Tuesday 22 May 2018

Portraits of the Past by Michael Whelton: a collection of bittersweet tales

Portraits of the Past by Michael Whelton
Life, death and all things in between, including the decisions that we make or have thrust upon us; how we face the consequences and how we allow those consequences to shape our destinies. Such are the narratives that emerge in Portraits of the Past, a collection of short stories and flash fiction from Michael Whelton, which has just been published.

Poignant moments and personal epiphanies are skilfully captured in collection of bittersweet tales that are usually self-contained but often hinting at a larger story. The stories themselves are told with honesty, candour and a sense of humour that always shines through, even as the characters portrayed themselves seem to dwell in a certain twilight.
"She caressed the faded ribbon and thought of returning it to the secret drawer. Realising that this would only perpetuate the dream, she tenderly dropped it. The love knot burned, closing an unfulfilled chapter in her life."
Carefully crafted and written with keen observation and rare insight, the author's style is inviting. In the end, we are left with a powerful sense of the intensity of living in this world, coupled with an understanding of what it means to be alive within the context of it.

Michael Whelton is a retired medical doctor who has lived and worked in Cork for most of his life but, has also travelled extensively. Both of these circumstances are reflected in his writings. It could be said that, much like what Joyce did for Dublin, Michael Whelton does for his own native city, with his naturalistic depictions that allow for time to stand still just long enough to afford the reader a glimpse inside.

Portraits of the Past by Michael Whelton is published by The Manuscript Publisher. It is available to buy online. RRP €9.99 plus P&P.

Thursday 10 May 2018

It's Written in Concrete by Seamus Kelly

Positive News Journalism for the 21st Century

A new book by veteran journalist, Seamus Kelly, soon to be launched, addresses both the challenges and opportunities that modern media presents, not just in terms of the form (e.g. how news is delivered) but also in terms of content (how news is presented and reported).

In a world of spiralling, almost out-of-control negative media, Seamus Kelly tackled the sensationalised press portrayals by creating and producing a more sensitive, positive journalistic style of news reporting. His reporting of positive news stories in Ireland's national and regional press, including his own Ballymun Concrete News newspaper, introduces a new concept in journalism.

Is the modern media world open to Seamus Kelly's new concept of positive news and prepared to steer clear of the sensationalised, negative, grizzly, horrific, front-page, in-your-face tabloid press stories?

His book, It's Written in Concrete, shows his successful journey in battling against the odds to have his positive news stories, not only published in his own newspaper but also accepted and reported in national and regional newspapers. Much of this happened against the background of Ballymun's urban re-development programme, the largest of its kind to be initiated in the history of the Irish State.

Seamus' positive stories, over the years, have been widely publicised. He hopes this book will help to stimulate debate in media circles and lead to a different outlook in the reporting of both negative and positive news, in which consideration for their effects on readers and society in general will be of paramount importance.

"Positive news, incorporated into everyday news reporting," Seamus says, "will have a feel-good effect on readers, acting as a force for community regeneration in the long-term, by presenting to the world a more powerful, positive news media."

It's Written in Concrete by Seamus Kelly is published by The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online as well as certain bookshops. RRP €14.99 plus P&P.

The book will be formally launched at Axis Arts & Community Resource Centre, Ballymun on 7 June, starting 7pm. Admission is free but those interested in attending are asked to RSVP Axis, who can be contacted by phone – 01 8832100 and 8832120.

Saturday 5 May 2018

The Lesser-Known Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Karl Marx, 1836
Public Domain, Link
Karl Heinrich Marx was born on this day in 1818, in the German town of Trier. As on previous occasions, the anniversary is being celebrated around the world – a reflection of the enormity of his influence, which seems to grow exponentially with each succeeding generation and all the more so every time he is 'ridiculed' and 'proved wrong'.

Taking time out from all of that therefore, we thought that we would use the occasion of his 200th anniversary to reflect on some of the lesser known aspects of Marx's literary output and activities. Just as his writings include subject matter that is wide-ranging and all-embracing, the German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, all-round man of letters, lent his talents, during his lifetime, to a variety of literary styles. He was, by turns, an academic, journalist, pamphleteer, in addition to what might be regarded as his primary career, as political agitator and organiser. His literary style is, perhaps, most noteworthy for a unique ability to clarify and demystify even the most complex, weighty and serious of issues.

What might come as a surprise therefore, is that, among his earliest canon of writings, he also found time to work on that which, for someone of his talents, might appear trivial. By 1837, we are told, when he still had not reached his 20th year, Marx was working a short novel, Scorpion and Felix, a drama, Oulanem, as well as a number of love poems, dedicated to his childhood sweetheart and future wife, Jenny von Westphalen.

Scorpion and Felix is described as " A Humoristic Novel", thought to be inspired, or at least influenced by The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Irish novelist, Laurence Sterne (1713-1768). The work was never completed and only fragments of it remain. It has been suggested that parts of the novel could have been burned by Marx himself, along with other of his early works. Those fragments that did survive were included as a supplement to his Book of Verse (1837).

Oulanem is a drama or poetic play written by Karl Marx in 1839, during his years as a student. The action takes place in a mountain town in Italy. It is available to read online at Marxist Internet Archive, along with other of Marx's early writings.

Marx's early writing are also available, in English, as part of Volume 1 of Marx-Engels Collected Works, published by Lawrence & Wishart (a self-described independent and radical publishing house) in 1975. A digital version of this collection has since been made available to university libraries, through Project Muse.

This circumstance however, appears to have given rise to some dispute. In 2014, Lawrence & Wishart required Marxists Internet Archive to take down work over which it claims copyright! Marxists Internet Archive have countered by arguing that "the reaction of the 'Marxist community' at large has been wholly negative to the actions — completely legal — by L&W".

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