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A Nostalgic Goodbye to Waterstones, Dawson Street

06/02/2011 3 comments

Goodbye, Waterstones, Dawson Street branch « The Anti-Room.

Antonia Hart’s piece on The Anti-Room Blog about Waterstones of Dawson Street, which closes its doors today for the last time, expresses the feelings of many. I will miss the browsing, followed by musing in the Reader’s Cafe and then more browsing. A perfect spot for literary rejuvenation is now no more.

In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Fifty jobs have just gone in Waterstones, between the Dawson Street and Jervis Street branches, and at the risk of sounding rather E.J. Thribbish, I’d like to mark the passing of the Dawson Street one in particular.

When I were a lass, it was a large Laura Ashley shop which occupied that Dawson Street premises, with a huge and beautiful central staircase and a railed gallery stuffed with bolts of green and white cotton prints and rolls of impossibly smart striped wallpaper (look, it was the early eighties). I’m fairly sure that before Laura Ashley it was the old Dublin furniture firm Anderson, Stanford and Ridgeway – at any rate, in the mid eighties Waterstones opened there, bringing a touch of glamour to Dublin’s bookshop selection, which up to that point had been dominated by Hodges Figgis, Fred Hanna and Easons, and supplemented by a solid lineup of secondhand and antiquarian shops, like Duffy’s, George Webb on the quays, and the dusty wooden stairs of Greene’s where endless Everyman editions of nineteenth century classics rubbed shoulders with geometry sets and rubber dinosaurs.

Waterstones brought a clean, modern shop layout that was unlike anything I knew in the city centre then, its restrained W branding a hymn to the serif typefaces in which its books were set.  And despite its being part of a chain (nul points for romance) and a British one at that (just nul points), Waterstones in Dawson Street always felt like a Dublin shop. The staff, an unfailingly civil bunch of low-voiced smilers, knew their books and made their customers feel that their query was an important one. Even today, I heard one of them giving his full and thoughtful attention  to an elderly lady about buying a book in French for her fifteen-year-old granddaughter, when with only three days of work left he could have been forgiven for drinking blood cocktails under the stairs.

I had fifty-odd euro saved up on my loyalty card, so I went in today to spend it and say goodbye to the shop, which is trading until Sunday, and when I’d paid for my books, the staff member who completed the transaction for me popped a red-foiled chocolate egg (of creamy, luxurious quality) into the paper bag along with the books.

“Just to say thanks for your loyalty,” she said, on behalf of the chain which had just made her redundant.

Someone had brought in scones from Kehoe’s – that cafe in Trinity Street which sells rock-bun sized scones injected with raspberries – and everyone was to get one when it was their turn for a break. The shelves were as well stocked as ever – apart from the cardboard Jo Nesbo stand – and the usual three-for-two selections were on offer, along with the current BOGOF on children’s picture books. It was easy enough to get my spend up to fifty euro.

Jervis Street was a difficult shop to be in, too many funny angles and a downstairs that was hardly there. But I’ll miss Dawson Street’s Irish history and biography section, their ordinary biography section, the children’s area, the substantial fiction selection, even that unappetising little loo in the most awkward corner of the shop. No, now I’m getting sentimental, I won’t miss that. I was reeled in, as intended, by the staff’s handwritten notes of recommendation, stayed loyal with my card, did a good chunk of my Christmas and birthday shopping there over the last twenty-four years. It was a meeting place, too, in the style of Clery’s clock, but with more to do while you wait. I’ve kissed and been kissed in that tiny lift.

I took it for granted, and from Sunday it won’t be there any more. I hope all the staff members find new jobs soon, and that someone interesting takes over the premises.

The 10 Best Books of 2010 – New York Times List

14/12/2010 2 comments

The 10 Best Books of 2010 – NYTimes.com.

I was happy to see my favorite book of 2010, Emma Donoghue’s Room, included in the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010 listed below.

William Trevor’s Selected Stories is there too.

Here is the New York Times list:

FREEDOM
By Jonathan Franzen.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.
 

The author of “The Corrections” is back, not quite a decade later, with an even richer and deeper work — a vividly realized narrative set during the Bush years, when the creedal legacy of “personal liberties” assumed new and sometimes ominous proportions. Franzen captures this through the tribulations of a Midwestern family, the ­Berglunds, whose successes, failures and appetite for self-invention reflect the larger story of millennial America.

THE NEW YORKER STORIES
By Ann Beattie.
Scribner, $30.

As these 48 stories published in The New Yorker from 1974 through 2006 demonstrate, Beattie, even as she chronicled and satirized her post-1960s generation, also became its defining voice. She punctures her characters’ pretensions and jadedness with an economy and effortless dialogue that writers have been trying to emulate for three decades, though few, if any, have matched her seamless combination of biting wit and mordant humor, precise irony and consummate cool.

ROOM
By Emma Donoghue.
Little, Brown & Company, $24.99.

Donoghue has created one of the pure triumphs of recent fiction: an ebullient child narrator, held captive with his mother in an 11-by-11-foot room, through whom we encounter the blurry, often complicated space between closeness and autonomy. In a narrative at once delicate and vigorous — rich in psychological, sociological and political meaning — Donoghue reveals how joy and terror often dwell side by side.

SELECTED STORIES
By William Trevor.
Viking, $35.

Gathering work from Trevor’s previous four collections, this volume shows why his deceptively spare fiction has haunted and moved readers for generations. Set mainly in Ireland and England, Trevor’s tales are eloquent even in their silences, documenting the way the present is consumed by the past, the way ancient patterns shape the future. Neither modernist nor antique, his stories are timeless.

A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD
By Jennifer Egan.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95.

Time is the “goon squad” in this virtuosic rock ’n’ roll novel about a cynical record producer and the people who intersect his world. Ranging across some 40 years and inhabiting 13 different characters, each with his own story and perspective, Egan makes these disparate parts cohere into an artful whole, irradiated by a Proustian feel for loss, regret and the ravages of love.

Nonfiction

APOLLO’S ANGELS: A History of Ballet
By Jennifer Homans.
Random House, $35.

Here is the only truly definitive history of classical ballet. Spanning more than four centuries, from the French Renaissance to American and Soviet stages during the cold war, Homans shows how the art has been central to the social and cultural identity of nations. She meticulously reconstructs entire eras, describing the evolution of ballet technique while coaxing long-lost dances back to life. And she raises a crucial question: In the 21st century, can ballet survive?

CLEOPATRA: A Life
By Stacy Schiff.
Little, Brown & Company, $29.99.

With her signature blend of wit, intelligence and superb prose, Schiff strips away 2,000 years of prejudices and propaganda in her elegant reimagining of the Egyptian queen who, even in her own day, was mythologized and misrepresented.

THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A Biography of Cancer
By Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Scribner, $30.

Mukherjee’s magisterial “biography” of the most dreaded of modern afflictions. He excavates the deep history of the “war” on cancer, weaving haunting tales of his own clinical experience with sharp sketches of the sometimes heroic, sometimes misguided scientists who have preceded him in the fight.

FINISHING THE HAT: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, ­Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
By Stephen Sondheim.
Alfred A. Knopf, $39.95.

The theater’s pre-eminent living songwriter offers a master class in how to write a musical, covering some of the greatest shows, from “West Side Story”  to “Sweeney Todd.” Sondheim’s analysis of his and others’ lyrics is insightful and candid, and his anecdotes are telling and often very funny.

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson.
Random House, $30.

Wilkerson, a former national correspondent for The Times, has written a masterly and engrossing account of the Great Migration, in which six million African-Americans abandoned the South between 1915 and 1970. The book centers on the journeys of three black migrants, each representing a different decade and a different destination.

When Construction Cranes get Christmas Lights

11/12/2010 1 comment

 

In Mark O’Rowe’s feverish 2007 drama, Terminus, there is an image of a man dangling from one of the multitude of construction cranes on the Dublin skyline.  The crane became an icon of construction-fuelled Celtic Tiger Ireland.

The post below conjures the nostalgic image of Christmas festive lights on a construction crane smiling warmly down on those below.

Would that this image was a warm and reassuring one for those on this island.

1000 Awesome Things | A time-ticking countdown of 1000 awesome things.

  

When construction cranes get Christmas lights on them

They’re not selling anything.

Nope, Christmas lights on construction cranes just smile down on the city and cover us all in a warm and festive light. Flickering in the sky, flashing way up high, they hug us all together in a friendly yellow glow.

On top of that, it’s sort of fun thinking about how they got there too. Doesn’t it seem kind of dangerous? It’s like someone risked their lives just putting up lights for the people.

I’d like these books for Christmas (if I didn’t have them already)

04/12/2010 5 comments

This is my half-dozen list of  books from Ireland or by Irish writers that I think would make great Christmas gifts.  And not a whiff of misery writing about the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger or the sorry IMF/ECB bailout.

Emma Donoghue’s Room  was my book of the year before it won the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year prize.  Asked at the awards ceremony why she thought the book had such an impact Emma said, ‘I think it touches on the universal theme of a young person discovering there’s more to life their own little world.’  That little world of Jack and Ma incarcerated in a room is richly imagined and conveyed with humour and freshness through the voice of the child narrator.

I was at the launch of Seamus Heaney’s Human Chain at the Abbey Theatre in September where the poet roamed over and back between old poems and new. This is his twelfth collection. John Banville said: ‘Human Chain marks many deaths but all the markings are a celebration of what was lived.’

The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story is edited by Anne Enright. How on earth did she make her selection from a century of Irish short story writing? ‘I wanted to put together a book that was varied and good to read, with a strong eye to the contemporary,’ she said.  It is a delight to have O Faolain and O’Connor, Mary Lavin and Maeve Brennan, Kevin Barry, Claire Keegan and many others in one volume.

A legendary Irish text-book has been reprinted. Soundings, a poetry anthology edited by Gus Martin will evoke mixed emotions if you sat your Leaving Cert between 1969 and 2000. Joseph O’Connor describes it well:  ‘Amid the ink-stains of our adolescence, the shocking sweetness of first kisses, the pimples and growth-spurts and uncertainties and aches, it saw to it that poetry would find a way of seeding itself.’

The Thank You Book is edited by Roisin Ingle and is a fund-raising initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation. The book will be largely written by you as you fill the pages with your gratitude lists in these dismal times.

There’s a personal bias in my last selection, Michael Viney’s Wild Mayo. It is my native county but the places are familiar to many through Michael’s weekly column in the Irish Times. Described as ‘a poem to a place’, it captures a county’s natural history and evokes a wild landscape of peatlands and islands and rocky shores illustrated with sumptuous photos.

(If you are looking for other Irish book ideas, Publishing Ireland have a list of 25 to choose from here.)

Any suggestions? Of Irish books as Christmas gifts? Would love to hear.

World Book Night | A million reasons to read a book

02/12/2010 1 comment

World Book Night | A million reasons to read a book.

Welcome to World Book Night.

 

The inaugural World Book Night will take place on Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day.

 

With the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day and the BBC, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland – and you could be one of them!

Read the launch announcement here.

A Life Like Other People's A Life Like Other People’s Agent Zigzag Agent Zigzag All Quiet on the Western Front All Quiet on the Western Front Beloved Beloved
Case Histories Case Histories Cloud Atlas Cloud Atlas Dissolution Dissolution Fingersmith Fingersmith Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun
Killing Floor Killing Floor Life of Pi Life of Pi Love in the Time of Cholera Love in the Time of Cholera Northern Lights Northern Lights One Day One Day
Rachel's Holiday Rachel’s Holiday New Selected Poems New Selected Poems Stuart

The Blind Assassin The Blind Assassin The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Reluctant Fundamentalist The Reluctant Fundamentalist The Spy Who Came In from the Cold The Spy Who Came In from the Cold The World's Wife The World’s Wife Toast Toast


This site will help you:

Enjoy!

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