I came across this lovely book recently which details the history of human life through profiling 100 objects which are on display at the British MuseI came across this lovely book recently which details the history of human life through profiling 100 objects which are on display at the British Museum. This book gave me a great sweeping overview of the history of human life on this earth, history in general being something I am a bit ignorant of, especially ancient history. My favourite object was a simple pebble carving dating from 9000 BC known as the Ain Sakhri Lovers Figurine. Found near Bethlehem, this pebble shows a couple having sex. The book explains that around 11,000 years ago, things were changing for humans. The way we were living was becoming more settled and was based around farming rather than hunting and following herds of animals. This was also the first time humans began cultivating grain for harvest, and making bread. This new domestic order in human life meant that man now had pause to think about life, instead of just desperately struggling to survive. The figure represents a new focus on human relationships rather than earlier depictions of animals which show a preoccupation with survival. This carving might be the earliest representation of love, and although it is all speculation really, it is a nice thought. It really is a beautiful object, it looks so smooth and lovingly made. There is a real tenderness between the lovers, who look as though they are looking into each others eyes.
A book I was given over the Christmas is The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. I’m not really sure if I’m an atheist or not. I went to mass on Christmas dA book I was given over the Christmas is The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. I’m not really sure if I’m an atheist or not. I went to mass on Christmas day and felt like a hypocrite. I never pray and don’t really believe in God, but there is something very comforting about Christmas Day Mass. I thought the Guide would be a joyless thing. A selection of artists, comedians, scientists and philosophers feature essays and I thought, ick. A bunch of hyper intellectual atheists sitting around smugly laughing at the masses and their opium. However, I delighted in this little book, which detailed lots of experiences similar to my own, from parents wanting to tell bible stories even if they didn’t believe to atheist carol singing. The overall impression that I got was this book was for people who wanted to take part in Christmas in some way even if the meaning for them was entirely different and personal. The beauty and wonder of the universe is presented starkly by many of the contributors, the physicist Simon Singh, even encouraged readers to tune in their radios to hear the static echo of the big bang- the beginning of all life-between stations. I would recommend this book for anyone who isn’t sure they are allowed to participate in Christmas for religious reasons. The answer is a resounding yes!
(Spoilers) ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ is not a new novel, having been on the booker short-list in 2013. I read the back of it in a bookshop recently(Spoilers) ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ is not a new novel, having been on the booker short-list in 2013. I read the back of it in a bookshop recently and was hooked! It is difficult to know where to start, reviewing this novel- so panoramic in its view that it takes in subject matter as diverse as cyber-bullying, multiculturalism, the Japanese Tsunami, Mental Health, Ecology, Schroedinger’s Cat, the second world war, 9-11… I could go on…
The rather bizarre plot hinges around a diary discovered by protagonist ‘Ruth’ on a beach in British Columbia. The diary contains the poignant writings of Japanese- American teen ‘Nao’, detailing her family’s decline since the silicone bubble burst and she and her parents relocated back to Tokyo from Silicone Valley. Nao’s father, once a successful techie now sits alone, unemployed in their tiny flat entering origami competitions and failing in his copious suicide attempts. Nao herself is bullied mercilessly at the hands of her new Japanese classmates, and slides into an underworld of cos-play costumes and prostitution in between diary- updating sessions. However, help is at hand from a stereotype smashing grandmother- zen buddhist nun Jiko who is tiny, anarchic and bald.
Nao’s plot is offset by Ruth’s story, which is quite stagnant. Ruth is a middle aged novelist living with her artist husband on a remote island in British Columbia. The trajectory of the novel feels as though the two women’s stories will collide towards the end and that Ruth will meet Nao and somehow help her, but Ozeki opens up the ending and a possible interpretation is that Ruth writes the final quarter of the book, having found that the diary just ends half way through.
Another reading sees the diary as a allegory for inspiration and the artistic process. This reading suggests that Ruth’s character finds the metaphorical diary and is encouraged to write again after a period of writer’s block, just as a writer might find threads of a plot and work with them until a novel is completed. References to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time abound throughout the narrative; Nao’s diary is bound in an antique copy of the book itself, and some quotes are interspersed. An interesting quote that prefaces part two could be seen to back up the reading I am suggesting here:
“In reality, every reader when he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth”
The doubling of the author (Ruth) and her fictional “Ruth” is too much of a co-incidence to be passed up. The character Ruth’s preoccupation with the diary, her endless research, and deliberation on each episode could then be seen as research for a new work; the diary washed up by the tide could simply be driftwood floating up from what Buddhists refer to as “the ocean of samsara” in other words, the material world. The internet and the ocean here have a lot in common- dumping grounds for vast swathes of stuff or information, complicated places that lonely people go to,in hope of finding solace. “There’s nothing sadder than cyberspace when you’re floating around out there, all alone, talking to yourself” says Nao when she realizes only 12 people have ever visited her blog.
Complexities aside, this book has a real heart and I found it very moving- I have grossly over-simplified the plot here, there are many twists and turns which are very enjoyable to read.If you have no interest or belief in spiritual things some parts might induce a eye-roll, however because the majority of the text is written by a character who is sixteen years old, surely even the most hardened cynic will soften. In some places the “Ruth” side of the story dragged, however there were some gems even in this department, mainly the little domestic tensions between Ruth and her artist partner which reminded me of my own home life- where two creative people are constantly vying to talk about their current project.
I have already lent this book to one person who loved it, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a contemporary classic!
Combining beautiful washed out watercolour illustrations with an ‘animal farm’ style narrative- this book tops the poll for us. The poor duck does the Combining beautiful washed out watercolour illustrations with an ‘animal farm’ style narrative- this book tops the poll for us. The poor duck does the work while the fat lazy farmer stays all day in bed! My son loves to point to the chocolates he is eating and try to take some for himself! There is an excellent chorus – the farmer says ‘How goes the work’ and the duck says ‘Quack!’- toddlers can really get into this and know it after a few goes- which make it a great interactive read. Eventually the other animals take matters into their own hands and decide to shove the lazy farmer out of bed and make the farm their own. A good early lesson on work ethic if not politics…
This book topped the polls- my son loved it!! Top ten toddler books on bookurchin
'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing' is the debut novel of Eimear McBride- an Irish writer who won a pile of prizes since its publication in 2013, includin
'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing' is the debut novel of Eimear McBride- an Irish writer who won a pile of prizes since its publication in 2013, including the Baileys, Goldsmiths and Folio prizes. After waiting almost nine years to find a publisher, this book I fear almost never made it to the bookshop shelf at all, which is a horrible thought as it is easily the best thing I have read in years, if not, ever.
The plot hinges around an un-named female narrator; as she tells her life in real time from earliest memories onwards. Gut-wrenchingly honest, this narrative deals with something common to literature – the sad life story- the Irish abuse -ridden catholic childhood- the guilt, the violence, the drink, addiction, shame, the absent father, the cruel mother. An apt review likened the narrative to a camera strapped to the heroines forehead. But she’s not a heroine really, she is a damaged girl, “half formed” maybe half-grown, left not nourished to fend for herself, while her over-zealous mother prayed for her son who suffered a childhood brain tumour.
Irish society is given a lashing and to be honest many of the characters were all too familiar and real. The schoolyard bullying of the disabled boy called ‘spastic’ to his face, the very Irish truisms of you’ll be grand, the Irish middle class- the golf, the gloat of small wealth, the outer smile thinly covering the rotting core.. our traditions, our songs, our old religion, our sleazy old men and young ‘madams’. It is nearly impossible to peg the time-frame of this story but it could be any time in rural Ireland over the past thirty years or so.
Female sexuality is another mainstay of this book. Following an early violation, a pattern is established in the sisters life ; sex to numb, followed by shame. She is damaged and rails against a controlling mother and religion that appear almost as one. But this rebellion is sadly not empowering, it is pitiful. Love has no place in this book or tenderness (except between the siblings). The childhood scenes are brutal and terrifying, paving the way for the teen that emerges, desperate, so isolated that she doesn’t ever even try to fit in.
Wanting to leave the rural backwater of their home, the days and hours are counted to the end of the leaving cert, brother and sister both. Brother wants the army having failed his exams, but his hopes are dashed when he fails the induction. Stacking shelves becomes a metaphor for the stagnation of rural Ireland, going nowhere after the sad years of bullying, her brother eats himself fat and plays computer games living at home with the mother who is giving in more to depression, hopelessness and religion.
The sister gets college and her leaving cert, but fails to make anything of her life away from home. She plays the city, hunting for men, drinking, it seems to drown out the noise of her family, the noise that will not go away.The train journeys frantically up and down the country, the phone’s bring -bring make escape from the epicentre of the damage impossible. Her brother’s health deteriorates and any wish of escape or transformation become memories that wash faintly away. Youthful optimism is replaced by surrender to her fate, repeated abuse, physical, psychological and sexual are commonplace- death becomes the light at the end of a nightmare -like life.
The experimental form worked for me, highlighting the immediacy of pain and making escape from the protagonist's life impossible.I think the form was executed with real skill as normally experimental things make for laborious reading. Here’s an extract to give you an idea of the form. The sister knows at this point her brother has not long to live..
“You have fallen down my brother, my brother and my love. For you’re the first one I ever had. And we’ll be good as good we ever were. Gold. Children with running noses and straggly hair and cheeks all chapped and braised by the wind by the sea[....]We were not meant. I know. Meant to go wrong. How could we not. How to avoid that I can’t discover. When do you think I will see you again? Do you think that I will. I will. I will. For I won’t let go even when you’re gone. See it in my clock head. Ticking until you are run down. And I am frightened and I am afraid of the cold. Of the dark. Of the sea.” (p152-153).
One of the best short collections I have read. Dunkerley was entirely unknown to me until this morning when I picked this up by complete chance, and wOne of the best short collections I have read. Dunkerley was entirely unknown to me until this morning when I picked this up by complete chance, and was sold after skimming one or two of the sparse finely wrought poems, which are not afraid to tackle heavy subjects, but do so with great imagination and delicacy. Can't believe I am the first to create an entry for this book here, it is a shame it hasn't been read and reviewed more widely. Will definitely look out for his work in the future....more