Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Spot the Difference, Part 1 June 11, 2010

Filed under: Censorship,Ireland,Irish History,World War II — Janet @ 6:59 pm

As I read on about Ireland during the years 1939-1945, I am struck by some of the parallels with my own experiences and impressions coming here in 1968 to live permanently.  Before I came I had little idea of the differences and similarities between the North and the South.  Little by little I have become more aware but it has been a slow process.  My husband Ian told me we were coming to a new country for both of us.  Odd I thought, Dublin is only a little over 100 miles south of Belfast.  And I thought well it’s a lot newer for me than it is for him.  Before we came I tried to read up a bit about our new country.  We were in Kenya and I can remember 3 books that I found in the bookshops in Nairobi.     One by Mary Bromage, an Irish American writer whose book on De Valera was published in 1956.     I still see paperback copies of it occasionally in book sales.  Another book which I read was Maurice O’Sullivan’s Twenty Years A Growing.      (photo from the internet, as is the following.

“Muiris Ó Súilleabháin /mʷirʲiʃ o: sˠu:lʲəvʷɑ:nʲ/ (aka Maurice O’Sullivan) (19 February 1904 – 25 June 1950) became famous for his memoir of growing up on the Great Blasket Island off the western coast of Ireland, Fiche Bliain ag Fás (Twenty Years a’Growing), published in Irish and English in 1933. As one of the last areas of Ireland in which the old Irish language and culture had continued unchanged, the Great Blasket Island was a place of enormous interest to those seeking traditional Irish narratives. Ó Súilleabháin was persuaded to write his memoirs by George Derwent Thomson, a linguist and professor of Greek who had come to the island to hear and learn the Irish language. Thomson edited and assembled the memoir, and arranged for its translation into English with the help of Moya Llewelyn Davies.

  again from the internet – the house where Muiris (Maurice) Ó Súilleabháin (O’Sullivan  grew up

The third book which I found was Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book about the Famine.

  this was grim reading and I’m not sure I finished it.

Reading these books in preparation for coming to Ireland was at least a start, but even after 40 years of living here I feel I’ still have a lot to discover.  I wish there were some sort of term like Americo-Irish the way writers describe Anglo-Irish people; because I too now feel loyalty to Ireland, Britain,and America.  These feelings of divided loyalties are explored fairly clearly in the book I’m reading now, That Neutral Island by Clair Wills.    What I particularly like about the book is that she writes quite a bit about the literary figures of those years and what they wrote, for example Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, Louis MacNiece, Denis Johnston, and Francis Stuart. 


Attention Librarians and Booksellers September 21, 2009

Filed under: Authors,Books,Censorship,Librarians,Parenting — Janet @ 12:43 pm

I subscribe to A Word a Day, a free service which sends me an interesting word each day.  Today’s word is comstockery – a word I had never heard of.  Anu Garg is the Wordsmith and he introduces his word for today by writing that librarians and booksellers are two of his favourite people.  (Well since I am both of those I think I would like to meet the man.)  He goes on to write that he feels it unfortunate that some people feel threatened by certain books and call for them to be banned or destroyed.  He feels that people have a right to be offended by any book, but in that case all they have to do is not buy or borrow it. The problem begins when they try to impose their views on others by trying to ban it.

As an antidote to banning, the last week of September is observed in the US as Banned Books Week.  So this week Anu Garg is going to feature five words relating to censorship and mutilation of books.

Even though people after whom some of these words are coined have long gone, censorship is still alive. But there’s hope. Anu leaves his readers with this thoughtful letter from a librarian to a patron.

From the Wordsmith:




noun: Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene.


After Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He crusaded against anything he considered immoral. Nothing escaped his wrath — even anatomy textbooks for medical students and the draping of mannequins in public view in shop windows were obscene to him. He lobbied for laws against mailing any material that could be perceived as promoting immorality.
He was appointed postal inspector and he seized books, postcards, and other materials by the boatload. He boasted that he had arrested more than 3,000 people and driven more than 15 to suicide. George Bernard Shaw coined the word comstockery after him when he attacked the American production of Shaw’s play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”.”


My encounter with censorship – I worked in the library of the American International School in Bangladesh for close to 5 years and eventually reached the position of  head librarian.  One day, a mother of a child in the lower grades, came in to browse and select some books for herself. (We had a rather large adult section to serve the needs of parents and friends, books in English being rather scarce in Bangladesh at that time.)   I knew this parent socially and thought her reasonable enough.  However, she came into the library and upraided me in no uncertain fashion for having a book by Raoul Dahl on our shelves.  I cannot remember which book it was – this was about 25 years ago.  I was puzzled by her outrage but did not feel articulate enough to counter her.  And I decided it was no big deal to just quietly withdraw the book and say no more.  Then I put it back on the shelves when this particular parent had moved on.  It wasn’t as if the book was in great demand anyhow – it probably hadn’t been taken out in years.