Archive for October, 2005

A Post Born Out of Weblog

This will be the last post from me for a few weeks. If anyone is wondering why I haven’t been posting too much of late, it’s because I have far more important things to do e.g. I’m getting married this Saturday.

Sorry ladies.

Spies Like Us Go-Getters

After a decade spent hopefully scanning the classifieds for cryptic advertisements about Ionesco plays that would open the doors to life as a spy, I am disheartened to discover that you can now apply on-line, which surely means putting together a CV and answering questions on all sorts of career-oriented bullshit for which I have no time. Gah. And to think I’d been perfecting my knowledge of sherry.

Springtime for Ulster

There’s nothing like a good auld Nazi story to get pulses racing in the Outraged Six Counties. Willie Frazer, one of the protagonists, is in no position to be offended by Nazi slurs, welcoming, as he does, the presence of loyalist paramilitaries at some rally or other. Breathtaking hypocrisy etc etc.

File under ‘damaging to the peace process’; ‘unionist fury’ etc.

Pinters Mean Prizes

Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Never read a thing by him (aside from an angry poem in the Guardian, maybe), so I couldn’t possibly comment. Here, however, is my top 5 Nobel laureates of whose work I actually have bothered to read:

1. Gabriel García Márquez
2. Albert Camus
3. William Butler Yeats
4. Miguel Angel Asturias
5. André Gide

There are maybe another 4 and a half on the list whose work I am familiar with.

So now you know.

I’m Having The Steak

Europe Bans Turkish Poultry

Is turkey Turkish Poultry then? They should ban those turkey bacon rashers while they’re at it.

Sea Me, Sea Him?

Well that was a turn up for the, ah, books. John Banville’s The Sea has won this year’s Booker Prize. Good for him.

As a stylist, Banville has few real rivals, yet I find his books very hard work. Of those I have read, not much happens in them – people generally sit about in houses and wait for something to happen – so they’re pretty hard to pick up and read for an hour or so every day, especially if you don’t use a bookmark.

It took me nearly a month to get through Eclipse, which I suspect was due to reading chunks of it twice or thrice without even realising. Then I read Shroud, and I wasn’t sure if I’d finished Eclipse yet. The Book of Evidence was magnificent, however.

Perhaps for a full appreciation of Banville’s prose you need to be able to spend all your days sitting around reading books. Few, beyond Booker Prize judges, have that sort of time.

As for the other books on the list, the only one I have read so far is A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry, which I thought was superb. I also bought the Julian Barnes one a while back, but haven’t got round to it. My own Booker 2005 verdict is still on course for September 2006.

Mad Dogs and Irishmen

Loyalism is finally getting some recognition, as evidenced by this goatee strokin’, Gitanes-smoking article from the Guardian. It identifies Loyalism as a symptom of a post-industrial crisis of masculinity:

It has been a profoundly masculinist culture, in ways that decades of violence could only reinforce. Both the partial ending of paramilitary violence (which threatens to deprive “hard men” of their raison d’etre and aggressive youths of their role models) and the precipitous decline in industrial employment must intensify the crisis of masculinity that commentators identify as a more general post-industrial phenomenon.

This seems accurate. Cultural loyalism explores the extremes of popular representations of masculinity. You can celebrate your masculinity by taking it to simian, even animalistic levels (see ‘Mad Dog’), or you can show that you have overcome its constraints by disdaining it utterly. In that sense, there can be few things more masculine than dressing up as a member of Buck’s Fizz circa 1985.

The author also locates loyalism as a peculiarly Irish culture:

Loyalism is a culture ambivalent about Irishness. Yet, whatever else loyalism is, it is distinctively an Irish culture, one that grew only on the island of Ireland, with off-shoots in Scotland and Canada. The essential cultural difference between loyalism and its foes is indeed that while Republicans conceive of themselves as having an inherited, densely woven tradition, loyalists have to make it up as they go along. These are the fragments they shore up against their ruins.

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October 2005
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