Tribute to Séamus Heaney

It is a long time since I tried to put a poetic pen to paper and need to practice writing again. For this exercise, I penned a belated tribute to Séamus Heaney:

A tree on top of the hill
of Ireland surveys

Each leaf holds the picture steady.

(Séamus Heaney RIP – 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

It’s a Dark World

The 1930’s and ’40’s, dystopian and dysfunctional worlds pushed films and books towards a certain direction – melancholy, pessimism and alienation. Polytomaic conceptions of the linguistic and stylistic worlds where chiaroscuroed cities were stylised as allegorical, atmospherically decorated books and films.

The contagious mood infected protagonists and villains. This mood suggested that modernity corrupted the modern individual. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were the pioneers of noir books that mirrored the age of American writers writing during the Great Depression. In doing so, these books and films comment critically on the politics on the city where the economy offers little prospects.

Similar economic circumstances have arisen worldwide in 2010, here’s hoping for a resurgence of noir novels and films.

Writing with the Company of Beckett

‘A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.’

Company – Samuel Beckett (1979)

A great start to a novella, and to me it is a good source of inspiration. Company may not always be deconstructed as a source of writing stimulation, but it is a good exercise. The novella continues:

‘To one on his back in the dark.’

This I would encourage – ‘lie on your back in the dark, let the voice come to you, imagine.’ Now start writing!

Andre Agassi Admits to Crystal Meth

André Agassi has admitted to taking crystal meth in what seems to be a cynical attempt of selling his autobiography Open: An Autobiography.

It seems to be a growing trend that the author must state a controversial activity that occurred during their life.  Unfortunately, it would probably help Agassi sell books.  In retrospect, perhaps the ATP should call his titles into question, whilst bookshops pull the book from its shelves as it would be wrong to promote a sportsman’s drug life.

More Google Rants

A few weeks ago, I read more into Google’s Book Deal.  I still haven’t calmed down.  The company’s insistence of uploading all books of print online is tantamount to piracy.  Although a settlement has been granted in America, I would suggest that this settlement does not have the backing of the majority of struggling authors.  Google is invading an industry to which they know absolutely nothing about.  They are fast becoming the most despised company in the world should this digitizing of books prevail. 

Books are beautiful tangible assets that slip nicely in your hand and allow you to read for hours.  It is possible to read online, I know, but reading online for numerous hours for one is bad for your eyes.  I’m of the school that reading from books is easier than that from computers.  The majority of paperbacks are easy to carry, transportable and cheap unlike their mechanic counterpart, being the computer.  Yes, computers are getting smaller, but the tangibility of a book and its fresh smell give it something extra.  Plus when you bring a book with you on your holidays, you’re not forced to dismantle the book bag and load up the book. 

My problem with Google is not because of the above situation but with something a lot deeper than that as the company (spit) ventures to upload all books online.  You notice that when you download Flash to your PC, the terms and conditions asks if you want to include an optional Google Toolbar.  Fair enough, you think, unselect it and it won’t bother me again.  It is the individual’s prerogative.  So, where were Google when each author was negotiating a deal with an agent and publisher?  Should they not be doing knocking on each rightsholder’s door asking for permission?

Another situation arises.  An opportunity to download a piece of music arises that normally retails around €10, but you can get it for free on an illegal site.  What would the user choose? 

The Google Book Settlement will only serve more harm than good.  The 1990’s saw Napster being prosecuted for illegally pirating music, thus infringing copyright.  One difference between Google and Napster is that Napster isn’t bankrolled by millions of money like Google.  Anything that is digitized to the web is easily copied and shared amongst millions. 

Users will be free to copy, despite possible guarantees by Google that the writer’s works are secure from copyright infringement.  Should this deal go ahead, Google stands to win; small writers will lose on valuable income, as will the author’s agents, publishers and bookshops due to the potential piracy.  Yes, I know the author gets some recompense, but when one book manages to be copied, the damage has been done, the rightsholder’s book will be copied by unauthorized individual’s hoping to make a quick buck.  This is not about money, this scar is much deeper.  It is Napster and music all over again.  Therefore, it is crucial that books are not to be made as online brochures.

It is imperative that the literary world does not kowtow to Google’s demands as the Authors Guild of America and many publishers already have.  Google will ruin the literature world as Napster did to music.  If there is an alternative to this mess, and that books are to be digitized, the Google clause must be an opt-in, not an opt-out to force Google to negotiate with each rightsholder individually.

Worldwide Tributes for Irish American Author

Frank McCourt died at the age of 78 in a hospice in New York where he suffered from meningitis and metastatic melanoma.  The eldest son of seven children to Irish immigrant parents, McCourt took up writing at a late age of 60 penning Angela’s Ashes, an autobiographical book, that saw it win the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, the National Book Critics Circle Award and other honours, and later made in to a film in 1999.

The book sold 6 million copies worldwide, but received scorn from many Limerick inhabitants.  He followed up the success with further accounts of his life in New York with ‘Tis, and Teacher Man.

His death was felt both sides of the Atlantic as his death made the front page of both Irish and American newspapers.  Tributes quickly followed

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg praised McCourt as a great New York writer who captured the hearts of a city.  Former president Bill Clinton told Malachy McCourt he would join mourners at Rosie O’Grady’s bar in Broadway.  Ryan Tubridy, the Late Late Show host elect stated that Frank McCourt ‘was one of my all time favourite guests’.  A book of condolences will be at Limerick City Hall from 3pm today.

According to his wishes, his ashes are expected to be scattered over the River Shannon, as Frank McCourt eloquently puts it ‘to pollute it’.

Seminar on the Google Book Settlement

Poetry Ireland are going to be holding a seminar about the Google Book Settlement and the possibilities of future publishing.

It is to advise authors on understanding the settlement and the implications of it.

The seminar will take place on Monday 20 July @ 11.00am in the Cheyne Theatre, Royal College of Surgeons, York St entrance, Dublin 2.

Children’s authors threaten UK school boycott

Alison Flood of The Guardian reports that children’s authors are threatening to boycott visiting schools as the UK Independent Safeguard Authority proposes that people who work with children are to be vetted as part of a new scheme. 

Anthony Browne, the UK’s children’s laureate stated authors should not expect special treatment, although adds that it ‘is  a bit odd that we (the authors) have to pay for it, though.’

The service will charge £64 (€75) fee to register on the national database.  Philip Pullman, writer of His Dark Materials trilogy, describes the scheme as ‘outrageous, demeaning and insulting’ noting that anyone who come in contact with children is insinuated to be ‘up to no good’ and that the natural relationship between ‘one human and another is predatory’ and encourages children to believe ‘no adult will ever approach them other than to prey on them or do any harm.’

10 Jobs Lost at Fóinse

The Irish language newspaper, Fóinse, published weekly is to cease publication at Carraroe with the loss of ten jobs. Staff received notifice of redundancy yesterday (25th June 2009). This weekend’s addition is set to be the last.

The newspaper has closed due to falling revenue and disagreements with grants from its main funder, Foras na Gaeilge, The CEO of Foras na Gaeilge, Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh express he was shocked at the announcement.