Friday, July 31, 2009

Man Booker 2009 Longlist

The Booker Longlist announced this week has seen an unlikely battle emerging for one of literature's most coveted prizes between some of fictions finest writers and a book purporting to be the biography of the chimp from the Tarzan movies of the 1930s & 40s.

The 13 strong longlist features two former winners JM Coetzee, who won in 1983 with The Life and Times of Michael K and again in 1999 with Disgrace and AS Byatt, who won the 1990 prize with Possession.

Four previously shortlisted authors are also named on this years longlist including Colm Toíbín for Brooklyn; William Trevor for Love & Summer; Sarah Hall for How to Paint a Dead Man and Sarah Waters for Little Stranger.

First-time novelists Samantha Harvey, James Lever & Ed O'Loughlin are also named on this years longlist. But perhaps the strangest book to be nominated in recent years is Me Cheeta by James Lever, originally published purporting to be the autobiography of the hard-living chimp movie star it surprised many to see the book nominated for a major fiction prize.

In Ireland however, most attention will be on our trio of nominees - Colm Toibin, William Trevor and first-time novelist Ed O'Loughlin. Many would feel that this year may be the turn of Toibin or Trevor, both having been previously shortlisted two & three times respectively, but they face serious competition from JM Coetzee, who is the early favourite with Summertime.

The shortlist will be announced on the 8th of September and the winner will be revealed on the 6th of October.

Full Longlist:

AS Byatt - The Children's Book

JM Coetzee - Summertime

Adam Foulds -The Quickening Maze

Sarah Hall - How to Paint a Dead Man

Samantha Harvey - The Wilderness

James Lever - Me Cheeta

Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall

Simon Mawer - The Glass Room

Ed O'Loughlin - Not Untrue & Not Unkind

James Scudamore - Heliopolis

Colm Tóibín - Brooklyn

William Trevor - Love and Summer

Sarah Waters - Little Stranger


Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 Questions With... C.E. Murphy

Here’s another in our series of our ‘Five Questions with...’ mini-interviews, this time with Urban Fantasy writer CE Murphy, universally known to her friends as Catie. Originally from Alaska, but now living in the wilds of rural Longford, Catie is a regular attendee at all of the Irish Science Fiction Conventions, where she is always popular, and she has rapidly made a name for herself as one of the finest writers in her field. So, over to Catie...

1) What are you working on at the moment?
Well, when I got this email I was working on fitting "The damned weather is changing from brilliant sun to pissing rain every forty-five seconds and I can't decide what clothes are appropriate. Maybe I'll just forego them entirely. Except that would be cold." into the 140 character limit on Twitter...
On a slightly grander scheme, though, I've just finished the revisions on Truthseeker, first of a new fantasy duology due out next fall. Today I'm going to finish writing the proposal for its sequel, and then try to convince my editor that it actually needs to be a trilogy.
This week, I'm doing revisions on Demon Hunts, Book Five of the Walker Papers. (Book Four, Walking Dead, is due out September 1st!) Then I'm writing the proposal for the sixth book.
This month, I'm writing an Old Races short story featuring Janx and Daisani.
Then I'm writing another book. :)

2) Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?
That would probably have to be Sarah Rees Brennan, and not just because she's a friend of mine. Her debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, hit the shelves in June and I really truly loved it.

3) Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?
I used to play three games of Solitaire, but that became "well, okay, five, maybe I'll win one, okay that sucked maybe just seven, okay well nine or eleven or hey how did it get to be 4 in the afternoon without me writing a single word?" So I took Solitaire off my computer and now I don't even miss it WHY DO YOU ASK *claws fingernails into keyboard*

4) Who's your favourite literary character?
Gerald Tarrant from C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.

5) If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?
An actor. Failing that, an artist. Failing that, a musician. Failing that, an astronaut, though that would really be for the "out of the world" experience, rather than the "in the world". :)

You can Find Catie Murphy on Twitter, on LiveJournal, and on her own website. And you’ll always find a full selection of her book on the shelves at Chapters!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What we're reading.

Sum is probably the best book I've read this year. Simple as that. Written by David Eagleman (who, being a neurosurgeon and a writer, is a rock star step away from being Buckaroo Banzai), it's a little book of short stories (one could almost call them vignettes) on what happens when you die.

The fact that it's published by Canongate is almost a guarantee of quality per se, but this truly is one of the most original and thought-provoking books I've laid my hands in recent years. Every tale just crackles with uniqueness and it's no surprise that it's championed by people like Philip Pullman and Brian Eno, who went as far as to write a score for it for a live rendition at the Sydney Opera House.

There is a lot I could tell you about Sum, but this absolutely is a book you need and deserve to discover by yourself. But don't trust my word on its own sake, here, read a few excerpts and tell me what you think.


Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives by David Eagleman
Published By Canongate, available in-store

Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Killed Amanda Palmer

In February we were lucky enough to have Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in Chapters, where Neil read and Amanda sang songs, accompanied by her Ukulele, which was followed by a reeeeeally long signing session. (If you missed it, you can see photographs and video footage of the whole thing here.

The book Neil was reading from on that occasion was Who Killed Amanda Palmer, a collection of photographs of an apparently dead Ms Palmer, featuring all sorts of interesting and odd locations and causes of death, which included a number of short stories Neil had written, to accompany some of the photographs. The book was finally published a few weeks ago, and we just got a consignment of them. And here they are...

If you want a copy of the book, you can ring the shop on 01 8723297, or just call in.


Friday, July 24, 2009

What we're reading.

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Robin Hood? Merry Men, Maid Marion, Errol Flynn fencing his way up a circular staircase, tights, feathers and Bryan Adams songs? Whilst modern interpretations of the Robin Hood myth have pervaded popular culture for over two centuries in poetry, literature, theatre and cinema, Adam Thorpe’s latest novel Hodd, is a completely different animal.

The time is thirteenth century England and the tale that unfolds is related to us by Thorpe’s narrator, the elderly monk Matthew, scribbling his confessional memoirs by candlelight around the year 1305. Ridden with guilt for popularising Hodd as a hero of the common man in his younger days, Brother Matthew attempts to set the record straight with a ‘true’ account of Hodds doings. We follow his misadventures as a young would be jongleur, a singer and player of the harp, and companion to Brother Thomas a gluttonous, blasphemous, drunken monk (there‘s always one), who is taken captive by the enigmatic outlaw Robert Hodd (or Robyn Hodde, or Robin Hood) . But none of your feather-in-the-cap-bright-green-merry shenanigans here.

Thorpe’s Hodd is a brutal anarchist, a man who is as at home with acts of sudden motiveless slaughter as he is among the grey, misty confines of his woodland hideout. Not a whisper of any charitable handouts to be found within these pages, Hodd is a man who believes himself above any law of Man or God, fired by his belief in the Doctrine of the Free Spirit (a familiar heresy in medieval Europe which places him beyond sin), Robert and his not-so-merry men selfishly pillage and rape as they see fit.

Little John (another member of Hodd’s criminal brotherhood and a constant competitor for the mantle of leadership) is here too as is Will Scarlett but no sign of the eponymous Marion or indeed many of the other characters that are considered central to the Robin Hood canon. Yes, Hodd goes armed with his famous English Longbow but rather than piping the ace at royal archery contests, we have him, in one early episode, using a well aimed arrow to staple the hand of a helpless quack doctor to a tree branch. Thorpe has much to say about the inequalities of life in the middle ages and paints an unflattering picture of the clergy and landowning nobility of the day, however those of you looking for clearly defined good guys and bad guys will be disappointed.

Overall Hodd presents us with an absorbing and disturbing re-imagining of a familiar folk hero. Thorpe’s use of a pseudo-Chaucerean English and fast lean narrative add much to our immersion in a world where beauty and simplicity of life went hand in hand with constant danger and a keen awareness of the nearness of death. If you like your fiction uncompromising and your novels historical, then Hodd is definitely for you.


Hodd by Adam Thorpe
Published by Jonathan Cape, in store now

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Questions With... Iain Banks

A regular feature we hope to have here on the Chapters blog is ‘Five Questions with...’, a series of mini-interviews with writers and others in the book business. To start us off, we sent our Five Questions to bestselling Scottish author Iain Banks, famous for both his mainstream literary fiction, and for his science fiction featuring The Culture, which he writes under the name of Iain M Banks. So, over to Iain...

1) What are you working on at the moment?

Tomorrow's hangover! (Thank you for starting with the easy ones first.)

2) Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

Still David Mitchell and Alan Warner.

3) Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Not really. I do find that several months of fairly intensive forward planning (as though there is such a thing as backward planning) helps though.

4) What's the best thing you've written?

This. Definitely. I retain all film rights, yah? Talk to my people.

5) If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

A Culture GSV*. Or GCU**. I'm not fussy.

* General Systems Vehicle
** General Contact Unit

And there you have it. Iain Banks’s next book will be Transition, published by Little Brown, which will be available September 2009.

For more information about Iain, visit his website.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Books do furnish a room: The House of Faber

London publishers Faber & Faber are celebrating their 80th birthday this year. Founded in 1929, and counting poet TS Eliot among its former editors (though he did drop the ball in rejecting George Orwell's Animal Farm, citing it as “Trotskyite” and “not convincing”), Faber have an impressive roster of writers on their books, not least in the field of poetry: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Simon Armitage. As part of their birthday celebrations Faber have issued six hardback volumes with specially commissioned woodcut covers. Designer Miriam Rosenbloom talks about her contribution here.

But that's not all, Faber Firsts are ten classic debut novels from the likes of Orhan Pamuk, Hanif Kureishi and Paul Auster, republished with new covers that reference past book jacket designs. And what great novels they are. Those interested in book cover design will want to check out book collector and writer Joseph Connolly's new book, reviewed recently in the Sunday Business Post:
‘And the covers! Oh my goodness, the covers!” Before he finished school, Connolly became a book collector, and later bought a specialist art and literature bookshop in London in 1975. He describes how his pulse quickened by the arrival of a Faber book.‘‘Sometimes I’d buy a book on pig breeding, say, or marrow growing or nursing - simply because it was published by Faber and had such a fabulous cover,” he writes. Paying extended tribute here to Berthold Wolpe - Faber and Faber’s resident book jacket designer from 1941 to 1975 - Connolly delights in Wolpe’s penchant for simple, striking graphics which complemented his artistic instincts and his love of rule-breaking.

And I haven't even mentioned the new Samuel Beckett's, have I?


The full range of Faber Firsts and Poetry Classics are available in Chapters now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Cunning Man

Every so often, you may be lucky enough to read an author that makes you think, why have I not read this until now? One such writer who came to me through a friend’s recommendation some two years ago is Robertson Davies. Born 28 August 1913 in Thamesville Ontario, Davies was one of Canada’s premier novelists and literary figures until he sadly passed away in 1995. He was a man who wrote of art, love, theatre, music and literature with such genuine joy and witty skill that I couldn’t help but be bowled over.

Having inherited a love of books from his parents Davies also acquired a love of the theatre from a very early age. Studying at Upper Canada College, Queens University Ontario and Balliol College Oxford, in 1940 he worked at London’s Old Vic theatre playing small roles and working in a literary capacity for the director of the theatres repertory company. After writing amongst other things several successful plays, in 1951 he published the first novel in his Salterton Trilogy, Tempest-Tost.

His fantastic Cornish Trilogy, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone andThe Lyre of Orpheus deal with the central themes of literature, painting and opera consecutively. Absolutely steeped in wry humour and a deft exploration of the interrelationships of the various characters these novels are rare in the apparent ease of their execution. Without reservation I would highly recommend Davies books to anyone for whom reading is one of the central pleasures of their life, bearing in mind the words of the great man himself:
“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack

In these dark and gloomy days (one can say its the recession, one can say its the Irish summer) we all need a laugh to lighten up.

The Perry Bible Fellowship was easily one of the funniest and strangest comic strips online, a popular and critical darling.

And then one day Nicholas Gurewitch, the author, decided to just call it quits.

Luckily Dark Horse stepped in, taking the initiative of collecting all the comic strips in one handy volume.

I cannot recommend this enough if you're looking for something unique, smart and funny, but heck, don't just take my word for it, check out the entirety of the strips by yourself and then tell me if that's not a collection you want to own.

Be aware, though, some of the strips are NSFW and might contain mature situations.


The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack by Nicholas Gurewitch.
Published by Dark Horse Comics, available in-store.