Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

Finnegans Wake

Monday, August 10th, 2015 | Books

If you’ve read Ulysses you will know that it is full of Irish vernacular, fusions of literary styles and a fog of general confusion that makes it very difficult to follow what is going on.

Or so I thought, until I read Finnegans Wake. It turns out that Ulysses was really more of a warm-up for James Joyce. I now yearn for the comparatively clear plot of Ulysses in which, for some stretches, I could follow what was going on, without the aid of Wikipedia.

I have now finished reading Finnegans Wake and I have literally no idea what happened in it. The language seems even more esoteric, the plot even more muddled. I think there was some stuff about a butcher, who used to be a baker, but is now just a butcher, and sells liver as a special. Also one of the characters was called Anna Livia. The rest is a blur.

Even Wikipedia does not know what it is about. I went to see if I could follow by reading the plot description alongside the book and here is what the article said:

Despite the obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book’s central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot. However, a number of key details remain elusive.

Thanks for that. I don’t recommend reading it. You will probably be able to make more sense of it than I did, but maybe not that much.

Finnegans-Wake

Dubliners

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 | Books

1914 was a simple time. Back then, you could actually work out what was happening in a James Joyce novel. This is why the description of the book includes the following helpful line.

This book holds none of the difficulties of Joyce’s later novels, such as Ulysses, yet in its way it is just as radical.

It is indeed more comprehensible. The opening dialogue of each story may not be quite as verbose as a Jane Austen novel, but you can pretty much work out what is going on within the first half of the story (the book itself being a collection of short stories).

In some ways though, this takes away a little piece of the James Joyce magic. The descriptions, by being less surreal, become a little less vivid as well.

Dubliners

Boomerang

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Books

Boomerang is almost a follow-up book to Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, looking at the fall out of the global recession across the rest of the world. And by the “rest of the world”, it is basically Europe.

He first looks at Iceland in which he talks to a fisherman that became an investment banker. The whole financial crises can be summed up in the following conversation.

“You spend seven years learning to be a fisherman?” “Yes.” “And after that, you spent months training at the feet of a master before you felt you were capable?” “Yes.” “So why did you think you could be an investment banker without any training?”

He then moves on to Greece and talks about how they got into their financial mess. He claims that almost nobody on Greece pays their taxes, every government official takes bribes and that public employees have completely overrun the government to the point where they now get paid two or three times what any sensible country would pay them. I do not know how true all of that is. He finishes up by discussing Ireland.

It is an interesting, and quite a concise book which made it pleasurable to read. Some of it seems rather shallow though. How much can you rely on the stereotypes of Icelandic and Greek people that are put forward in the book? Probably less than our narrative-over-statistics obsessed minds would allow by default. Especially when he begins to talk about the German’s apparent love of shit. I even read what I would interpret as a Holocaust joke. Several times.

Further, he seems to contradict his earlier writing. The final part of the book talks about how much Germany lost in the sub-prime mortgage collapse. In The Big Short he talks about how American banks created credit default swaps that they did not really understand and how one of the people who saw it coming was Greg Lippmann from Deutsche Bank. In Boomerang he proposes the exact opposite – that the American banks knew exactly what they were doing in selling worthless assets to German banks.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that what Michael Lewis has written in this book is actually complete bollocks. The collective lesson I took from Silver, Watts, Kahneman and Taleb is that the financial crisis was too complicated to predict, but humans have a tendency to add a narrative after to try and explain it to themselves in simple terms. Then Lewis comes along and says the financial crisis happens because the Greeks are lazy, the Irish are stupid and the Germans have a shit-fetish.

Boomerang-Lewis-Michael

Ulysses

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 | Books

I first attempted to read Ulysses while we were in Dublin last year, as it seemed culturally appropriate, but having made it through the first part I soon found myself overwhelmed by the complexity and seamless tradition of abstract and concrete ideas expressed throughout the novel.

Not to be beaten though, I recently gave it another go. Now that I have made it all the way through, looking back on what I’ve done with my life so far, reaching the end could be the most impressive achievement.

I started off making the amateurish mistake of trying to follow the plot and work out what was going on. As Joyce darts randomly between things that are actually happing and the various thoughts that flow from each of the characters, discerning reality from imagination is a tricky business indeed.

A much better approach is to simply lay back and enjoy the language. What wondrous language it is though, a beautiful river of descriptive and colourful English in which a lexicon of over 30,000 words are employed in a novel only 265,000 words long. Joyce constantly switches between writing styles while presenting a vivid picture of life in Dublin in 1904.

It was also interesting to find out that the novel had been twice adapted into a film. Interesting, because I can’t think of a novel that would be less well suited to such an adaptation. The beautiful of Ulysses is in the language and in the picture painted in the mind of the reader – filling in the gaps surely could only damage the experience.

UlyssesCover

Where is the Daily Mail when you need them

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 | Photos

What kind of monster would do this…

StayCity Serviced Apartments

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 | Reviews, Travel

While in Dublin, we stayed at StayCity Serviced Apparents, so I thought I would share my thoughts on them.

When I originally tried to book online with Laterooms, it told me they had run out of available rooms and I had to call the Laterooms call centre. I did, and they confirmed there were no more rooms available, but suggested they could book me in at another StayCity just a few minutes away – and offer that I accepted.

Having turned up at said location, I was then told that we had actually been put in the original location. They were very nice about it and put is in a free taxi to the original location, where we found they had allocated a two bedroom apartment to us (couldn’t make use of it though as Elina insisted on sleeping in the same bed).

It was a bit run down, but when the serviced apartments I have to compare against it are Warwick and Oxford, you probably can’t expect the same standards. I can’t help but feel they were falling a little too much into stereotypes though by not providing any tall glasses, yet providing several types of wine glasses.

It was rather cold at first too as they had most of the windows opened when we arrived, so it took a while to warm up (and was never overly warm). It was also rather nosier than I was expecting when it came to trying to sleep.

The location was fantastic though – it was literally over the river from Temple Bar, so for the price and location, it still comes up as a good deal. Their wifi was good too. You do need a pass per device, but I had no problem streaming high-quality video.

Dublin

Monday, September 3rd, 2012 | Photos, Travel

To make the most of the bank holiday weekend, we headed over to Dublin. Despite having been all round Europe, I had never been to Ireland, so it seemed like good choice for somewhere to visit.

While there we made it round the Tall Ship Festival, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Christ Church, Dublin Castle, the Wax Museum and the National Library. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the National Museum or Natural History Museum as they are closed on Mondays (it wasn’t a bank holiday in Ireland).

We also took in the nightlife at Temple Bar with a few different restaurants and pubs around that area, as well as the street artists. We eventually settled in at really cool place named the Bison Bar that had saddles for stools and bison and dear heads on the walls, as well as a superb range of whiskey (not that I benefited from such a collection).

Best moment? Definitely meeting SpongeBob at the wax museum!

It’s a great city, and well worth a visit, though given it has a flight time comparable with Paris, and I found Paris more beautiful and about the same price, I think I would opt to head back to the continent for a short break.

Ulysses

Friday, August 31st, 2012 | Books, Distractions

Being in Dublin and going round the generically tourist bits, you can’t help but notice there is a lot of stuff about James Joyce – he is one of the major literary figures in the country’s history after all.

So having some time to kill while we waited for our flight back, I decided to attempt to read Ulysses. I use the word attempt not to suggest I was trying to read it all in one sitting, but to suggest I was seeing if I could read it at all. After all, Elina had said she struggled, and her language skills are significantly beyond my own.

I’ve so far made it through the first part, of which there are three, but the first is much shorter. Even that has been hard going – I had to head over to Wikipedia at regular intervals to check my understanding matched up with theirs! I seem to be roughly following though, so all is well.