, April 9th (8 pm, 8 euro). "The Bahh Band are a unique collective of musicians from various countries and backgrounds based in the West of Ireland. Bahh have been delighting audiences over the last two years, in sessions and concerts in various venues in Ireland and across Europe. They recently made a lasting impression on early morning crowds in the Body and Soul area at the Electric Picnic festival. The music has roots in the Classical Indian tradition but bridges the gap between such diverse influences as Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson. The core members are Mattu on the sarod (a 25 stringed Indian lute), Ciro on tabla (the famous Indian hand drums), Tom Portman on dobro (slide guitar) and vocals, Pauly Smalls on double bass and Brian Fleming on bodhrán and percussion. The group regularly invites guest musicians to perform with them including vocalists and other instrumentalists. Their performances are an enchanting mix of ancient ragas from India with a passionate and innovative interpretation of modern forms. Truly a sight and sound to behold." "Bahh" is a Bengali word to express the inexpressible - it literally means "what words?" Website:

Friday, 3 April 2009

Deaths of three Clare musicians – Ollie Conway, Michael Mahony and Michael Patsy Flanagan

Ollie Conway, MullaghThree well-known Clare musicians passed away in the last week. Ollie Conway (left) was a noted set dancer, singer and storyteller from Mullagh, where he ran Conway’s pub. The pub was a well known spot for musicians and dancers for many years, and was famous for its sessions during the Willie Clancy Week. Michael Mahony from Miltown Malbay also died last week. Michael was a renowned singer and flute player and he led the weekly singing session in Clearys (The Blond’s) in Miltown Malbay for fifty years. He was also a founder member of the West Clare Resource Centre. Michael Patsy Flanagan, from Barrtra, Lahinch, was also buried last week. Michael Patsy was the drummer with the Tulla Céilí Band for more than fifty years. He was photographed working on his farm by Dorothea Lange in 1954 as she travelled through County Clare.

Michael Patsy Flanagan playing with Martin Hayes and the Tulla Céilí Band:

Michael Patsy Flanagan recorded at home:

Michael Patsy Flanagan in Dorothea Lange collection (scans of contact prints):

More info on Dorothea Lange's visit to Ireland in 1954...

Michael Mahony (second on right) greeting President Mary McAleese at the formal opening of the west Clare Resource Centre in 2004.

Vote for your favourite book for the Irish Book Awards 2009

Irish Book Awards 2009The shortlists for the Irish Book Awards 2009 have been announced today and feature an eclectic mix of authors including major literary figures like Seamus Heaney, Sebastian Barry, Maeve Binchy and Cecelia Ahern alongside famous names from the world of entertainment and sport including Rachel Allen, Kathryn Thomas, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly and Ronan O’Gara. This is the fourth year of The Irish Book Awards, which are dedicated to honouring Ireland’s literary talent across the entire publishing spectrum. There are ten categories in the Irish Book Awards 2009, including the introduction this year of the ‘Ireland AM Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year’ category, which celebrates the explosion of Irish crime writing in recent times. The Irish Book Awards are open to all Irish authors who had a book published during the last 12 months. One of the categories which will attract much attention is the ‘Eason Irish Popular Fiction Book of the Year’ which sees Irish fiction queens Cathy Kelly, Maeve Binchy, Cecelia Ahern, Patricia Scanlan and Marian Keyes go head to head with Ross O’Carroll Kelly for the title. This year, for the first time, the overall winners in nine of the ten categories will be chosen by a public vote, in conjunction with the Irish Literary Academy. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 6th 2009. The shortlists for the Irish Book Awards 2009 emerged from a ballot of over 400 Irish booksellers and librarians throughout the country. Members of the public will now be invited to vote for the winners in each category on the Irish Book Awards website or via RTÉ Radio 1’s The Tubridy Show website and TV3’s Ireland AM website. In addition, every vote cast affords the voter entry to a draw to win up to €750 worth of National Book Tokens.

National Childminding Week celebrated in Clare County Library

National Childminding Week took place from 28th March to the 2nd April 2009. The aim of this specially designated time is to celebrate and acknowledge childminding and childminders across the country. Clare County Library in association with Clare County Childcare Committee hosted storytimes for young children and their minders. Library staff read to the children and introduced childminders to the wide variety of picture books available for borrowing, free of charge, in all branches. The library branches in Ennis, Kilrush, Shannon, Sixmilebridge and Scariff hold regular weekly storytimes throughout the year, with Miltown Malbay and Tulla libraries holding storytimes throughout the summer months. These sessions are open to childminders, the children in their care and all parents/guardians of young children. For more information see Ongoing Library Events.

2009 IMPAC Shortlist Announced

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz The shortlist for the 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was formally announced by The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Eibhlin Byrne on April 2nd, 2009 in The Mansion House. The shortlist was selected from a total of 146 novels nominated by 157 public library systems in 117 cities worldwide. The award is worth €100,000 and is the world’s most valuable literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English.
The shortlisted titles are:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Dominican - American)
Ravel by Jean Echenoz (French) in translation.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistani )
The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland (American)
The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen (Norwegian) in translation.
The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt (American)
Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Indian)
Man Gone Down by Micheal Thomas (American)
American authors feature strongly with four of the eight short listed titles, and two of the titles are translated works. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People confirm the already established recognition of literature from the East demonstrated by the award in previous years. The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Norwegian Roy Jacobsen, and Ravel by France’s Jean Echenoz, both in translation, are novels of a quality we have come to expect from two of Europe’s highly skilled craftsmen. The winner will be announced in Dublin on Thursday June 11th 2009. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is managed by Dublin City Libraries, on behalf of Dublin City Council. It is sponsored by IMPAC, an international management productivity company with its European headquarters in Dublin. The Award is presented annually with the objective of promoting excellence in world literature. It is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or English translation in the specified time period as outlined in the rules and conditions for the year. Nominations are submitted by library systems in major cities throughout the world. Recent previous winners of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award include: De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage (2008) and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (2007).

Man Booker International Prize 2009 – the contenders

Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter CareyFourteen authors from twelve different countries have been listed as contenders for the third Man Booker International Prize. Seven of the authors are writers in translation. They are:
Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (India)
E.L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnošt Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong'O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)

The Man Booker International Prize differs from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer's continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. It is awarded every two years. The contenders were selected by a judging panel chaired by Jane Smiley. She was joined by Amit Chaudhuri and Andrei Kurkov. Three of the contenders have previously won the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Peter Carey won the Booker Prize twice - in 1988 (Oscar and Lucinda) and in 2001 (True History of the Kelly Gang). James Kelman won the Booker Prize in 1994 with How Late It Was, How Late. V.S. Naipaul won the Booker Prize in 1971 with In A Free State. The winner of this year's Man Booker International Prize will be announced in May 2009. The location for the prize giving moves each time and this year the winner will be presented with their award at a ceremony in Trinity College, Dublin on 25 June. In 2005 the prize was awarded to Ismail Kadare in Edinburgh. In 2007 it went to Chinua Achebe in Oxford.