Thursday, June 28, 2012


Have been dipping in and out of this 2009 lecture series from Harvard University. Really interesting stuff. Hard to believe that a monetary value can be put on human life, but like everything else, its possible. 
Also when I watch it I get to reminisce about college days although none of the lecture halls that I frequented looked like that!

Monday, June 18, 2012

I saw history in the making!

Guinness World Record annihilation in the Irish Writers' Centre last Saturday. The record for most author's consecutively reading from their own books had originally been held by the Germans who managed a measly 75 authors. But now in our greatness we hold the record at 111 authors in 28 hours.
There was an amazing atmosphere at the Centre. I arrived at 5am Saturday morning and stayed until 2pm when the event was brought to a close with a reading and a fantastic speech by the director Jack Harte. I kept coffee pots topped up and made sure Butler's chocolates (who were the sponsors) were scattered through out the building. It was fantastic to be a part of it all.
It also served to highlight the amazingness of the staff there and just what a fantastic resource (not to mention beautiful building) the centre is. (Although my thighs from the upping and downing of the beautiful staircase have been the paying the price.)

This is from The Irish Times :

Irish writers break world record by Orla Tinsley

Irish writers made history today by breaking the world record for the most authors reading consecutively from their own work. Some 111 authors took to the podium against the clock at the Irish Writers' Centre in Dublin from 10am on Friday until 2pm today shattering the German held record.
The record was officially surpassed in the early hours of this morning by author Lissa Oliver who became the 76th person to read from her book Chantilly Dawns. The former Guinness world record of 75 authors reading consecutively was set at the Berlin International Literature Festival.
"At 5am there were quite a few people here and that was the point we exceeded the record," said programme co-ordinator John Kearns. "There were always between 10 and 20 people supporting over night," he said.
The event was streamed live across the world on the internet through the Irish Writers' Centre website and clocked up over 1,000 viewers.
Despite the benefits of technology supporters turned up throughout the night to hear authors read by candlelight under the watchful eye of invigilators from KPMG and The American University Ireland, who kept time and marked attendance for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Each author participating had precisely 15 minutes kept in check by a looming alarm clock directly infront of the podium.
Authors reading included Seamus Heaney, Kevin Barry, Ed O’Loughlin, Carlo Gebler, Catherine Foley, Roddy Doyle, Evelyn Conlon, Mike McCormack, Sarah Webb and Lucille Redmond.
The event was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the conception of the Irish Writers' Centre as well as raise awareness of the writing community in Ireland on Bloomsday.
"We wanted to emphasis that the tradition is not broken because these people died, the tradition continues and as you've seen over the last 28 hours there are wonderful writers writing and living in Dublin, in Ireland right to the present day. It is a source of enormous pride to the country that so many have achieved so much," said author and founder of the Irish Writers' Centre Jack Harte
The Guinness Book of Records rules dictated that the authors must read from one of their own works for 15 minutes and that each book must have a ISBN number.
Author Roddy Doyle who read from his book The Van described the experience as "nerve wrecking".
"The lights and everything are unusual and it's so hot in here compared to outside," he said.
"It's a great event. The surprise is that everybody turned up on time, given the reliability of Irish writers, it's a bit disturbing," he said.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hemingway's house "Finca la Vigía", Cuba.

It was all exactly as he left it. That was the most surprising thing about my visit to Hemingway's house, about an hour outside of Havana. The day was hot, humid. The sun shining. But as we left the city behind and neared the house clouds started to roll in. The air was changing.

It was expensive to get through the front gate (probably the same price as a month's local wage) and all you could do was look through the open windows and doors. If it started to rain the guides and workers would set about closing them until the rain had absolutely stopped. We looked up at the sky and kept our fingers crossed.

I approached the front door and peered in. Feeling like a trespasser. Everything was exactly as he had left it in the late 50's. In a matter of months he would kill himself.

It was good taste incarnate. None of the beautifully designed (often especially for him and this house) would have looked out of place in a home today. And it struck me; the wealth, the freedom, the society. He had the world at his perfectly perfunctory feet. Constantly being, allowing himself to be, and actively wooing the whose who of the times. There was a small wooden bowl in the dining room with the engraving "From Mr and Mrs Roosevelt" (not Mr and Mrs President).

The magazine rack brimming with Time and literary journals.
And he often wrote standing up. This was something I didn't know. But then I don't think I was the fan I am now since seeing the house. I don't know if it was the air, the light, the impending storm but seeing the house left me with a silence; one that I am still unable to articulate. Perhaps a feeling of the impossibility of it all.

One of the best things in the house ... his daily record of his weight neatly inscribed just inside the bathroom door.  

Another one of his writing perches ... chair positioned with his back to the window. Which to me seemed odd.  I love nothing more than to face out the window. But then maybe that's why I haven't written a master piece yet. One of the items on his desk is a letter stamp that reads "I never write letters". Apparently he would return letters unopened with this defiantly emblazoned across their chests.

The room at the top of the look out tower where he only did his editing.

The old Corona that sits on that desk.

A walk through the pet cemetery and past the empty pool brings you to an awaiting Pilar under her canopy. Much bigger than I had imagined she would be. In my mind maybe all boats related to Hemingway are small with old men sitting in them.

The thunder rolled out just as our guide was finishing up with her last tit bit. As we exited the compound there were houses and huts built almost to the front gates and I wondered if it had been like that when he lived there?

And the heavy air followed us all the way back to Havana where I thought about how any of our lives must look from the outside, or the inside, of a home. How strange it is sitting there locked in another decade. In it's brilliance and isolation.


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