In which poetry is the new weed, the Twitterati boast about having read a book, and a lion who may or may not be an allegorical version of Jesus is mistaken for a giraffe.
It’s winter in the gloomy old land of Oz, and novelist Richard Flanagan has nipped at the hand that feeds in a suitably depressing Sydney Morning Herald piece on literary prizes. Flanagan suggests that ‘the determined, dreary excitement around … digitalisation’ is a veil flung over an increasingly grim reality. ‘We face a very difficult time as a literary culture,’ Flanagan writes, predicting that without support for writers, ‘literary prizes will simply look ever more like tombstones for the dead.’
Time for something more uplifting, so we’re off to the Netherlands next. As of last month, foreigners face a ban from the infamous ‘coffee’ shops, but who needs weed when you have an enormous poetry festival to attend? Rotterdam hosted the 43rd Poetry International Festival last week, with Slovenian Tomaž Šalamun among the star names. Šalamun’s career has taken him from the Ljubljana avant-garde scene to Iowa’s International Writing Programme, with 80 volumes published in 20 languages along the way.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
This Bloomsday, James Joyce ruled the airwaves as BBC Radio 4 broadcast an eight-hour dramatisation of Ulysses. Henry Goodman voiced Leopold Bloom, producing what the Guardian described as ‘one of the great radio performances.’ Realising he may have overdone the praise, their reporter also noted that Goodman’s accent ‘seemed to wander the world.’ Twitter groupies got involved in typically inane fashion, running a ‘RT if you’ve actually read Ulysses!’ campaign. If you think Ulysses is hard work, try Finnegans Wake…
Researchers at Worcester University with nothing better to do sought to establish how little the benighted youth of today know about classic children’s literature. The University’s not particularly groundbreaking survey covered 500 seven to fourteen-year-olds, 18% of whom thought Aslan was a giraffe and 75% of whom had never heard of Pippi Longstocking. The good news is that Education Secretary Michael Gove is on hand to cane the 13% who thought Tracy Beaker lived in the Alps back into shape.