Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

Dr Max Aue is a family man and owner of a lace factory in post-war France. He is an intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music. He is also a former SS intelligence officer and cold-blooded assassin.

He was an observer and then a participant in Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front, he was present at the siege of Stalingrad, at the death camps, and finally caught up in the overthrow of the Nazis and the nightmarish fall of Berlin. His world was peopled by Eichmann, Himmler, Goring, Speer and, of course, Hitler himself. Max is looking back at his life with cool-eyed precision; he is speaking out now to set the record straight.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review: Winnie's Amazing Pumpkin

Winnie's Amazing Pumpkin
by Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul

As the seasons have changed, the next month October brings us pumpkins and witches and what better way to get a flavour for both than with our favourite witch Winnie. 

Fed up of her shopping flying off her broomstick, Winnie turns her hand to gardening and sets about growing her own vegetables.  Finding it hard work, she decides a magic spell *might* help… resulting in some ENORMOUS vegetables and one ‘amazing pumpkin’.   Wonderfully illustrated, the ending is imaginative and quite frankly pretty ace.

Readership: Preschool (0-5)

Available to buy in Village Books

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Lastest Crime thrillers reviewed by the Irish Times


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Michel Houellebecq: plagiarism in his new novel?

From the Irish Times

Plagiarism? Laziness? Mais non, that's 'patchwork literature'


Sat, Sep 11, 2010

PRESENT TENSE: THERE IS ANOTHER spot of bother over the French novelist, and former Cork resident, Michel Houellebecq. He is something of a literary scoundrel already, his own mother dismissing him thus in her autobiography: “This person, who unfortunately emerged from my tummy, is a liar, an impostor, a parasite and above all a little upstart who’ll do anything for fame and fortune.”

Houellebecq’s second novel, Atomised , became an instant “nihilistic classic”. The New York Times , however, described it as “a deeply repugnant read”. The novel won Houellebecq, along with his translator Frank Wynne, the International Impac Dublin Literary Award in 2002.

If that last paragraph was a bit flat, it’s because I pretty much cut and pasted it out of Wikipedia. Laziness? No way. Houellebecq would call it “patchwork literature”. And he’s been doing that all week since someone noticed that several parts of his latest novel, La carte et le territoire (The Map and the Territory), had been cut and pasted from Wikipedia.

Cue another round in the irregular series newspapers called “What Mess Is That Guy Who Writes Dirty, Possibly Racist Literary Books In Now, and How Do You Spell Houellebecq Anyway?” Already involved in a couple of rows about whether the book is any good and whether he pinched the title from someone else, Houellebecq has been characteristically brazen in his response to the Wikipedia fuss.

“I hope it adds to the beauty of my books to use such material,” he says. “I would like to be able to modify less than I do . . . It’s a type of patchwork, sewing together, dovetailing. Employing material that is rare because of its ‘extraliterarity’ is a small source of pride.”

Seeing that Houellebecq includes himself as a character in The Map and the Territory , the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun complained that Houellebecq “turns to himself because he doesn’t know how to invent any more”. (To which it is tempting to retort that the guy invented the word ‘extraliterarity’. That must be worth something.)

Houellebecq’s book hasn’t been published here yet, so I can’t make a proper judgment on the context of those passages, but, whether or not the revelation is deliberate, he has exposed some of the machinery of creativity, showing the worn scaffolding on which some novels are built. (Though it is more complex than that, because while it’s not okay to cut and paste from the web, it is fine to cut and paste from life.)

There are unspoken rules between writer and reader. If you call a book factual it had better be just that. If it is fiction you have to be careful how you incorporate fact. If it is a novel, and it happens to be based on your life, you can get away with it as long as you’re clear that it’s not to be taken entirely as fact.

Readers treat verity, and sincerity, very seriously. When something that is supposed to be true is revealed to be false, the world and its media can come crashing in on the author. James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces , a tale of self-destruction that was revealed to be largely a construction, is perhaps the most famous modern example. On Wikipedia (don’t roll your eyes) it is now described as a semi-fictional memoir.

When you read a memoir, though, and the dialogue crackles with certainty, it’s hard not to wonder just how it is that the writer can be so clear. The misery-lit genre, so popular until recently, is written largely by people who suffered in their childhoods – when they were not keeping large diaries, daily jotting down each line of every conversation, which could then be used, edited and repackaged in their adulthood in a series of bestselling books.

There are occasions when you wonder if a novelist is really a novelist at all or just a creative memoirist, writing books that are so close to the author’s life that it is a distraction. (Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland comes to mind.)

Sometimes the mixture of fact and fiction can tease – on the Man Booker shortlist is Emma Donoghue’s Room , inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, and Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room , whose chief character is one Damon. And occasionally something utterly daft comes along and ignores everything, such as the “autobiography” of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, which was categorised in some Irish shops and libraries as non-fiction.

Houellebecq’s approach – calculated or not – may have ruined the magic trick being performed by the writer to an audience that wants to believe. Writing is a complicated business, fiction more so. The blurring of fact and fiction can be perilous, even when it’s only lobbing in a few facts, and the reader doesn’t always want to see the man behind the curtain.

© 2010 The Irish Times


Jack is the storyteller. He is five and lives in ‘Room’ with his ‘Ma’.He has no concept of the outside world, believing it to be a fantasy seen on television. What Jack cannot vocalise in his five-year-old voice and mind is that he and his mother are being held captive in Room by the man he calls ‘Old Nick’.

A novel that was inspired, if that can ever be the right word in this case, by the utterly shocking Fritzl case in Austria is never going to be anything other than controversial, disturbing, mind-bendingly unbelievable but yet, though all of these things Room is also gentle and sweet, tender and joyous, uplifting and raw and real.

Whatever Jack cannot say, the reader’s overburdened imagination can either piece together from his accounts of his mother’s conversation, or add to from the prolific media coverage the Fritzl case generated.

The feat, for many, in picking up and reading Room is that the horrendous real life events that this book is based upon may be too upsetting and disturbing to read. I can categorically say this fear should be dismissed immediately. Firstly, a fear of reading something so shameful about the human race should never be reason for not learning about the horrors our fellow man has perpetrated, but even more convincing an incitement for sceptical readers should be a reassurance that this book is not at all horrific. It is so surprisingly hopeful, and joyous. It strips away all the extraneous unnecessary external factors from one boy to reveal a human being as he is, without the influence of the world on him, in all his innocence and, conversely, his wisdom.

It is only in the outside world, when Jack and Ma escape from Room that the horrors become evident. In Room, they were somehow protected from the understanding of what was going on through a lack of any real experience of life to compare it to. Half-way through the book, when they are released and brought into the real, or surreal world, is when the real horror starts. To read about a young boy terrified by seatbelts and rain drops, people touching him and strange food is discomforting and upsetting, but, it’s important. This didn’t happen to Jack, but it did happen to a real little boy out there in the world and, others too, and they deserve their stories to be known.

As for the book itself, leaving the actual story aside, it is – to my mind- a complete triumph. A mastery of language and pace, a display of control and attention to every single word. It is more technically adept that anything that I have read in years and a magnificent accomplishment for that alone.

It is an incredible story, filled with wonder. It is important and significant and brilliantly executed. It is brave and powerful and subtle and touching.

Read it, it will stay with you.

Review by Emma Walsh of Walsh Communications

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


  • Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

  • Room by Emma O’Donoghue

  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy

  • C by John McCarthy