It’s December and for me that means only one thing: it’s Christmas. That’s just how it works. Yes, I know it’s actually Advent, and Christmas only begins on Christmas Day. But I don’t care. I’m not a Christian, and, to me, Christmas is no more about Christ than Thursday is about Thor. Christmas is about mince pies, hot alcoholic drinks, blinking lights, sentimental films, TV specials, time off work, songs, presents and family. And I love it.
But why? I’m a somewhat curmudgeonly atheist, not generally given to joining in with forced displays of jollity or sentimentalism. I usually watch what I eat and drink (well, I try to anyway). I’m, at best, indifferent to Cliff Richard. And I’m largely opposed to crass consumerism. Read more…
If I had regular readers, that is no doubt the question they would be asking me. But I don’t. So they’re not. But in case anybody was thinking it, here’s some sort of update, if for no other purpose than to tie up some loose ends. Read more…
If you live in Ireland and not under a rock, you will have noticed that for the first time in fourteen years we’re having a presidential election. Here’s a quick round-up of the candidates. One of these people will be shaking hands with visiting dignitaries and rugby players for the next seven years.
With the announcement of this year’s Man Booker Prize only two days away, I’m down to my last two books: Patrick McGuinness’s tale of the last days of Ceausescu’s Romania, The Last Hundred Days, and D. J. Taylor‘s period drama Derby Day. (See how the title of the post works on multiple levels!) There’s a good chance I’ll have one of them finished before Tuesday evening and an outside chance that I’ll finish both of them.
But the important thing for now is that I completed the shortlist. Read more…
Noted charlatan Sally Morgan recently performed a show for vulnerable and gullible people in Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre. Depressingly, there is no shortage of demand for her fraudulent pablum and the event was sold out. It would have passed largely unnoticed outside its target demographic were it not for a caller to a radio show also beloved of provincial housewives, RTÉ Radio 1‘s Liveline. Listen here .
Sue, who was sitting at the back of the stadium near the open window of a “projection room”, claimed she heard a man’s voice saying things which were then repeated by Sally. Her take was that Morgan had plants in the foyer listening to audience members share their stories, and then relaying them to her.
Another caller, sitting a few rows in front, confirmed her story.
Now this could well be the case. Many others who make a living pretending to be psychic have used this method. But I don’t think this particular fraud makes her fortune in quite that manner. Or at least not this time. Here’s why:
Boy, was I wrong! But not as wrong as the Man Booker Prize judges. Here’s the shortlist they’ve just announced:
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
The Man Booker Prize shortlist will be announced later today. Here’s my guess as to which of the books will make it, based on what I’ve read so far.
I think the above three are virtually certain to make the shortlist. I’m considerably less confident about the rest, especially as I haven’t read them all.
But I’m going to go for:
- Booker prize shortlist 2011: who do you think will be on it? (guardian.co.uk)
- Booker shortlist to be announced (bbc.co.uk)
I’m currently making good progress in my challenge to read the entire Man Booker Prize longlist. So far I have finished six of the thirteen books.
The Sisters Brothers by Canadian author Patrick deWitt, is a western, darkly humorous in tone. The eponymous brothers are Charlie, who loves the violent life the brothers share as hired killers, and the narrator, Eli, who longs for a more peaceful existence. The novel follows what Eli hopes will be their last job. Often amusing, sometimes thrilling, occasionally moving, this is a solid novel and well worth a read.
Pigeon English is the tale of Harrison Opoku, an eleven-year-old Ghanaian boy, recently arrived in the UK, and his response to the violent murder of a boy from his school. Narrated by Harrison, its attempts to get inside the mind of a child didn’t quite work for me, the supporting characters sometimes seem stereotyped, while the parts narrated by a pigeon just came across as gimmicky. That said, it had its moments, and was ultimately quite touching, if a little depressing. A decent first-time novel, just not my thing. Read more…
Yesterday I was reading about the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. A number of the selected books looked interesting, and I reflected that I hadn’t read much literary fiction recently, and that I almost never read contemporary works in this genre. I decided to read at least some of what are presumably this year’s best novels. Then, in a moment of inspiration – or insanity – I wondered whether it would be feasible to read them all before the winner was announced. Read more…
Saturday’s afternoon session began with a panel entitled “Women Atheist Activists” although it was unclear whether that was to be the subject of the discussion or simply a description of the panelists. It seemed to serve as both.
Paula Kirby spoke first and made it clear that she was an atheist activist but not particularly active in the area of women’s rights and had never really experienced or noticed any sexism in the movement, so wasn’t really sure why she was there. I have to admit to being a little unsure myself. Kirby has plenty to offer but seemed to be on this panel only because she was a woman, ironically an apparent example of the kind of sexism she hasn’t noticed.