Tuesday 29 November 2016

Google Doodles for Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Louisa May Alcott headshot
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888),
via Wikimedia Commons
Louisa May Alcott – best known as the author of Little Women – is the latest literary figure to be subject of the accolade that is the Google Doodle, on the occasion of the 184th anniversary of her birth, on this day (29 November) in 1832.

Born in Pennsylvania, her family later moved to Boston and much of her life was spent around Massachusetts. Financial circumstances were such that Louisa, along with her sisters, had to seek work from an early age – as a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. It is said that "writing became a creative and emotional outlet for Alcott."

Her family were also practising transcendentalists, which brought them into the circles of famous literary figures of the day, such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller. She was also active, from an early age, in abolitionist and feminist causes.

The publication of Little Women, in 1869, secured her literary fame, though she had been writing and publishing for many years previously. It was an instant success and followed by two sequels that were eagerly received. The novel is loosely autobiographical, detailing both her own life and that of her sisters, following their passage from childhood to womanhood. It is considered a landmark work in the emergence of female literature of the 19th century. It remains a widely read classic and has been adapted numerous times for stage and cinema.

Google Doodle - scene from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott's 184th birthday

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin. Memoir about Growing Up in Ireland in the 1960s.

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin
Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin is the just published volume of memoirs that offers an authentic, first-hand account of life growing up in Ireland during the decade of the 1960s. In telling this story, the author has drawn upon his own experiences and those of others too. What we get is a coming of age tale framed within the setting of a country that was also in transition, embracing modernity, rising to the challenges and opportunities that this brings in its wake.
"Conditions weren't always easy: the houses were often overcrowded, with not many facilities such as running water and central heating. School could be quite difficult, with corporal punishment a major issue. It was believed by many teachers that education could be 'beaten' into pupils. But life was happy and there was little pressure on children to have this, that and the other."

Compared to today, families didn't have much but children could play safely outdoors, making up their own games, exploring fields and woods around them, inventing adventures that filled the void. Television was only just becoming a feature in people's lives. Its introduction was generally welcomed but not without some reservation and even a certain amount of unease – a circumstance alluded in the remarks of President Éamonn de Valera, on the occasion of the launch of Telefís Éireann on New Year's Eve, 1961.

Published in the year that marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, the book recalls how the 50th anniversary was marked and observed by that generation of Irishmen and Irishwomen. Events surrounding the visit of US President John F. Kennedy to his ancestral home, in 1963, are also recorded, along with other events of the era.

The picture that is painted captures the atmosphere of that time and the hopes and aspirations of those who lived through it: a period in Irish life that might now appear remote but not so far removed that it has slipped entirely from living memory.

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin is published by The Manuscript Publisher. It is on sale now, in print and e-book editions. RRP €12.95 (print edition) plus P&P. The e-book is available in Kindle edition from Amazon and in all common e-book formats from Smashwords, as well as other online retailers.
The Tobacco Fields of Meath by Liam Nevin

Liam Nevin is a native of County Kildare but now lives in Shepperton, England, with his wife Marlene. He is also the author of The Tobacco Fields of Meath, the widely acclaimed, fascinating account of tobacco growing in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. It is based, in part, on private papers left behind by his grandfather, John Nevin, who was very much at the heart of the experiment. This book is also on sale and available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Get Your Thinking Caps On for World Philosophy Day!

Today marks World Philosophy Day, a celebration inaugurated in 2002 by UNESCO. Since 2005, World Philosophy Day has been observed on the third Thursday in November. UNESCO leads World Philosophy Day – but does not own it because, as they say. "It belongs to everyone, everywhere, who cares about philosophy".

On this day, everyone everywhere is encouraged to "to share their philosophical heritage and to open their minds to new ideas, as well as to inspire a public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges confronting our society."

Events taking place this year include a programme at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris that has been devised to tie in with World Tolerance Day, which was yesterday.

Closer to home (if home for you is in or around Rathmines, Dublin that is) New Acropolis – a non-profit organisation for the purpose of advancement of education – is organising a series of free public lectures this Saturday, 19 November. The programme starts at 3pm with a talk On the Beauty of the Soul. This will be followed by further public discussions on What are the causes of the disillusion and chaos in the world? and The Irish Renaissance.

Further information is available from the organisation's website.

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