Listen to Lingo
Attention please: Lingo has arrived. The spoken word festival will kick off today, Friday 16th October until Sunday 18th. It will host story tellers, artists and truth searchers in bars and theatres and cafes around Dublin. This year the festival curators are collaborating with the likes of Dublin City Council, UNESCO City of Literature, Visit Dublin and Poetry Ireland. Here are some of my personal highlights to watch out for.
First up, and the most exciting event this year (obviously), is Poetry Hunt, hosted by HeadStuff. This literary treasure hunt will take place in Pearse St library at 1pm-2.30pm on Saturday 17th. A family event, it will have you navigating your way from Hogwarts to Mordor as you are brought on a winding poetry tour of books. There will be face-painting, baked treats and story-telling. There are plenty of prizes involved too, and prizes are great.
Hollie McNish, internationally acclaimed spoken word performer and winner of the Glastonbury Slam, will join Ireland’s Elaine Feeney, winner of the Cúirt Grand Slam, for an evening of poetry and word speaking.
REIC will host a multilingual brunch with poetry spoken in German, Hindi, Tamil and Gaeilge.
Flying South, Ireland’s monthly mental health themed arts and open mic event, will take place on Sunday 18th October at 1pm in the Fringe LAB, providing a safe space for people to share their experiences.
Lingo Poetry Slam, the highlight of the festival for many, will bring together some of the top poets from Ireland. It’s taking place on Sunday night.
There is plenty more taking place over the weekend. It’s really inspiring to see such dedication to poetry and spoken word springing to life all over the city. You can gush over the jam-packed programme here.
Man Booker Prize Winner 2015
Marlon James has become the first ever Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker Prize. His book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is a fictionalised account of a real-life attempt to murder Bob Marley in 1976. Put simply by Michael Wood, chair of this year’s judges panel, the novel was ‘the most exciting book on the list’. At almost 700 pages, James’ third novel chronicles late 20th century politics and gang warfare in Jamaica.
James, who now lives in Minnesota, explained how he hoped his book would bring attention to Caribbean writing, but his was a ‘novel of exile … I needed that distance, I needed that sense of maybe there wouldn’t be consequences’.
Jonathan Ruppin, web editor of Foyles bookshops, referred to the book as ‘visceral and uncompromising … but it’s also an ingeniously structured feat of storytelling’.
The novel has trumped five other stories, dealing with equally disturbing subject matters, including US writer Hanya Yanigahara for A Little Life, which gives a very disturbing account of child abuse and self-harm. James was presented with his award and the £50,000 prize in London’s Guildhall on Tuesday evening.
Ban Lifted on Young Adult Novel
The ban has been lifted on the young adult novel, Into the River, by New Zealand writer Ted Dawe. An interim restriction order had been placed on the book after Family First, a conservative lobby group, complained about the language and subject matter. The New Zealand Film and Literature Board commented following their removal of the ban, saying: ‘Whilst many parents may choose not to allow their children to read such material, there are no grounds to restrict the book from teenage readers.’
The ban sparked outrage from authors and organisations. Dawe himself expressed deep regret at the time of the ban. A secondary school teacher, he had written the book to encourage young boys to read more, and used the kind of language that would be relatable to them.
He spoke in the Guardian, saying: ‘New Zealand is a safe, conservative place thousands of miles from anywhere except Australia; another safe, conservative place’.
National Book Awards Finalists
Although A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara missed out on the Man Booker Prize this year, she has made the cut for the National Book Awards. She is joined by Karen E Bender for her book, Refused, Angela Flournoy for The Turner House, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, and Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a finalist for the non-fiction prize for his book Between the World and Me. This story has placed the author in the centre of the debate around race and police brutality. Sally Mann’s Hold Still; Ordinary Light by Tracy K Smith; If Oceans Were Ink by Carla Power, and The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery are the other writers in the running for the prize, none of whom have been nominated before.
Young People’s Book Award
The longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature has also been announced. Judges will narrow the list to five on October 14th, while the winner will be announced at a ceremony in New York on November 18th. The selection of books this year displays a range of themes, including grief, sexuality and mental illness. The full list is available here.
Meg Roscoff Digging a Hole
Meg Roscoff has found herself in an online debate with librarian Edith Campbell, for saying literature does not have the ‘job of being a mirror’ and ‘there are not too few books for marginalised children’.
This was in response to Campbell’s praise of the book, Large Fears, by Myles E Johnson and Kenrick Jaye. The authors wrote the story of queer black boy Jeremiah Nebula (what an excellent name), after their successful Kickstarter campaign: ‘we wanted to see a queer black boy represented in children’s books’.
However, according to Roscoff: ‘you don’t have to read about a queer black boy to read about a marginalised child’.
‘The children’s book world is getting far too literal about what “needs” to be represented … you don’t read Crime and Punishment to find out about Russian criminals. Or Alice in Wonderland to know about rabbits.’
Campbell rebuffed this claim, and posted on her blog, saying: ‘I do need the children’s book world to be much more literal … about who needs to be represented’. Campbell added: ‘I need mirrors like Jeremiah Nebula to remind me that I can face my fears. I need him to remind me how fearfully white the world is’.
But Roscoff came back yet again to this eloquent response: ‘I really hate this idea that we need agendas in books. A great book has a philosophical, spiritual, intellectual agenda that speaks to many, many people – not just gay black boys. I’m sorry, but write a pamphlet about it. That’s not what books are for’.
Oh stop digging, Meg. You’ll meet Alice at the bottom of that hole.