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Archive for June, 2011

Top Ten Reads – Says Who?

19/06/2011 Comments off

Recently I took a notion that I would like to re-read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I searched high up and low down but couldn’t find it on my shelves, so I dropped into Easons where I was able to buy it for three euros, all 800 pages of it. And off I set again, starting with that  famous first sentence: ‘All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Anna Karenina seems to always feature in lists of the literary greats and reading the book again got me thinking of such lists. Then I stumbled on the web site for The Top Ten – the book edited by L Peder Zane, where he asked 125  American and British authors to list their 10 favourite works of fiction.

He ended up with 544 titles and from these tabulated a series of Top Ten Lists, including:

The Top Ten Books of All Time

The Top Ten Books of the 20th Century

And yes, there it was, Anna Karenina is listed as the number one choice in the Top Ten Books of All Time.

I take out the book and skip to the novel’s last sentence: ‘My reason will still not understand why I pray, but I shall still pray, and my life, my whole life, independently of anything that may happen to me, is every moment of it no longer meaningless as it was before, but has an unquestionable meaning of goodness with which I have the power to invest it.’ 

A thought to be going on with from the number one literary great.

Literary Mayo and A Half-Dozen Texts

02/06/2011 Comments off

It looks like good weather for the holiday weekend in Ireland. Time for breaks and trips. I like to link text and place when travelling. As I’m heading off to County Mayo, I thought I would pull together – in a fairly random way – some of my favourite texts linked to some wonderful Mayo places. So here they are – the texts and the places:

Heinrich Boll’s Irish Journal: Head to Achill Island’s Deserted Village and read Boll’s account of how he came upon this ‘skeleton of a human habitation’ that nobody had mentioned to him and where ‘the elements have eaten away everything not made of stone’. There’s a new edition of Irish Journal out with a fine Introduction by Hugo Hamilton.

J. M. Synge Travelling Ireland: Take this book to Erris and read the essays Synge wrote when he visited there in 1905 with Jack Yeats – travelling by long car from Ballina to Belmullet. This edition of the essays – edited by Nicholas Greene, with fine illustrations – was published in 2009.

Paul Henry’s An Irish Portrait: Take a boat from Blacksod to the deserted Inishkea Islands off the Mullet Peninsula where Henry travelled while a visitor to Achill in the early nineteenth century and wrote a graphic account of the whaling station.  Paul Henry’s book is out of print but is available in many libraries and can be purchased on-line.

Michael Viney, Wild Mayo: Take a journey through Mayo’s landscape and wildlife with this wonderful account packed with great illustrations from the writer/naturalist who lives in Thallabawn.

Michael Longley, A Hundred Doors: In his latest collection the Northern Ireland poet brings a fresh perspective to the place he has long frequented – the Mayo townland of Carrigskeewaun: ‘Where sand from the white strand and the burial ground / Blows in.’

Graham Greene, The End Of The Affair: It is sixty years since this book was first published. Inspired by the affair Greene had with Catherine Walston, the cottage they occasionally shared still stands in Dooagh, Achill at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

I would love to hear stories of other texts linked to favourite Mayo places.

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