Thursday 23 June, 2022

Across the Bay

The view from Ventry, one of my favourite beaches in Kerry.

Quote of the Day

”Police had enough officers on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they never checked a classroom door to see if it was locked, the head of the Texas state police testified Tuesday, pronouncing the law enforcement response an ‘abject failure.'”

The Texas Tribune goes deep on the story. Officers in Uvalde were ready with guns, shields and tools — but not clear orders. “During most of those 77 minutes, despite the urgent pleas from officers and parents amassed outside, officers stayed put outside rooms 111 and 112, stationed on either end of a wide hallway with sky blue and green walls and bulletin boards displaying children’s artwork. Ramos fired at least four sets of rounds — including the initial spray of fire that likely killed many of his victims instantaneously.” (What if this story is really about a group of police officers who were just plain afraid to enter a room where there was a person armed with a killing machine no sane society would make available for easy purchase? What if that’s really the abject failure?)”

  • Dave Pell

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Peter Maxwell Davies | Farewell to Stromness


Long Read of the Day

Seamus Heaney, pseudonym ‘Incertus’

Roy Foster has this lovely essay about Seamus Heaney which I think is taken from his forthcoming book. This is how it opens:

When he first began to publish poems, Seamus Heaney’s chosen pseudonym was ‘Incertus’, meaning ‘not sure of himself’. Characteristically, this was a subtle irony. While he referred in later years to a ‘residual Incertus’ inside himself, his early prominence was based on a sure-footed sense of his own direction, an energetic ambition, and his own formidable poetic strengths. It was also based on a respect for his readers which won their trust. ‘Poetry’s special status among the literary arts’, he suggested in a celebrated lecture, ‘derives from the audience’s readiness to . . . credit the poet with a power to open unexpected and unedited communications between our nature and the nature of the reality we inhabit’. Like T. S. Eliot, a constant if oblique presence in his writing life, he prized gaining access to ‘the auditory imagination’ and what it opened up: ‘a feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the levels of conscious thought and feeling, invigorating every word’. His readers felt they shared in this.

The external signs of Heaney’s inner certainty of direction, coupled with his charisma, style, and accessibility, could arouse resentment among grievance-burdened critics, or poets who met less success than they believed themselves to deserve. He overcame this, and other obstacles, with what has been called his ‘extemporaneous eloquence’ and by determinedly avoiding pretentiousness: he possessed what he called, referring to Robert Lowell, ‘the rooted normality of the major talent’. At the same time, he looked like nobody else, and he sounded like nobody else. A Heaney poem carried its maker’s name on the blade, and often it cut straight to the bone.

Foster is an extraordinarily graceful writer. Princeton has found the right man for the job of celebrating ‘Famous Seamus’.

Do read it.

How TikTok triggered a books revolution

Nice Guardian piece by Claire Armistead on the unlikely way TikTok has energised book publishing.

Verily, this is something nobody could have predicted.

It’s four o’clock on a sunny Saturday afternoon and the Krispy Kreme doughnut stall is doing a brisk trade at Lakeside shopping centre, a huge mall in Essex. But a few metres further along, young shoppers are salivating over a different sort of treat. A girl in a silky red dress runs her fingers along the spines of nine novels by bestselling YA author Colleen Hoover, while a couple of twentysomething men in biker jackets pore over shelves of manga comics. They’re in a Waterstones that has been laid out like a pick-and-mix stall, with brightly jacketed paperbacks piled on round tables, or grouped seductively in booths, under headings such as “Romance” or “LGBTQ+”. Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper – a graphic novel series about a love affair between two schoolboys that’s now a Netflix show – has a table to itself.

All this is down to #BookTok, a niche on the platform TikTok that became a social media sensation in the early months of Covid, and has been gathering momentum ever since. “We used to rely on millennials,” says the store’s 30-year-old manager, Peter. “But now the majority of our customers are teenagers, who have money and influence and want to find their own stories. A lot of black and Asian authors are coming through. I always wanted to have an LGBTQ section and now it wouldn’t make sense not to. It’s exciting. You can see publishing changing. It’s made it fun to come into work.”

My commonplace booklet

‘I’ll tell you what – there are no queues like this in England’

David Puttnam becomes an Irish citizen. Link

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