In his extraordinary book “The Reason I Jump One boy’s voice from the silence of autism”, Naoki Higashida, an autistic boy aged 13, writes: “We are misunderstood and we’d give anything if only we could be understood properly…….. Please, understand what we really are, and what we’re going through”.
There was a day in January 2008 when suddenly the valleys, streams, rivers and lakes of Connemara and the Burren lost all their colour and blackened, when the silent music of the stones, hills and mountains abated for just a moment for at that moment in far off Italy one of the few men who fully understood their physical and spiritual presence experienced, to quote his own words:
As a bookseller, the perceived challenge posed by modern technology in general and by the kindle in particular to the survival of the book is a matter of professional and personal concern.
The professional concern stems from the strongly held conviction that bookselling is much more than the mere retailing of books, it is an art. A bookshop is possibly the most democratic of retail outlets. Every writer deserves space on its shelves. Every reader has individual tastes and personal reasons for reading any particular title. The bookseller’s job is to allow the author access to the widest possible audience and the reader access to the specific book required as well as to new authors and books that will enhance his or her mental armoury and quality of life.
It is difficult for an increasing section of the Irish population to visualise the utter power wielded by the Catholic Church in Ireland prior to the mid-sixties. The law of the country was dictated not by the Taoiseach and Ministers up in Dáil Eireann but by the Bishops and Priests from the Sunday morning pulpit.
There are times when people can’t be blamed for wondering if the plethora of annual Galway festivals is really of any lasting benefit to the city. Outside of the Arts Festival, Cúirt, the Races, and the Film Fleadh, do any of them bring anything more tangible to Galway than a good time?
Ever since the selection of his book “The Spinning Heart” on the Booker Long List Donal Ryan has been hailed as Ireland’s New Overnight Success ensuring the continuity of the long established, glorious and precious literary tradition of which this country is justly proud much in the same way as the introduction of a new footballer or hurler on the field of play during a crucial match can, in the popular mind, secure the glorious sporting future of his native country and thus the said footballer or hurler become immediate super stars, at least for the moment.
Nowadays, there are two main kinds of Sports Books, the first and by far most often published are the so called biographies or even worse autobiographies of modern stars some of whom who haven’t reached the age of twenty five but who decide to tell their whole life story at this early age to cash in on their current stardom. These books tend to be published in the run up to Christmas, are never written by their purported authors, are little more than badly written hallow hagiographies and rarely have a shelf life of more than a couple of months.
There is, in picking up a debut collection of short stories, especially when the author is unknown to you, a sense of a new beginning, a sort of tingling not to say exciting anticipation of discovery mixed with the fear of disappointment that this new author may have been published too early and that the stories will fail to touch any chord. Picking up Aideen Henry’s first collection, just published by Arlen House, the title “Hugging Thistles” adds to this sense of apprehension as do the intriguing cover images by Angela O’Brien and Helen Caird respectively and the general feeling opening the book is “Reader tread softly, for you tread on my dreams” with the hinted sequel, “God help you if you do”.