Holding the Balance

Holding the Balance

Pat Rabbitte

The Progressive Democrats did not break the mould of Irish politics and should bear some of the responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the 2008 economic collapse. But we should perhaps still be grateful to them for standing between Charles Haughey and absolute power.

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Domestic Gothic

Domestic Gothic

Mary Rose Doorly

In Alice Munro’s world, in which the grotesque frequently intrudes into the everyday, people often speak of great happiness and great tragedy in the same even voice, scarcely distinguishing between them and hardly ever varying the local tone of functional politeness.

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Bright Spirits

Bright Spirits

John Borgonovo

Roy Foster’s new book focuses on a group of brilliant Irish bohemians and intellectuals who were active from 1916 to 1923, though often marginalised thereafter. Their lives are fascinating, but one should be wary of overstating their centrality to ‘the revolutionary generation’.

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White Terror

Hugh Gough

The repression that followed the defeat of the left-wing revolt known as the Paris Commune led to almost four times as many deaths in ten weeks as the revolutionary terror had achieved in the city in eighteen months. Pope Pius IX called the victims “men escaped from hell”.

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Death by Respectability?

John Horgan

The discussion group Tuairim, active in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, made many thoughtful contributions to intellectual debate, but it is another matter to say it was influential, in a society in which those with political ideas but outside formal politics were largely ignored.

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A War Without End

David Blake Knox

Steam locomotive C5631 is proudly displayed in the museum at the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan, where prime ministers come to honour war criminals. There is no mention there of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners who died building the WWII railway on which it ran.

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From the Jungle to the Plain

Peter Kempster

To prosper, the solitary animals of the jungle must ruthlessly pursue their own biological priorities. The social animals of the plain have the same drives but their brains must also identify situations where group interests override individual ones, and act accordingly.

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An Irishman in Hollywood

Harvey O’Brien

Actors were clay in Rex Ingrams's sculptor’s hands, and his desire to shape and control every detail of his films had both positive artistic and inevitably negative interpersonal dimensions.

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The Doubter

Antony Tatlow

Previous biographies have called almost everything about Bertolt Brecht, including his authorship of the works attributed to him, into doubt, while political changes have seemed to diminish his importance. But a new life, revealing a new Brecht, reasserts his importance.

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Below Extinction’s Alp

Seamus O’Mahony

‘The Hard Conversation’ is what happens when a doctor reveals to a patient the no longer avoidable truth. But perhaps society should also have a hard conversation about the limits of medical science and the desirability of providing not infinite life but a decent end of life.

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The Orangeman who loved Ireland

Andy Pollak

The prolific singer, actor, traveller, film-maker and writer Richard Hayward, who died in 1964, was in many ways a pre-partition figure, the kind of Irishman who combined a passionate love of his country with a strong unionist allegiance that was not uncommon in the nineteenth century.

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The Great Extermination

Patrick Duffy

In 1810 Alexander Wilson watched, in Kentucky, a ‘prodigious’ procession of wild pigeons which took six hours to pass over him. The column, he estimated, had been 240 miles long. Just over a hundred years later the last passenger pigeon died in captivity, having never laid a fertile egg.

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Partisan reviews

Bryan Fanning

From Pearse and Connolly, through AE, Sean O’Faolain, John Mulcahy and Vincent Browne, a number of specialist periodicals have set out to write against the grain of mainstream Irish society and provide a space for diversity of opinion not available in national newspapers or the provincial press.

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End of an Era

Pádraig Murphy

The Ukraine crisis has demonstrated, if further demonstration was required, that Russia will pursue its interests aggressively in what it regards as its legitimate sphere of interests around its borders ‑ and that Europe and the West have no agreed policy on how to react to this.

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The Uses of Art

John Fanning

Alain de Botton has been the recipient of much sniffy condescension, being characterised as a chiropractor of the soul. But this is somewhat unfair: he is not trying to make us happy but to help us to understand ourselves better, and he sees art and philosophy as allies in this pursuit.

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A Captain among the Pigeons

Tom Wall

Invited to run for the Dáil by the Donegal Republican Workers Council, Jack White insisted he would do so only under the etiquette ‘Christian Communist’. A key figure in the formation of the Irish Citizen Army and collaborator of Connolly and Larkin, Captain White is the subject of a new study.

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Enemies Within

James Moran

Irish names crop up with a fair degree of regularity among the promoters of xenophobia in contemporary Britain. A study of the interwar period demonstrates that Irish migrants were then the subject of similar unsound suspicions and fears of being ‘swamped’ by ‘scroungers’.

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An Incendiary Film

Caroline Hurley

DW Griffith’s ‘Birth of A Nation’, released a hundred years ago and based on a novel by the Scotch-Irish propagandist Thomas Dixon, portrayed the liberation of the slaves in the US South as a plot against civilisation and has been called the most controversial film of all time.

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Thomas Patrick Byrne

Thomas Byrne

Thomas Patrick Byrne (1901-1940) was a casual labourer and soldier until he emigrated to the US, just in time for the great depression. The first in our new series, Irish Lives, in which we will publish brief family histories. Submissions are welcome.

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The Better Truth

Philip Coleman

Theo Dorgan’s new collection contains many moving elegies for lost friends but also some of the most moving and beautiful love poems written by any poet writing in English over the last few decades.

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Consoling Songs

Richard Hayes

Peter Fallon recognises bleakness – the barbed wire of the concentration camp ‘a crown of thorns around the temple of the world’. But, like Orpheus, he can too shape consoling songs from the shards of his own sorrow.

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Sharp words from elsewhere

Thomas McCarthy

Like a cranky uncle who has spent too long in the tropics, Harry Clifton has thrown insults at every poet-cousin he has read, yet his own verse seems to know more and to be wiser than his often ill-advised urges to lecture others on what they are doing wrong might suggest.

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A Life in Books

Carlo Gébler

Denis Sampson’s memoir has no major dramas, and all its crises are inward and personal. Nevertheless it gives readers a sense of what constitutes the real value and the real worth of literature and  writers a sense of what is possible, which can only be good for standards.

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Good Remembering

Gerald Dawe interviewed by Andrea Rea

Five questions for Gerald Dawe from US radio journalist and presenter Andrea Dawe on the occasion of the publication of his collection Mickey Finn’s Air cover composition and selection, memories of Galway and the difference between nostalgia and sentimentality.

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"Becoming Freud" Review Issue 61

Ross Skelton

Ross Skelton responds to a review of Adam Phillips’s Becoming Freud by Seamus O’Mahony in Issue 61 of the drb.

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Time is What We’re Made of

Ailbhe Darcy

Peter Sirr professes wariness of ‘consoling fictions’, of too easy moments of spiritual plenitude, which too easily pass from us again. His new collection catalogues temporary moments of access to the eternal, but it also stresses our inevitable mortality.

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Travel and Cosmopolitanism

Danielle Petherbridge

Michelle de Kretser’s Dublin IMPAC Award-shortlisted novel, Questions of Travel, delves into the many meanings of home. The Sri Lankan-born author explores themes of trauma, dislocation and inequity between modern travellers, revealing the disparities between those forced and those free to move around the globe.

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Mister Perfect

Michael Hinds

The frequently quoted descriptions of Michael Donaghy as a modern metaphysical may make prospective readers nervous; yet in the main there is nothing ostentatiously intellectual about his work. Rather, the abiding impression is that a poem is a minor fuss worth making.

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The Big Show

Pádraig Yeates

A new book on 1914-18 is lavishly illustrated and, without doubt, a rollicking good read. This is military history as entertainment on a scale that we have not seen since, well, since the First World War.

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Becoming a Conservative ... and After

Frank Freeman

Political journeys are not always one-directional. For some people neither the right nor the liberal left is an entirely satisfying place and it becomes necessary, if one is motivated by a desire for the common good, to endorse values from one and the other.

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Irish Art Series

Catherine Marshall and Rachel Moss

The Royal Irish Academy’s five-volume history of art is a hugely ambitious project which has been five years in the making and involves two hundred and fifty contributors. Here two of its editors explain its range and place in the development of Irish art history.

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The Dead Assemble

Nathan Hugh O’Donnell

The title piece in Brendan Cleary’s new collection is an elegy on the death of his brother. Overall, his poetry conveys an experience of real privation, of alcoholism and loneliness, which speaks to a wider and more long-standing reality about which we in Ireland perhaps don’t want to hear.

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Learning the ropes at The Good Companions

England in the late 1960s was full of temptations, what with barmaids, divorcees and lingerie ads in the London Underground. It was the kind of place where anything might happen, though it didn't.

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Ignoring the Voters

It is not difficult to find statistics to back up the view that our parliamentary democracies are not very democratic. But is there any evidence that we would wish to make the effort to invent any other kind?

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The state we're in

British diplomats have been told that they can now call the neighbouring island Ireland. Does that mean that we have to stop calling them the Brits?

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Getting Past the Post

Playwright Sir David Hare wonders why British Labour's leader doesn't speak out eloquently in favour of socialism and denounce the whole rotten edifice of British capitalism. Perhaps because he doesn't want his party to lose most of its seats.

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A Strong Line in Ireland

The worst that can happen to you on a theatre night out in Dublin is that you will be bored. At the end of the sixteenth century in Elizabethan London you ran the risk of being impressed into the army to die fighting the wild Irish.

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A Melancholy Shipwreck

In 1821, the ‘Earl of Moira’, bound from Liverpool to Dublin, sank near the Cheshire coast with great loss of life. Many of the passengers ‘were of most respectable families’ and on their way to accompany King George on an Irish visit. The people of Wallasey fell on their possessions with great glee.

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Rome by Moonlight

On such a night as this, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe strode out by night in the Eternal City as the moon stood high and serene and the sweet wind gently kissed the trees - perhaps.

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The Turks are at the Gate

How much in common must a community have? Quite a lot, says Carl Henrik Fredriksson. At the very least a common public sphere. Because without it, Europe's publics will be easy prey for those who know how to play the strings of history.

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A Gift of Cabbage, A Stolen Cauliflower

In November 1938, on the pretext of revenge for the assassination in Paris of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, the Nazis launched the attack on Jewish life and property known as Kristallnacht. Some subsequent exiles ended up in Ireland.

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As a dog pisses, so a bird sings

Young cock robin, extensive territory, HWP, D/D free, red breast, seeks hen. When a bird sings, it sings itself, and principally what species it is. A robin after all can do very little of any interest or to any purpose with a wren.

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Death in Zurich

After the fall of France in 1940, Joyce became increasingly uncomfortable. In December he went back to his former home of Zurich, but died there suddenly in January of the following year.

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Harsent wins TS Eliot Prize

Britain's most valuable poetry prize, funded by the estate of TS Eliot, has gone to David Harsent for his collection Fire Songs.

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Tributes to Kent Haruf

The American novelist Kent Haruf, whose novels were set in small town Colorado, died late last year. 'I don't feel like death is right round the corner. But if it is, it's a bigger corner than I thought it was.'”

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Iconic Words to Curate Less Often

It being January and a new year and all that, perhaps there are some locutions that we should think of putting on the back burner going forward.

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Lawrence of Judea

John Henry Patterson, born in Ballymahon, Co Longford, was a soldier, then a big-cat hunter in Africa and eventually a sponsor of Zionism and the creation of an Israeli fighting force. He died in California in 1947 and was reinterred in Israel last month.

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Mnemosyne Lay in Dust

A reading will take place at St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin of the poem Austin Clarke wrote around the breakdown he suffered in 1919/20, when he spent some time in the hospital as a patient.

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Mystery and Marian

Blazes Boylan's secretary, Miss Dunne, didn't like too much ould nonsense in her love stories. Did Walter Hartright love Marian Halcombe or didn't he? Probably not, but did Blazes Boylan love Marian Tweedy (Molly Bloom)?

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New Books

Irish Literature

Including Roddy Doyle's Dead Man Talking, Paul Muldoon's new poetry collection and Sara Baume's debut novel Spill Simmer Falter Wither.

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World Literature

Including Michael Hofmann's Selected Essays and an exploration of American experimental writers since the 1960s, Power of Possibility.

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Irish History & Politics

Including a study of Ireland's medieval heresy trials and a biography of Nathaniel Clements (1705–77).

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World History & Politics

Including Neil MacGregor's Germany: Memories of a Nation and Tony Judt's Essays 1995 - 2010.

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Irish Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Thomas Fitzpatrick and 'The Lepracaun Cartoon Monthly', 1905–1915.

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World Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Jacob T. Levy's study of Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom.

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Ireland 1912 - 1922

A fresh look at the close relationship between Irish nationalism and Catholicism when a new republicanism emerged after the 1916 Easter rising, Freedom and the Fifth Commandment.

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More New Books ...