April/May Microreviews

January microreviews
February microreviews
March microreviews

Books:

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IV, Chuck Klosterman: Chuck Klosterman does the kind of journalism I would love to do. Funny, sarcastic pop culture essays with smart commentary on the impact of entertainment on society. I’ll always point to his essay on The Real World as one of the best I’ve read. This collection was decent; the non-fiction was great, the semi-fiction was okay, and the fiction was barely worth reading. I particularly enjoyed the profile of Morrissey’s hispanic fans and the one about tribute bands.

The World’s Wife
, Carol Ann Duffy: I love Carol Ann Duffy’s poems and their clever, feminist slant. The World’s Wife is a perfect example. Duffy writes from the perspective of the wives and lovers of famous historical and literary figures: how does King Midas’ touch affect his marriage? or alters the stories to give women more agency than in their original tellings.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
, Neil Gaiman:  I read this book over the course of two days; whenever I needed a break from wandering around London I would take advantage of the comfortable sofas in the Piccadilly Circus Waterstones and curl up for a few minutes with this book. It’s a beautiful little fairy tale about monsters and magic and growing up.

Salt: A World History
, Mark Kurlansky: I may be sick of Mark Kurlansky by the time I finish writing my thesis as one of his books is a major source I’m using, but in the meantime I loved reading this. He looks at a common material—salt—and through evidence and anecdote, explores its impact on history and contemporary life and food in an interesting and entertaining way.

The Little Friend
, Donna Tartt: Not as good as The Secret History and certainly not as good as The Goldfinch, but a book can still be pretty excellent with both of those things being true. I didn’t find myself caring much for the central mystery, which is good because I also didn’t find much resolution, but it was all the little pieces of southern gothic description and all the side stories about minor figures and all the miscellaneous everything else that I really enjoyed.

Paper Towns, John Green: Paper Towns is known for being a story that points out the ridiculousness of the idea of the so-called “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” I found it to be mostly successful in this regard, but it would’ve been more effective if it had been from the perspective of the girl, rather than about her. Still, a quick and fun read.

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann: I absolutely loved this. Set in 1974, while Philippe Petit crossed the World  Trade Center towers on a tightrope, the novel features characters from all walks of live, and the city of New York itself is as strong a character as any of them. It’s a beautiful book, and one I look forward to reading again in the future.

Live by Night
, Dennis Lehane: I didn’t realise that this was a sequel of sorts to The Given Day until I started reading it, but instead of the sprawling historical novel and social commentary of its predecessor, Live by Night is a fast-paced crime story more in line with Lehane’s other detective works.

Bark: Stories, Lorrie Moore: Whenever you can finish a book in one sitting you have to assume that a) it’s not very long but b) it is very good. The first two stories didn’t entirely hook me, but by the time I got to ‘Paper Losses’ I knew I wasn’t moving until I had gotten to the end. Luckily it was a beautiful day outside. The descriptions were visceral and the relationships devastating.

Werewolves in their Youth, Michael Chabon: I shouldn’t have read this immediately after Bark, I don’t think. Too many  stories about relationships facing harsh realities. Michael Chabon is one of my favourite authors, and this isn’t his best work. There were still moments and sentences that really resonated, but overall I didn’t find the stories or characters as memorable as in most of his books.

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Ireland, 17-21 May

Despite living in Ireland for nine months now, I haven’t seen as much of the country as I would like. Unlike the semesters of undergrad when I studied in London, England and Sevilla, Spain, the MA has, understandably, taken up quite a bit of my time (and my finances) and so I haven’t spent my weekends travelling and exploring. When my family came to visit this past week, however, they wanted to see more than just Dublin and Galway, the two cities I’m most familiar with, so it was a good time to get the full tourist experience.

We Go Again: Liverpool FC 2013/2014

We are Liverpool, tra la la la la

We are Liverpool, tra la la la la

At the start of the season, I predicted, like most, that Liverpool was still in their rebuilding period. We would finish 6th, maybe 5th if Tottenham really screwed up. I wasn’t being pessimistic, just realistic. The top 4 spot that would bring Champions League football back to Anfield was a dream for next season, and that was okay. If you’d told me then that I’d be sitting here now, sad that we didn’t win the league… well, sure, supporters of every team down to the ones that get relegated are sad that their teams didn’t win the league. But if you’d told me how close we came, I’d have never believed you. As I write this, I’ll admit I’m a bit teary-eyed that City (the team I predicted to win at the start of the season, mind) came out on top, but we’re in second. We’re back in the Champions League. We’re so far ahead of United you have to scroll down the league table to find them. I’m nothing if not very, very proud. It’s been a wild ride, and here are a few of the most memorable moments:

Liverpool 1 – 0 Stoke, 17 August 2013

The day before I left for Ireland, I got up at half-six on a Saturday morning and went to the pub with my father (dragging along my still-half-asleep mother and sister). There we were joined by about fifty other people, mostly my father’s age, mostly men, but some women, some young people, and nearly all wearing red. We said hello to the bartender, got our pints—yes, at seven in the morning—and sat down to watch the football. Liverpool v Stoke, at Anfield, the opening match of the 2013/14 season. Things got off to a good start, with Daniel Sturridge (more on him later) scoring a few minutes before halftime. It looked like we were on track for a win and the atmosphere in the Iron Abbey was upbeat. Then, in the 88th minute, when all we had to do was sit back and defend, Daniel Agger, my second favourite Dane after Hamlet, handled the ball in the box and the referee called for a penalty.

Here it is, I thought. Business as usual. Stoke will equalise and we’ll be on track for a season just like the ones we’ve had for the past few years; the ones that made me dread waking up on those early weekend mornings, hungover and watching Liverpool lose to Aston Villa. And then, and then. Simon Mignolet, our new keeper (whom I immediately liked even though I’ve always been a big fan of Pepe Reina), saved the penalty, and saved the win for Liverpool. At that moment I knew—I think we all knew—that this season was going to be something special.

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ROPES 2014 book launch: 10 April 2014

In two days the MA in Literature & Publishing at NUI Galway will launch the ROPES 2014 literary journal, featuring writers and artists from around the world sharing their stories, poems, and artwork on the theme of ‘home’. Proceeds from the sale of ROPES 2014 will go to COPE Galway, a charity whose vision is an improved quality of life in a home of your own.

If you’re in or around Galway this week for the Cúirt International Literary Festival or for any other reason, come to the COPE charity shop on St. Augustine Street this Thursday 10 April, at 4pm. The launch will feature readings by contributing writers and poets including award-winning author Niamh Boyce, who will be launching the journal.

The cause is good, the wine is free, and the book is a beautiful thing of which we are very, very proud.

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March Microreviews

January microreviews
February microreviews

March Books


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La Roja by Jimmy Burns (2013): I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while, but I found it lacking in actual stories about La Roja, instead focusing on the rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao’s Basque-only policy, and other similar topics. Still interesting, and certainly related to the Spanish NT, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000): Anthony Bourdain’s television programmes are both my favourite food shows and my favourite travel shows, but I’d never read any of his books. Just like No Reservations, Kitchen Confidential is witty, irreverent, and made me want to jump on a plane, land somewhere exotic, and eat.

Everyday Revolutions by Marina Sitrin (2012): Latin American politics, grassroots movements, and copious references to Naomi Klein made me predisposed to enjoy this book. I found it somewhat verbose and sometimes meandering, but overall it’s an interesting look at contemporary activism in Argentina.

March Films

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Her (2013): Despite being about a Siri-like AI, Her was meant to be very emotionally profound, but I felt like it was missing something. The cinematography was gorgeous and the acting, particularly from Joaquin Phoenix, was excellent, but I don’t find myself thinking about it’s deeper meaning, just enjoying the scenery.

Life of Pi (2012): Another gorgeous film, but this one has stuck with me much more than Her. Like a surreal version of Planet Earth, the film is sweeping and awe-inspiring in its cinematography, but at its base is a tight focus on the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker, and the way they relate to each other in order to survive.

March Television

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Orange is the New Black, series 1 (2013): I don’t think I could be less interested in lead character Piper, but apart from her I love every single (female) person on this show, particularly hairdresser Sophia and pregnant inmate Daya. The show is funny and sad and I’m eagerly awaiting series 2.

House of Cards, series 2 (2014): Series 2 of House of Cards continues on with even more death, lies, and political intrigue. There were several times when I actually gasped out loud in shock, and Frank Underwood is the most fun character to love to hate since Walter White.

True Detective, series 1 (2014): Speaking of Breaking Bad, someone told me this show is “even better.” I can assure you that this isn’t true. However, the acting and intensity is near that level, and the final scene of episode 4 (if you’ve seen it you know exactly the one I’m talking about), is one of the most impressive technical works I’ve seen on television since… maybe The Wire.

March Music

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Found Songs, Ólafur Arnalds (2009): If I lived in Iceland I would probably feel artistically inspired all the time, so I guess I’m not surprised there’s so much great Icelandic music in addition to Sigur Rós. Arnalds wrote Found Songs in seven days, one day for each song, and it’s a soft, peaceful album.

St. Vincent, St. Vincent (2014): St. Vincent is constantly reinventing herself and her sound, and this album sounds like David Bowie meets jazz meets aliens with gorgeous melodies and thoughtful lyrics. It’s weird and a little pretentious but it’s also a lot of fun.

Loco de Amor, Juanes & Shakira, Shakira (2014): See my reviews HERE.