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I’mHappyNow.com

imhappynow

This week Selfpublishbooks.ie sat down with Diarmuid Hudner, author of Imhappynow.com, a story of three young people who come together to overcome being bullied through the website of the same name, a site free to access here. I asked Diarmuid if he has always been writing:

“I have been writing since I was very young. I used to write poetry for a local newspaper from around the age of 15. I wanted to study English at University but at that time in Ireland it was very difficult to find any job and I ended up studying business and going abroad afterwards. I have always regretted it because it took me nearly 15 years to get back to doing what I always knew I should be doing. But I kept my hand in by writing articles for financial magazines like Investment Week and Money Marketing.”

Imhappynow.com is a huge success, as signified by Diarmuid’s upcoming radio interviews and global audience. I asked him to give a brief introduction to the book. How long was it in the works? How did it begin?

“This book is a very different move for me,” Diarmuid says, “I had just finished another book called When Leaves are Falling, which was a historical fiction novel and was already half way through a World War I book when the idea for this one came into my head. I couldn’t seem to get rid of it so I stopped what I was at and started ImHappyNow.com. I had it sitting on the shelf for a year before I decided I better start doing something about it.

“I must have been born old because I love all the historical fiction classics like Jane Austen’s books,” he says, “I find them very romantic and chivalrous. I’d live back in that time if I could!! Probably though the book that made me decide to be a writer was F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It was able to capture the whole era of the “roaring twenties” and I loved some of the lines he had: ‘When he kissed this girl he knew his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.’ Nobody writes like that anymore.”

It seems Diarmuid has always loved writing: “For some reason it always put me at ease,” he says, “I’m a bit of a loner too so it suits my disposition!! I tend to actually write poetry for “kicks” but would never consider myself a poet. I started actually by writing a screenplay as I never thought I’d have the patience to write a novel but once I started it came naturally enough. Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back I think. Sometimes you have to just jump and hope you remembered to bring a parachute!”

I asked Diamuid what he enjoyed writing the most in Imhappynow.com and why: “I enjoyed the self reflection that was needed in order to write this type of book which was difficult in its own way. I had to question myself alot about how I was living my life and the level of happiness I had or hoped to have. It deals with some very raw issues such as bullying, alcoholism, suicide and self harming so it was traumatic in its own way. It’s actually a very simple message that you and only you are in charge of your own happiness.

“Meeting people with very different kinds of problems from self harmers to those who had attempted suicide was also a great learning curve for me and the realisation that fundamentally we all think the same and are searching for the same thing. Probably the biggest plus of the whole experience was to actually make the fiction book a reality by developing a website called Imhappynow.com to offer hope to anyone who is finding things a little difficult by seeing that they are not alone.”

Diarmuid explained that he had to carefully search the market before choosing self-publishing:

“I was Chairman of the Doneraile Literary & Arts Festival and I was running some workshops and began talking to more and more people who had gone down the self-publishing route. I have learned from my days in business that the market always decides and self-publishing has arisen from the traditional publishing world becoming a very closed sector. I looked at the statistics and weighed everything up before I decided to go down this route. It was daunting as I had two offers from publishers to publish my book but decided to self publish anyway as I felt I was more in control. Twenty percent of the top ten bestsellers last year were self published so it has established itself in its own right.

“It was daunting at first but I took very much a business approach to it. I researched the companies who were in the industry, got quotes and examples of their work etc. It is important to keep in mind that they are not editors or marketers of your book. That is up to you so you really have to work out whether you want to make your book commercial or not. If so then you have to figure out the process of achieving that. I think you get what you put into it but if the desire is there then help seems to appear.”

I asked Diarmuid how he found the finished product from Selfpublishbooks.ie – was it as he had imagined?

“I was hugely impressed by Selfpublishbooks.ie and the lady, Sharon, that I was dealing with there. She was very efficient, helpful, informative and professional. She must also be very patient as I can be a bit of a pain to deal with I’d say!! The graphic designer, Shelley O’Reilly, was excellent too in taking the concept of my book and making it a reality. Overall I would highly recommend Selfpublishing.ie and will be back to them with my second book.”

What’s next for Diarmuid? “Well I’m developing the website imhappynow.com which goes in tandem with this book at the moment so that’s keeping me busy. I have another book finished, When Leaves are Falling, which is more of a Jane Austen-type book and more natural to my writing style I think. I half to begin the painful job of editing that which is a “cobweb growing over face” experience but it has to be done. I have to finish the World War I book and then I might do a follow up to this one so no holidays again for me this year!”

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Joss Whedon takes on Shakespeare

The following post is reblogged in full from GalleyCat here.

The Avengers director Joss Whedon adapted William Shakespeare‘s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, as a modern-day retelling. The trailer is embedded above–what do you think?

A limited release date has been set for June 07, 2013. The film has already screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Glasgow Film Festival. As previously reported, Whedon shot the entire movie at his own home in 12 days. Here’s more about the film from NPR:

As I watched Much Ado About Nothing, I had the distinct thought, “I wonder whether this is the future.” Not the future, of course — I don’t believe we’re anywhere close to the end of the blockbuster, nor do I believe we’re necessarily entering a new age of Shakespeare — but a big piece of the future. Big films have gotten so big, expensive films so expensive, that all of the risk has to be drained out of them, which often leaves behind a dried-out version of whatever was originally intended.

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Irvine Welsh slams the Man Booker Prize



Irvine Welsh
has spoken out against the Man Booker Prize during his appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this week. As reported by the Bookseller, Welsh maintained that the Prize is “based on the conceit that upper-class Englishness is the cultural yardstick against which all literature must be measured”:

Giving the keynote speech at the session on nationalism on the third day of the conference yesterday (19th August), Welsh said the winners of the Man Booker Prize have alternated between “largely upper-middle-class English writers and citizens of the former colonies, presumably to stamp legitimacy on this ‘global accolade'”. He said the failure of the Man Booker Prize organisers to respond to accusations of anti-Scottishness indicated that “the Booker apologists simply have no arguments to refute these observations. Hegemony not only breeds arrogance; it also promotes intellectual enfeeblement.”

He added: “The Booker Prize’s contention to be an inclusive, non-discriminatory award could be demolished by anybody with even a rudimentary grasp of sixth-form sociology. The academics who are custodians of the prize however, can only offer bland and complacent corporate PR speak in defence of an award based on the conceit that upper-class Englishness is the cultural yardstick against which all literature must be measured.”

Welsh was speaking at the conference as part of the Book Festival held to mark the 50th Anniversary of the infamous 1962 Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference. See more here.

For the list of Man Booker Longlist authors, see here.

*Edit*:To read Sam Jordison’s rebuttal in the Guardian, click here.

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Style Vs. Content at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Ali Smith, writing for the Guardian on Saturday, relayed some of her thoughts on style vs. content as discussed in her talk for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She argues that it is the duty of both readers and writers to “be as open as a book, and alive to the life in language”:

The late Gore Vidal said, characteristically: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” So is there something that risks being damned, in style? Something about bravado, defiance, the defiance that rings of individuality?
Is there a sense, too, in which some writers use style as a marker of existence? A proof we’re here? But good working style is powerful whether it’s bullish or showy or quiet. Style’s existence is a matter of verbal precision, nothing else.

Style is not something that can be severed from content: “How something is told […] makes what’s being told. A story is its style. […] This is because words themselves when put together produce style, never lack style of one sort or another. Otherwise we could junk, say, one of the most recent translators of Madame Bovary, Lydia Davis (who went back and looked at Flaubert’s edits and took into account for her translation his removal, from draft to draft, of metaphoric or lyrical elements in the language of the novel), and just run Madame Bovary through Google Translate.”

Smith goes on to use T.S. Eliot and Jane Austen as examples of style, but it is her closing analysis of the style vs. content argument that most concisely sums up her argument:

A world, in a novel, in a tweet, in a grain of sand. In that newsworthy fistfight, that lively discussion the delegates had here 50 years ago in the shadow of the H-bomb and still in those long shadows of the second world war, Rebecca West talked at one point about Austen’s style and the wildly opposing universes it unites: “She said it like a lady, but the intention was strictly revolutionary.” The novel as a form, West said, would never die. She cited Salinger’s characters, “people who are dealing with eternal problems, ancient problems, and they simply cannot use a phrase that was made more than twenty-five years ago … fighting, fighting, fighting into a means of self-expression.”
Fight, fight, fight. Language is never not up for it. It’s a fight to the life. All we need to do, reader or writer, from first line to final page, is be as open as a book, and be alive to the life in language – on all its levels. Then style, as usual, will do what it does best. Then you, and I, and all of us (all seven billion of us here now in the world, not forgetting all the people in the future, and the past) with all our individualities, all our struggles, all our means of expression, will find ourselves, one way and another, when it comes to the novel, content.

The Guardian is offering daily updates on the Edinburgh Book Festival — have a look at them all here.

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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

On Friday, the Guardian published an extract from Ian McEwan’s novel Sweet Tooth on their website, as part of their ongoing promotion of the Edinburgh international festivals.

Sweet Tooth will be published by Jonathan Cape and Knopf Canada at the end of August and by Doubleday in November, as outlined on Ian McEwan’s website.

Part of the extract is below, courtesy of guardian.co.uk.

The paved way passed under the students’ union and here I turned through glass doors to a reception area. At least the porters in their uniforms behind a long counter were familiar to me – that special breed of men with their air of weary tolerance, and gruff certainty of being wiser than any student had ever been. With the music fading behind me, I followed their directions, crossed a wide open space, went under giant concrete rugby posts to enter Arts Block A and came out the other side to approach Arts Block B. Couldn’t they name their buildings after artists or philosophers? Inside, I turned down a corridor, noting the items posted on the teachers’ doors. A tacked-up card that said, “The world is everything that is the case”, a Black Panthers poster, something in German by Hegel, something in French by Merleau-Ponty. Show-offs. Right at the end of a second corridor was Haley’s room. I hesitated outside it before knocking.

I was at the corridor’s dead-end, standing by a tall, narrow window that gave onto a square of lawn. The light was such that I had a watery reflection of myself, so I took out a comb and quickly tidied my hair and straightened my collar. If I was slightly nervous it was because in the past weeks I had become intimate with my own private version of Haley, I had read his thoughts on sex and deceit, pride and failure. We were on terms already and I knew they were about to be reformed or destroyed. Whatever he was in reality would be a surprise and probably a disappointment. As soon as we shook hands our intimacy would go into reverse. I had re-read all the journalism on the way down to Brighton. Unlike the fiction it was sensible, sceptical, rather schoolmasterish in tone, as if he’d supposed he was writing for ideological fools. The article on the East German uprising of 1953 began “Let no one think the Workers’ State loves its workers. It hates them”, and was scornful of the Brecht poem about the government dissolving the people and electing another. Brecht’s first impulse, in Haley’s account, was to “toady” to the German State by giving public support to the brutal Soviet suppression of the strikes. Russian soldiers had fired directly into the crowds. Without knowing much about him, I’d always assumed that Brecht had sided with the angels. I didn’t know if Haley was right, or how to reconcile his plain-speaking journalism with the crafty intimacy of the fiction, and I assumed that when we met I would know even less.

A feistier piece excoriated West German novelists as weak-minded cowards for ignoring in their fiction the Berlin Wall. Of course they loathed its existence, but they feared that saying so would seem to align them with American foreign policy. And yet it was a brilliant and necessary subject, uniting the geo-political with personal tragedy. Surely, every British writer would have something to say about a London Wall. Would Norman Mailer ignore a wall that divided Washington? Would Philip Roth prefer not to notice if the houses of Newark were cut in two? Would John Updike’s characters not seize the opportunity of a marital affair across a divided New England? This pampered, over-subsidised literary culture, protected from Soviet repression by the pax Americana, preferred to hate the hand that kept it free. West German writers pretended the Wall didn’t exist and thereby lost all moral authority. The title of the essay, published in Index on Censorship, was “La Trahison des Clercs”.

With a pearly pink painted nail I tapped lightly on the door and, at the sound of an indistinct murmur or groan, pushed it open. I was right to have prepared myself for disappointment. It was a slight figure who rose from his desk, slightly stooped, though he made the effort to straighten his back as he stood. He was girlishly slender, with narrow wrists and his hand when I shook it seemed smaller and softer than mine. Skin very pale, eyes dark green, hair dark brown and long, and cut in a style that was almost a bob. In those first few seconds I wondered if I’d missed a trans-sexual element in the stories. He wore a collarless shirt made of flecked white flannel, tight jeans with a broad belt and scuffed leather boots. I was confused by him. The voice from such a delicate frame was deep, without regional accent, classless.

“Let me clear these things away so you can sit.”

He shifted some books from an armless soft chair. I thought, with a touch of annoyance, that he was letting me know that he had made no special preparations for my arrival.

“Was your journey down all right? Would you like some coffee?”

The journey was pleasant, I told him, and I didn’t need coffee.

He sat down at his desk and swivelled his chair to face me, crossed an ankle over a knee and with a little smile opened out his palms in an interrogative manner. “So, Miss Frome …”

“It rhymes with plume. But please call me Serena.”

He cocked his head to one side as he repeated my name. Then his eyes settled softly on mine and he waited. I noted the long eyelashes. I’d rehearsed this moment and it was easy enough to lay it all out for him. Truthfully. The work of Freedom International, its wide remit, its extensive global reach, its open-mindedness and lack of ideology. He listened to me, head still cocked, and with a look of amused scepticism, his lips quivering slightly as though at any moment he was ready to join in or take over and make my words his own, or improve upon them. He wore the expression of a man listening to an extended joke, anticipating an explosive punchline with held-in delight that puffs and puckers his lips. As I named the writers and artists the Foundation had helped, I fantasised that he had already seen right through me and had no intention of letting me know. He was forcing me to make my pitch so he could observe a liar at close hand. Useful for a later fiction. Horrified, I pushed the idea away and forgot about it. I needed to concentrate. I moved on to talk about the source of the Foundation’s wealth. Max thought Haley should be told just how rich Freedom International was. The money came from an endowment by the artistic widow of a Bulgarian immigrant to the USA who had made his money buying and exploiting patents in the twenties and thirties. In the years following his death, his wife bought up Impressionist paintings after the war from a ruined Europe at pre-war prices. In the last year of her life she had fallen for a culturally inclined politician who was setting up the Foundation. She left her and her husband’s fortune to his project.

Everything I had said so far had been the case, easily verified. Now I took my first tentative step into mendacity. “I’ll be quite frank with you,” I said. “I sometimes feel Freedom International doesn’t have enough projects to throw its money at.”

“How flattering then,” Haley said. Perhaps he saw me blush because he added, “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“You misunderstand me, Mr Haley …”

“Tom.”

“Tom. Sorry. I put that badly. What I meant was this. There are plenty of artists being imprisoned or oppressed by unsavoury governments. We do everything we can to help these people and get their work known. But, of course, being censored doesn’t necessarily mean a writer or sculptor is any good. For example, we’ve found ourselves supporting a terrible playwright in Poland simply because his work is banned. And we’ll go on supporting him. And we’ve bought up any amount of rubbish by an imprisoned Hungarian abstract impressionist. So the steering committee has decided to add another dimension to the portfolio. We want to encourage excellence wherever we can find it, oppressed or not. We’re especially interested in young people at the beginning of their careers …”

“And how old are you, Serena?” Tom Haley leaned forward solicitously, as if asking about a serious illness.

I told him. He was letting me know he was not to be patronised. And it was true, in my nervousness I had taken on a distant, official tone. I needed to relax, be less pompous, I needed to call him Tom. I realised I wasn’t much good at any of this. He asked me if I’d been at university. I told him, and said the name of my college.

“What was your subject?”

I hesitated, I tripped over my words. I hadn’t expected to be asked, and suddenly mathematics sounded suspect and without knowing what I was doing I said, “English.”

He smiled pleasantly, appearing pleased at finding common ground. “I suppose you got a brilliant first?”

“A two one actually.” I didn’t know what I was saying. A third sounded shameful, a first would have set me on dangerous ground. I had told two unnecessary lies. Bad form. For all I knew, a phone call to Newnham would establish there had been no Serena Frome doing English. I hadn’t expected to be interrogated. Such basic preparatory work, and I’d failed to do it. Why hadn’t Max thought of helping me towards a decent watertight personal story? I felt flustered and sweaty, I imagined myself jumping up without a word, snatching up my bag, fleeing from the room.

Tom was looking at me in that way he had, both kindly and ironic. “My guess is that you were expecting a first. But listen, there’s nothing wrong with a two one.”

“I was disappointed,” I said, recovering a little. “There was this, um, general, um …”

“Weight of expectation?”

Our eyes met for a little more than two or three seconds, and then I looked away. Having read him, knowing too well one corner of his mind, I found it hard to look him in the eye for long. I let my gaze drop below his chin and noticed a fine silver chain around his neck.

“So you were saying, writers at the beginning of their careers.” He was self-consciously playing the part of the friendly don, coaxing a nervous applicant through her entrance interview. I knew I had to get back on top.

I said, “Look, Mr Haley …”

“Tom.”

“I don’t want to waste your time. We take advice from very good, very expert people. They’ve given a lot of thought to this. They like your journalism, and they love your stories. Really love them. The hope is …”

“And you. Have you read them?”

“Of course.”

“And what did you think?”

“I’m really just the messenger. It’s not relevant what I think.”

“It’s relevant to me. What did you make of them?”

The room appeared to darken. I looked past him, out of the window. There was a grass strip, and the corner of another building. I could see into a room like the one we were in, where a tutorial was in progress. A girl not much younger than me was reading aloud her essay. At her side was a boy in a bomber jacket, bearded chin resting in his hand, nodding sagely. The tutor had her back to me. I turned my gaze back into our room, wondering if I was not overdoing this significant pause. Our eyes met again and I forced myself to hold on. Such a strange dark green, such long child-like lashes, and thick black eyebrows. But there was hesitancy in his gaze, he was about to look away, and this time the power had passed to me.

I said very quietly, “I think they’re utterly brilliant.”

He flinched as though someone had poked him in the chest, in the heart, and he gave a little gasp, not quite a laugh. He went to speak but was stuck for words. He stared at me, waiting, wanting me to go on, tell him more about himself and his talent, but I held back. I thought my words would have more power for being undiluted. And I wasn’t sure I could trust myself to say anything profound. Between us a certain formality had been peeled away to expose an embarrassing secret. I’d revealed his hunger for affirmation, praise, anything I might give. I guessed that nothing mattered more to him. His stories in the various reviews had probably gone unremarked, beyond a routine thanks and pat on the head from an editor. It was likely that no one, no stranger at least, had ever told him that his fiction was brilliant. Now he was hearing it and realising that he had always suspected it was so. I had delivered stupendous news. How could he have known if he was any good until someone confirmed it? And now he knew it was true and he was grateful.

As soon as he spoke, the moment was broken and the room resumed its normal tone. “Did you have a favourite?”

It was such a stupid, sheepish excuse of a question that I warmed to him for his vulnerability. “They’re all remarkable,” I said. “But the one about the twin brothers, “This Is Love”, is the most ambitious. I thought it had the scale of a novel. A novel about belief and emotion. And what a wonderful character Jean is, so insecure and destructive and alluring. It’s a magnificent piece of work. Did you ever think of expanding it into a novel, you know, filling it out a bit?”

He looked at me curiously. “No, I didn’t think of filling it out a bit.” The deadpan reiteration of my words alarmed me.

“I’m sorry, it was a stupid …”

“It’s the length I wanted. About fifteen thousand words. But I’m glad you liked it.”

Sardonic and teasing, he smiled and I was forgiven, but my advantage had dimmed. I had never heard fiction quantified in this technical way. My ignorance felt like a weight on my tongue.

 

I said, “And ‘Lovers’, the man with the shop-window mannequin, was so strange and completely convincing, it swept everyone away.” It was now liberating to be telling outright lies. “We have two professors and two well-known reviewers on our board. They see a lot of new writing. But you should have heard the excitement at the last meeting. Honestly, Tom, they couldn’t stop talking about your stories. For the first time ever the vote was unanimous.”

The little smile had faded. His eyes had a glazed look, as though I was hypnotising him. This was going deep.

“Well,” he said, shaking his head to bring himself out of the trance. “This is all very pleasing. What else can I say?” Then he added, “Who are the two critics?”

“We have to respect their anonymity, I’m afraid.”

“I see.”

He turned away from me for a moment and seemed lost in some private thought. Then he said, “So, what is it you’re offering, and what do you want from me?”

“Can I answer that by asking you a question? What will you do when you’ve finished your doctorate?”

“I’m applying for various teaching jobs, including one here.”

“Full time?”

“Yes.”

“We’d like to make it possible for you to stay out of a job. In return you’d concentrate on your writing, including journalism if you want.”

He asked me how much money was on offer and I told him. He asked for how long and I said, “Let’s say two or three years.”

“And if I produce nothing?”

“We’d be disappointed and we’d move on. We won’t be asking for our money back.”

He took this in and then said, “And you’d want the rights in what I do?”

“No. And we don’t ask you to show us your work. You don’t even have to acknowledge us. The Foundation thinks you’re a unique and extraordinary talent. If your fiction and journalism get written, published and read, then we’ll be happy. When your career is launched and you can support yourself we’ll fade out of your life. We’ll have met the terms of our remit.”

He stood up and went round the far side of his desk and stood at the window with his back to me. He ran his hand through his hair and muttered something sibilant under his breath that may have been “Ridiculous”, or perhaps, “Enough of this”. He was looking into the same room across the lawn. Now the bearded boy was reading his essay while his tutorial partner stared ahead of her without expression. Oddly, the tutor was speaking on the phone.

Tom returned to his chair and crossed his arms. His gaze was directed across my shoulder and his lips were pressed shut. I sensed he was about to make a serious objection.

I said, “Think it over for a day or two, talk to a friend … Think it through.”

He said, “The thing is …” and he trailed away. He looked down at his lap and he continued. “It’s this. Every day I think about this problem. I don’t have anything bigger to think about. It keeps me awake at night. Always the same four steps. One, I want to write a novel. Two, I’m broke. Three, I’ve got to get a job. Four, the job will kill the writing. I can’t see a way round it. There isn’t one. Then a nice young woman knocks on my door and offers me a fat pension for nothing. It’s too good to be true. I’m suspicious.”

“Tom, you make it sound simpler than it is. You’re not passive in this affair. The first move was yours. You wrote these brilliant stories. In London people are beginning to talk about you. How else do you think we found you? You’ve made your own luck with talent and hard work.”

The ironic smile, the cocked head – progress.

He said, “I like it when you say brilliant.”

“Good. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.” I reached into my bag on the floor and took out the Foundation’s brochure. “This is the work we do. You can come to the office in Upper Regent Street and talk to the people there. You’ll like them.”

“You’ll be there too?”

“My immediate employer is Word Unpenned. We work closely with Freedom International and are putting money their way. They help us find the artists. I travel a lot or work from home. But messages to the Foundation office will find me.”

He glanced at his watch and stood, so I did too. I was a dutiful young woman, determined to achieve what was expected of me. I wanted Haley to agree now, before lunch, to be kept by us. I would break the news by phone to Max in the afternoon and by tomorrow morning I hoped to have a routine note of congratulation from Peter Nutting, unemphatic, unsigned, typed by someone else, but important to me.

“I’m not asking you to commit to anything now,” I said, hoping I didn’t sound like I was pleading. “You’re not bound to anything at all. Just give me the say-so and I’ll arrange a monthly payment. All I need is your bank details.”

The say-so? I’d never used that word in my life. He blinked in assent, but not to the money so much as to my general drift. We were standing less than six feet apart. His waist was slender and through some disorder in his shirt I caught a glimpse below a button of skin and downy hair above his navel.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll think about it very carefully. I’ve got to be in London on Friday. I could look in at your office.”

“Well then,” I said and put out my hand. He took it, but it wasn’t a handshake. He took my fingers in his palm and stroked them with his thumb, just one slow pass. Exactly that, a pass, and he was looking at me steadily. As I took my hand away, I let my own thumb brush along the length of his forefinger. I think we may have been about to move closer when there was a hearty, ridiculously loud knock on the door. He stepped back from me as he called, “Come in.” The door swung open and there stood two girls, centre-parted blonde hair, fading suntans, sandals and painted toenails, bare arms, sweet expectant smiles, unbearably pretty. The books and papers under their arms didn’t look at all plausible to me.

“Aha,” Tom said. “Our Faerie Queene tutorial.”

I was edging round him towards the door. “I haven’t read that one,” I said.

He laughed, and the two girls joined in, as if I’d made a wonderful joke. They probably didn’t believe me.

Ian McEwan is at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thursday 23 August.

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Edinburgh Festivals

Today the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, and the International Book Festival all meet in Scotland’s capital.
The Guardian has full coverage of the festivals on their website — check it out here!

 

Zadie Smith will be giving the first glimpse of her long-awaited new novel NW, poet Alice Oswald will put on a rare performance of Memorial, her reimagining of the Iliad, and authors from Irvine Welsh to Joyce Carol Oates are debating the key issues facing modern literature at this summer’s Edinburgh international book festival.

Smith, who has not published a novel since On Beauty (2005), will give a sneak preview of NW, about four people who grew up on a council estate in north-west London. “It’s a fantastic year for British fiction,” said festival director Nick Barley.

Smith will also be discussing the state of Britain today on a panel with Alistair Darling and Paddy Ashdown, while Ian McEwan will be interviewing Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond about his life beyond politics. Debate will likewise rage at the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, a major programming partnership between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council. The event will mirror the notorious 1962 Edinburgh writers’ conference, where authors including Norman Mailer and William S Burroughs thrashed out the relevance of literature.

From talks by former prime minister Gordon Brown and former hostage John McCarthy to the reminiscences of Seamus Heaney and Andrew O’Hagan about their journeys together through Scotland, Wales and Ireland, 800 authors from 44 countries will appear in 750 events at this year’s festival. A lineup featuring eight Booker winners, including Hilary Mantel, John Banville and Anne Enright, will also incorporate Nobel laureates, politicians and poets.

As reported in The Guardian,”Last year, our theme was revolution,” said Barley. “Now the question everyone is asking is: ‘Where did revolution take us?’ My feeling is that, following a time of revolution, we need to take stock. So the theme of the debates is ‘rethinking’ – looking again at ideas we thought were clear in our minds, like democracy. This is a year for taking stock about what matters to us in a time of uncertainty, doubt and data overload. It is also, of course, a time when Scotland is preparing to make a big decision about its own future. All this and more will be discussed, deliberated, considered, broadcast live online via the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, and disseminated around the world. We look forward to a lively, informed and informative debate.”

 

The Edinburgh International Festival is from the 9th August-2nd September — see full programme here.
The Book Festival is running from 11th-27th August — see the full programme online here.
The Fringe Festival is from the 3rd-27th August — see their programme here.

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The 53rd Annual Yeats’ Summer School: July 29th-August 10th 2012

On July 29th this year, the 53rd Annual Yeats’ International Summer School will commence with 11 days of workshops, lectures, readings, visits to Yeats’ country, with music and drama to carry the lucky few along. The Summer School is run by the Yeats Society Sligo, to promote the work of WB Yeats and to foster young talent.

The daily programme of events begins with a lecture in Hawk’s Well Theatre, on to lunch-hour events or outings and ending with a seminar in the Yeats’ Memorial Building.

The lectures which will be given during the Summer School include “Yeats and the loss of Coole” by the Director of the School, James Pethica, “Sligo Homecoming” by the Associate Director, Anne Margaret Daniel, “Yeats as Critic” by Edna Longley, “Yeats and the Act of Dying” by Kevin Barry, NUIG, as well such interesting titles as “The Wanderings of Yeats and Oisin”, “Swedenborg, Yeats, and Jacobite Freemasonry” and “Yeats’ shaping of The Tower and The Winding Stair”.

The lunch-hour events vary from visits to Sligo’s Masonic Temple, a walking tour of Sligo, a reading by Belinda McKeon, and outings to Knocknarea and Carrowmore.

Seminars run every evening, with content and discussion revolving around prescribed texts of Yeats, and can be viewed in full here. Evening events for this year’s school include a reading from Seamus Heaney, another from Harry Clifton, Ireland Chair of Poetry, Irish dancing, drama performances, and a coach trip to Glencar Waterfall, Lough Gill and Yeats’ Grave.

However, one of the highlights of the School is its writing courses. A drama workshop runs every afternoon throughout the week, and a poetry workshop (€100 extra) will run from 4th-5th August.

Why is there so much excitement around this? Because the aim of the Yeats Society is, over time, “to develop Yeats’ stature in Sligo in a similar manner to that afforded other literary giants, such as Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon and the Bronte Sisters in Yorkshire.” The Society work tirelessly to promote Yeats and his work, and especially in this tired economic climate, their reach to writers and groups across the world to visit a remote place in Ireland attests to the excellence of their School. They don’t neglect those at home, either — as part of the School, they are offering anyone to join in the guided tour of Sligo for free — more details here.

During the festival, July 29th – August 10th, this blog will have daily updates on what is happening during the School, thanks to the wonderful Anne Daniel.

The full programme (Part 1 and Part 2) is available here.

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