Monday 21 October 2019

Rachel Dugan: 'Dressing up no substitute for real thing'

Notebook

Yesterday was World Book Day (stock photo)
Yesterday was World Book Day (stock photo)

Rachel Dugan

World Book Day, which was celebrated yesterday, now seems to be mainly about children going to school dressed up as their favourite book character, a phenomenon I was only alerted to by the grumblings of time-pressed colleagues annoyed at having to fashion a last-minute outfit.

A quick perusal of social media yesterday seemed to suggest that for many harassed mums and dads, imagination was understandably thin on the ground.

I saw countless Harry Potters, Matildas and Oompa Loompas, a lot of Where's Wallys, and a large number of characters who would definitely fall into the pop-culture rather than book category, including a slew of Supermen and a few definitely-not-kid-friendly Deadpools.

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And according to a report in a British newspaper, parents now spend more on this one costume than they do on books for their children for the whole year, which puts the lack of diversity into depressing context.

It also gave me pause to wonder if the little girl I saw making her to way to school in an elaborate Queen of Hearts costume that wouldn't have looked out of place on the red carpet of the Met Ball had even read 'Alice in Wonderland'. I really hope so.

Nothing gets lost in translation for Brits

Speaking of all things literary, an interesting email dropped into my inbox this week from the good people at the Man Booker International Prize.

Research commissioned on behalf of the prestigious literary gong has revealed that translated books are flying off the shelves in bookshops across the Irish Sea.

Overall sales of translated fiction in the UK were up last year by 5.5pc, but it seems our nearest neighbours have particularly high-brow tastes, with translated literary fiction enjoying a massive 20pc bump in sales.

And while languages growing in demand include Chinese and Arabic, as well as Icelandic and Polish, it was to the continent that most readers were drawn, with French novels in translations accounting for 17pc of volume sales.

Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, seemed particularly happy about the news: "Reading fiction is one of the best ways we have of putting ourselves in other people's shoes. The rise in sales of translated fiction shows how hungry British readers are for terrific writing from other countries."

In light of the looming Brexit deadline and the rising tide of anti-EU sentiment that has brought our neighbours to this crisis point, I guess it could be seen as a timely reminder that for all the Union Jack-wielding, EU-hating xenophobia we see splashed across the newspapers, there are still plenty of people across the Irish Sea interested in learning about the world beyond their own borders.

Make-up free is cleared for take-off, but will it fly?

I was delighted to learn that Aer Lingus decided to follow Virgin Atlantic's lead by removing the requirement for female cabin crew to wear make-up and making a small dent in the years of sexism in aviation.

I do wonder, though, how many staff will actually exercise their new right.

I'm not one of them, but I know plenty of women who won't even pop down to the local shop without make-up.

This cohort would be genuinely traumatised if they were forced to turn up for work without inch-deep foundation, filled-in brows, eyeliner and rouged lips.

But for those who want to take to the skies make-up free, I hope they feel able to show up at the gate au naturel.

Irish Independent

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