Due to of the number of literary festivals and talks taking place over the coming weeks, I’ll kick off this week with a compilation of just a few events of note; along with other news from the world of literature.
Mindfield: Spoken Word at Electric Picnic
Electric Picnic is upon us, and the Mindfield arena is hosting spoken word performances all weekend. Mindfield prides itself on discussions of influence, which provoke thought and change, and it appears to be living up to expectations this year with the debut of a new 3D bate format for livemixing audio and visual images and live commentary from the audience, so you’ll even get to participate.
Some highlights include Soundings: Holy Trinity, the acclaimed, live podcasts from Lisa Hannigan and Dylan Haskins (listen to previous shows here). For those who manage to peel themselves from their hungover stupor on Sunday morning, Miriam O’Callaghan and Al Porter will be hosting a brunch show (minus eggs). The Council of the Islands will also take place, where speakers from Britain and Ireland will discuss ways to improve our countries and make our lives better. You even get to vote on the options. More participation, hurrah. There should be plenty to keep all you revelers entertained.
Bram Stoker Festival
As autumn creeps in, and we brace ourselves for some very grim weather, we must also enjoy the nice elements of the season. Things such as crunchy leaves, pumpkins, scarves, and the Bram Stoker Festival, naturally. The festivities aren’t taking place until the 23rd– 26th of October, so I will remind you of all the blood curdling details nearer the time. But, for now, the programme is out for you to peruse.
Richard Ford at University of Limerick
Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Richard Ford, noted for his famous Frank Bascombe novels, will visit the University of Limerick on 15th September. The evening of literature will be hosted by Joseph O’Connor, Chair of the university’s creative writing programme. Tickets are free, which is brilliant, but you must reserve a seat before the 11th September, or before they sell out. You can book your place by emailing [email protected]
Library Voices at DLR
Continuing Dun Laoghaire Rathdown’s Library Voices series, British writer and director Anthony Horowitz and Canadian Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood, will feature at events next month to discuss some of their latest work. Horowitz will join Rick O’Shea at the Dun Laoghaire LexIcon Library on Friday, September 11th at 7.30pm. Atwood will be having a chat with journalist Paula Shields at the Royal Marine Hotel, on Wednesday, September 30th at 7.30pm. This is the eight year that the series has welcomed acclaimed, international authors to Dun Laoghaire.
Sixty Years of Broken Records
Guinness World Records turns 60 this year, and there are no plans to shelve the brand just yet, given it sold over 2.75 million books last year, surpassed only by The Bible and the Qur’an. The idea for the book came to be when Sir Henry Beaver, Managing Director of Guinness Brewery at the time, got into a discussion with friends about which game bird was the fastest in the world. Following this discussion he commissioned sports journalists Norris and Ross McWhirter to compile a book of facts that would settle arguments amongst friends in the pub (a sore loser, it would seem). The first book was bound on August 27th, 1955 and became a bestseller in Britain by Christmas. When Diageo bought Guinness in 2001, the book’s ownership changed numerous times until 2008, when Canadian billionaire, Jim Pattison, bought it for an undisclosed sum.
Alastair Richards, who currently runs the business, explains why the book has become so iconic: ‘You can’t limit what success looks like just to what a school or business says … it is a really simple and digested way of learning about the world and the universe. These are the two basic principles that lie behind the brand.’
Man Booker International Prize
The judges for the Man Booker International Prize 2016 have been revealed. The inaugural panel will be made up of novelist Tahmima Anam; academic David Bellos, editor and academic Daniel Medin, and poet and author Ruth Padel.
The Man Booker International Prize has come together with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP). The idea behind it is to give an opportunity to fiction in translation, broadening the scope of the prize. The work of translators will also be acknowledged, with the new £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.
Oliver Sacks Dies
Oliver Sacks, author and neurologist, has passed away at age 82. The London Born academic, authored a number of books about unusual medical conditions that dealt with his research into human perception, memory and conciousness. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and The Island of the Colourblind. His book Awakenings was based on his work with patients treated with a drug that woke them up after years in a catatonic state was famous for his insightful stories based on research into the mysteries of thought and human consciousness. The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat established the physician as a respected novelist, followed by Awakenings, which was made into an Oscar winning film in 1991.
Sacks, who produced work up until his death, reflected mournfully but beautifully on his life and career when he discovered he had terminal cancer last February: ‘A month ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out – a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver … I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved’. NPR has put together a touching tribute with a compilation of interviews with Sacks. These bring to light his compassionate, charming personality and wonderful mind. Read more of his life here.
Günter Grass Posthumous Poetry
Despite his sad passing last April, Günter Grass has once again managed to stir debate and discussion among critics. His final book, Vonne Endlichkait (On Finiteness), published posthumously in Germany last week, is a compilation of provocative poetry and essays. One poem for example, presciently addresses the current migrant crisis in Europe when he recalls how Germans were once refugees themselves, yet now display the same intolerance towards refugees that they endured when displaced after World War II. He also refers to the isolation that the internet has created, alienating people from the real problems of the world: ‘The bombs that go off daily in Iraq and the corpses lined up underneath sheets are only pretend dead and copies of real computer games; the crime scene that is Gaza merely a newspaper hoax that raises a laugh among billions of users, another shitstorm’.
In 2006, Grass revealed he had been a member of the Waffen SS as a teenager. His honesty and his deep regret and sadness gained him great respect among his peers and the German public. He was known as a great social commentator and moral compass for German society. This remains true, it seems, even in death.