The Lit Review |25|Fighting Words

Fighting Words Irish Times Supplement

Fighting Words, the creative writing non profit based in Dublin, has published its fifth creative writing supplement in the Irish Times. The selection of stories displays the wonderful work that has been done to support creativity and literacy amongst young people since it was founded by Sean Love and Roddy Doyle in 2010. The centre, based in Dublin 1, was initially set up to promote creative writing in schools in Dublin’s inner city. Now in its sixth year, Fighting Words has delivered workshops to over 50,000 young people.

The supplement includes testimonies from Fighting Words graduates, and a collection of stories and poetry from the creative young minds who have taken part in the workshops.

The stories are thoughtful and dark, adventurous and wonderful. They induce great pride in the potential and creativity of young people and instill a sense of hope for the bright young minds that are dipping their toes into their wells of ink and sharing some incredibly imaginative and special stories. Check back here for an online version of the stories.


Keeping it Local


Independent bookshops in Ireland appear to be riding the storm in the precarious world of publishing. According to this article, nearly fifty independent bookshops in the UK closed their doors last year, but independent bookshops in Ireland are thriving. In discussion with Sara Keating, small bookshop owners explain how the key is appealing to the sense of community in their readers. Maurice Earls and Enda O’Doherty, founders of Books Upstairs, describe the air of conservatism that pervaded Irish society when they established themselves. They opened their shop when they felt an obligation to make books available which focused on social issues. This creative thinking fostered a loyal customer base for the shop.


Earls goes on to say ‘a bookshop should not just be a functional place but a place where it is enjoyable to spend time, where you can go simply for the experience.’

Des Kenny, owner of Kenny’s bookshop in Galway, describes how he used ‘its local strengths to develop its global online presence that has enabled it to continue operating, even expanding, throughout the recession,’ all the while determined ‘to keep the atmosphere of a small independent bookshop in the website.’


Is there a Platform for Arab Literature in the West?

Frozen, Disney

Kuwaiti woman Muneefa Abdullah has filed a lawsuit against Disney, claiming the idea for the blockbuster film Frozen was hers. Whether Ms Abdullah’s claim has any legitimacy or not an interesting article by Yara al Wazir asks if there is any hope for Arab literature in western culture. The article explores the missing ingredient when it comes to sharing Arab literature with the rest of the world. Al Wazir writes how publishers in the Arab world need to be nurturing home-grown talents so that their stories can translate into a western context. She promotes the exportation of Arab art and literature, stating how for centuries the region has been incubating stories and talents. ‘It’s about time that businesses and governments invest as much time and money into exporting home-grown art as they do in importing art.’


Maus Removed from Shelves

Maus, Speigleman

In preparation for the 70th Anniversary of Victory Day, the celebration of the Soviet Union’s defeat of the German army, the Russian government has demanded that bookshops remove any sign or symbol of the Nazi swastika from their shelves. Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel based on the creator’s experiences during the Holocaust, is included in this ban despite the fact that the book tells the tale of a Jewish family of mice hiding from the Nazis, who are portrayed as cats. Despite its clear anti-Nazi connotations, the swastika depicted on the book’s front cover led to it being hastily removed and stowed away. In its defence, the government explained that symbols relating to this period in history may ‘offend people’s religious feeling or question the national dignity of peoples.’ Apparently, some exceptions have been made. Writer Margarita Varlamova announced on Facebook that, following her shock at the book not being available despite it being very clearly anti-Nazi, a security guard brought her a copy masked underneath his coat. How discreet. Seems to me like a case of judging a book by its cover.


Gushing over Stationery

I mentioned National Stationery Week was happening this week in a previous post. But again I feel the need to emphasise the importance of stationery. Is there anything more beautiful than new stationery? Why does it appeal so much to our senses? Really, there is no greater joy than running one’s fingers through the clean crisp paper of a new journal, or, even better, scrawling across a blank page with a lovely new ink-soaked pen. Anyway, I’ll shelve the love affair to mention this delectable batch of unforgettable stationery.


Thief or Millionaire?

Margaret Tanchuck has requested assurance from Manhattan federal prosecutors that a priceless stash of centuries-old books will be returned to her, should she win a lawsuit investigating the potential theft of the books. Tanchuck unearthed the collection in her father’s old jewellery store following his death. When she contacted an appraiser to value the 18th-century manuscript by Benjamin Franklin and seven Bibles published between 1672 and 1861, the NYPL received a tip off that the books had library serial numbers.  I would say she is ready to hang the person who recommended that appraiser.


Bookstore Provides Sanctuary for Students

Red Emma's Bookstore, Baltimore,

With ongoing riots and unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, anarchist bookstore Red Emma’s is offering free lunch and a sanctuary to students amid the unrest. The bookstore has been a hub of activity and support for the community as a response to the recent chaos. They have organised peaceful demonstrations and have been updating locals on various activism events in the city. They are joined by other local booksellers, Ivy Book Shop, who have also opened their doors to provide a safe space for the local community.


China to Cut Art & Literature Awards by 60 percent

China will downsize awards for art and literature by 60 percent nationwide this year. News agency Xinhua announced: ‘The ministry of culture will carry out a comprehensive rectification of literary and art awards… A number of awards will be cancelled or streamlined, with an overall reduction of more than 60 percent.’ Culture Minister Luo Shugang refers to the ‘chaos in literature’ in his reasoning for the severe cuts and has explained that award ceremonies have made writers and artists ‘self-indulgent and profit seeking’ and that those who become ‘obsessed by money and illusory fame drift off course… they should focus their creativity on social responsibility.’ This all seems a bit mean to me and smells a bit like the stifling of creativity. I personally love nothing more than a good chaos-laden book, it makes for a far more interesting story.