Thoughts on terrorism.

On 13th November, there were atrocities committed in Beirut and in Paris. I want to send the deepest condolences to the people caught up in those attacks.

The killings in Paris, particularly, have had huge international attention, attention most terrorist attacks don’t receive in mainstream media. There are those who have pointed out the hypocrisy of showing solidarity to Paris when this violence occurs so frequently outside the western world, and is ignored.

I believe solidarity is important. But I take their point. I believe that rather than condemning support for Paris, we should see this new global conversation as a wake-up call. Because this is a huge problem in western media: if something horrible happens too frequently, if it happens too far away, if it’s confusing or has grey areas, if it’s not something we can relate to or something we can do anything about…far too often we don’t want to know. The story goes off the radar very quickly, or it doesn’t appear in mainstream media at all.

In that context, it makes complete sense that there has been so much more concentration on this attack in Paris. Not only because it’s in the western world – we can’t just dismiss it as one of those awful, violent, far-off countries where these things happen – but because it’s Paris. City of Lovers, City of Lights. Parisian is a word used in English, for crying out loud. It’s one of the most iconic cities in our culture, up there with New York and London.  If you haven’t been there, it’s on your list of must-sees.

What’s more, it feels incredibly close to home. I live in Ireland, and we all know someone who is there or is going there or has been there recently; a friend of a friend, at the very least. Lots of us have friends who are French. And many of us have visited Paris in the last few years. These are streets we have walked. It is impossible to subconsciously dismiss as something that most-likely-won’t-touch-our-lives, because it already has.

So yes, the shock surrounding this atrocity makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I think it’s completely justified. This is the shock and upset that such a horrifying, inhuman massacre deserves. It only becomes problematic when you question why this same worldwide shock doesn’t follow other horrific atrocities.

And that’s when, rather than criticising the support being offered, we could bring other media-worthy violence into the picture.

(I want to finish with a quick reminder that this discussion must not be allowed to become black and white. There are people in need of help pouring out of the likes of Syria, and turning on these refugees – or turning them away – will not help anything. It is absolutely imperative that the minority is not allowed to define the candle...majority in this issue.)

That’s all.



The Addictive To-Read List

A couple of months ago I wrote an open letter to  author Louise O’Neill, complaining that I did not have time to read her latest book Asking For It. (I finally got a chance at Halloween, and just so you know, you should read it too.) But, as it turns out, there’s a growing list of books which look dangerously addictive. So here are a few more of them:

  1. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding: I found it in my attic and the first page was very entertaining so I put it down quick.
  2. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan: It was the original Percy Jackson series that I fell completely in love with. The Heroes of Olympus books are pretty good stories, though they don’t really have enough of the old characters to keep me happy. I read them all, except this most recent one – which, I’ve just discovered, is also the last in the series. I guess I’d better get my hands on it.
  3. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: This has been sitting on a bookshelf for years, but recently a friend highly recommended it, so now I want to read it and I can’t and oh it hurts.

There’s also a couple I actually have read, but which should be approached with caution:

  1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: You really should read it. Not if you’re busy. It’s very intense. But you should read it.
  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: I’d been wanting to read this ever since last Christmas when I watched my sister swallow it whole. Over midterm, this was the other book I made time for (mostly because I wanted to go to the movie.)

(I thought that both the book and the film of Brooklyn were excellent, although in different ways. There weren’t many changes, but somehow it felt as though they told different stories. This is one where I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the movie – if you have time before it goes out of cinemas.)

Banshee – a gorgeous little lit journal

Banshee, issue 1The lovely Claire Hennessy, Laura Jane Cassidy and Eimear Ryan have created a new literary journal this year (which is really very cool of them). The first issue of Banshee can be bought here, they are on twitter @bansheelit, and  you can have a peek at their webiste here (although their submissions won’t open for another while now).

I loved reading this journal. There were some beautiful pieces. For anyone else who’s come across it, I’ve put together a list of some I particularly enjoyed:

Feamainn – Ali Brennan: I think this was my overall favourite. It’s atmospheric and eerie and each word fits perfectly, but the best part is the twist at the end. It appears to be going one way, but after the last paragraph, the story has completely flipped – I wanted to read it again from the start.

All poems by Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson: Poetry is great. However, I am someone who thinks the words in poems are pretty, but who finds prose much easier to actually understand. I rejoiced in how accessible these poems were. Simple lines revealed really clever ideas. I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Hair – Sinéad Gleeson: I haven’t come across too many non-fiction essays before. As the first piece of writing in the book, Hair set a lovely precedent. It has a perfect structure: personal experience, reference to historical events, and literary quotes woven seamlessly together. The author’s own observations take hair – something that is so normal, so everyday – and show us how firmly it is linked to society and culture. (And self-expression, and stereotyping, and…)

Small Nuclear Family – Mel Pryor: I think there may be a metaphor in here that I missed, but I liked how “pieces of myself” didn’t just refer to physical body parts (favourite line: “a scattering of frowns inside the tumble drier.”) The descriptions got increasingly interesting and fun to imagine as the poem went on.

Girls – Annie Wiles: I’m not quite sure how to describe what I liked about this one. But I liked it a lot.

This is only a handful. Flicking through the pages to double-check the authors’ names, I found so many more that had me dithering over whether to include them. If you are looking for something to read – even if you’ve never gotten a literary journal before! Give one a try – I would seriously recommend Banshee.