Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Celebrating literary Dublin

It’s the history. It’s the love of words. It’s Joyce in his tower and Wilde in Merrion Square. It’s the walls of the Duke, decorated with the faces of thirsty dead writers, staring at us as we sink one more before the Nitelink takes us home. It’s Davy Byrne’s on Bloomsday. It’s the bookshops on Dawson Street, the students reading second-hand novels in Fellows’ Square. It’s the New Writing pages in the Tribune, the literary supplement in The Irish Times. It’s the Edmund Burke theatre at Trinity College, visiting writers reading short stories to an audience gathered on the stairs. It’s seeing ol’ Pat outside the Bank of Ireland on College Green, selling his poems for whatever you’ll give him. It’s the buskers singing One on Grafton Street while travelling children screech about what happened by lonely prison walls. It’s a city of literature, of course it is. It’s Dublin.
John Boyne explains why he thinks that Dublin is a city of literature.

Together with Edinburgh, Iowa City and Melbourne, Dublin has been designated one of four UNESCO Cities of Literature. UNESCO's Creative Cities Network promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities throughout the world. They celebrate the Arts such as literature, film, music, crafts, design, media art and gastronomy.

For a wealth of upcoming activities, see the event guide here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The future of libraries and books

As the debate about bookless libraries rumbles on, two interesting articles were published this week.

Stanford ushers in the age of bookless libraries
The periodical shelves at Stanford University’s Engineering Library are nearly bare. Library chief Helen Josephine says that in the past five years, most engineering periodicals have been moved online, making their print versions pretty obsolete — and books aren't doing much better.
According to Josephine, students can now browse those periodicals from their laptops or mobile devices.

Kindle and iPad books take longer to read than print
It takes longer to read books on a Kindle 2 or an iPad versus a printed book, Jakob Nielsen of product development consultancy Nielsen Norman Group discovered in a recent usability survey.
The study found that reading speeds declined by 6.2% on the iPad and 10.7% on the Kindle compared to print. However, Nielsen conceded that the differences in reading speed between the two devices were not “statistically significant because of the data’s fairly high variability” — in other words, the study did not prove that the iPad allowed for faster reading than the Kindle.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Leisurely literature

"I often find that a novel, even a well-written and compelling novel, can become a blur to me soon after I've finished reading it. I recollect perfectly the feeling of reading it, the mood I occupied, but I am less sure about the narrative details. It is almost as if the book were, as Wittgenstein said of his propositions, a ladder to be climbed and then discarded after it has served its purpose."
Sven Birkerts

One of my favourite notions from college was brought to my attention again this week, the idea of slow reading. Our culture has grown to appreciate speed in so many things and consumption has become central to our way of life. But, just as the slow food movement aims to reclaim our taste buds, the slow reading movement aims to increase the meaning and pleasure we get from the books we read.

After the printing press was invented people read "horizontally"; they read and re-read books, soaking up their meaning; they read aloud as if bringing the words to life. Such was their appreciation of the few books they had they often committed them to memory. Today we tend to read "vertically"; skimming over the text, grabbing the meaning and moving on. And we are always conscious of the myriad of other books waiting to be read, information to be gathered.

Nietzsche asks, in the preface to his book Daybreak, of the reader: “read slowly, deeply looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers…My patient friends, this book desires for itself only perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!”

You can read more here. Or skim through these articles to see if they interest you. How long will they keep your attention... or have I lost you already...
The case for slow reading
Slow reading: an antidote for a fast world?
Technology and society: what is the internet's effect on deep reading?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Flash from the past

Castletown House, Celebridge (photo: Ciara Leena G.) and Newbridge Train Station (photo: Jason O'Toole)

The National Library of Ireland holds 34,000 digitised images of Ireland (you can search online here for your hometown). The library's facebook fans have recently taken up the challenge of comparing these photos to the present day. With some extraordinary results!