Shockingly, the library is not just a place to hide from exams. Lauren McKeown and Steven Balbirnie provide two recommendations that will make a trip far more worthwhile.

P.S. I Love You

Exam time is the perfect opportunity for some self-indulgent dossing, and with the library’s growing collection of DVDs, those who bring their laptops in to ‘study’ are sorted. I recently borrowed the girliest chick-flick I could find in the vain hope that I might vent pre-exam stress. The initial plan was to write a cynical and heavily critical review on the soppiness of it all.

P.S. I Love You is one of those ‘feel-good’ films that almost perversely leaves you surrounded by a fort of Kleenex man-sized tissues. Essentially, the film deals with death and how one copes with it.

Yet for Holly (Hilary Swank), the impact of the untimely loss of her husband Gerry (Gerard Butler) is mitigated. Gerry’s letters from the grave (or thoughtful love notes) ease Holly into her new life without him, one ‘P.S. I love you’ at a time.

Despite the poignancy of the story, I felt distracted by the diddle-i-diddle-o twang to Gerry’s accent. Darby O’Gill may as well have been cast instead. Clawing at the soul of the Irish, the film also features a blatant promotion of Jameson whiskey throughout, an omnipresence of Celtic memorabilia in most scenes and ‘Fairytale of New York’ playing at Gerry’s funeral, which is held in an Irish bar.

Beneath all the cringeworthy stereotypes however, lies a cast of witty and quirky characters who create an honest portrayal of love of all kinds. Ultimately, the film speaks a raw and beautiful truth: if we’re all alone, we’re all together in that too.

– Lauren McKeown

Life in the Universe by Michael J. Farrell

The Stinging Fly Press is one of the most dynamic small Irish publishers, dedicated to fostering emerging literary talent. Michael J. Farrell may be over 70, but since Life in the Universe is his first collection of short stories, it would be fair to call him an emerging writer.
Life in the Universe was published by the Stinging Fly Press last year, and as far as first collections go, this one is wonderful. Farrell’s book is a rare example of Irish magic realism, which effortlessly blends fantastic events with serious insights into art, philosophy, theology and astronomy.

Farrell’s prose is brimming with wit, whimsy and wisdom. All of the stories in Life in the Universe are of a high standard, but two which stand out in particular are ‘Self-Portrait’ and ‘By the Book’.

‘Self-Portrait’ details the conflict between an aging artist and the self-portrait which verbally mocks him; while ‘By the Book’ follows the plight of a librarian inspired by a chance encounter with a blind man to go from door to door promoting classic literature like a religious missionary.

If you’re looking for something that’s thought provoking and provides escapism, then look no further than Life in the Universe.

– Steven Balbirnie