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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Puttin’ On the Ritz

Patricia Craig

Zadie Smith is an opponent of dullness, mediocrity, pusillanimity and taking yourself too seriously; she is a champion, and in her work an embodiment, of position, attitude, rhythm and style, like her favourite dancers, Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson. Her essays afford not just pleasure but joy.

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Channelling God

Kevin Power

In 1954 Norman Mailer discovered marijuana. It gave him an insight into the mind of the Almighty, which it turned out was quite a lot like his own. He began to formulate the ideas that would shape his literary work over the next decade. Unfortunately they were not very good ideas.

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Manderley, Again

Lia Mills

Daphne du Maurier’s classic story ‘Rebecca’ is more an anti-romantic than a romantic novel. It is also a study of jealousy, a portrait of the imbalance of power in a marriage, a psychological thriller, and a crime drama with its conventions turned inside out.

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Before The Fall

Andy Pollak

In 1945 a new housing authority in Northern Ireland set itself the target of building 30,000 houses over ten years, houses that would be allocated on the basis of need, not religious affiliation. In Belfast, some religiously integrated estates lasted, and thrived, until the start of the Troubles.

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Politics in the Margins

Anthony Roche

Though he was long perceived as an apolitical writer, Samuel Beckett’s three main publishers, in Paris, London and New York, were known for works with an overt politics and a dedication to civil liberties. This context mattered to Beckett in terms of where his work appeared.

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Their Own Medicine

Pauline Hall

Matthew Pearl’s 2003 bestseller ‘The Dante Club’ is set at the close of the American Civil War when Boston is shaken by a series of gruesome murders which seem to replicate the ‘contrapasso’ punishments of Dante’s ‘Inferno’. A group of eminent scholars must track down the killer.

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John Hume’s Legacy

Michael Lillis

John Hume, though acting with the co-operation of other political figures, was the main force in Ireland’s move from war in the 1970s and 1980s to peace from the 1990s onwards. His legacy is a considerable one, but it is under threat today as it has not been for some time.

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No Easy Answers

Sean Sheehan

Wittgenstein’s talks in Cambridge in the 1930s were creative acts, works of art one might say, that came into existence in the process of their delivery. There were no notes, no script, but ‘he thought before the class. The impression was of a tremendous concentration.’

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He Meant Well

Maurice Walsh

In 1949, the US’s chief strategic thinkers believed themselves to be ‘for all our shortcomings not only great but good, and therefore a dynamic force in the mind of the world’. In such a spirit the CIA sent Colonel Edward Lansdale to Vietnam in 1954. The goodness, such as it was, proved to be not enough.

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Not Quite at Home

James Moran

Dark-skinned people have lived in Britain for a very long time, according to some researchers from the Mesolithic era. Nevertheless, today’s black population remains disadvantaged and is not universally accepted. What is called ‘The Question’ – where are you from? – is never far away.

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Vorsprung in the Free State

Catherine Marshall

When the Shannon hydroelectric scheme was built in the 1920s it rapidly became a major tourist attraction, even a new national monument. But it was a monument that offered a future in contrast to the thousands of historic sites that sang of what had been lost in the past.

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Connoisseur of Foolishness

Kevin Stevens

Today’s bulbous literary novels are remarkably tolerant of longueurs, asides and arbitrary disquisitions, says Thomas McGuane. That can be their virtue. Not so short stories. Short stories share some of the traits of poetry, which could scarcely tolerate the liberties of novels.

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Love Me Why Don’t You?

Jon Smith

Donald Trump may appear to thrive on antagonism – and indeed he has no trouble finding it – but he is also a man who is desperate for approbation. A populist with a totalitarian mindset, he is that strangest of creatures – a political confidence man with no confidence.

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Making Russia Great Again

Pádraig Murphy

Vladimir Putin has made it clear that he plans to operate through an authoritarian state at home, while abroad he wishes Russia to be felt as a great power again, even if that means ‘breaking the American monopoly on the breaking of international law’.

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The Quixote of Cant

Martin Tyrrell

George Orwell set himself the mission of uncovering and ‘calling out’ all forms of political lying and evasion, particularly those of the people he called ‘the boiled rabbits of the Left’. He often chose his targets well, though he was far from being without foibles or prejudices himself.

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Sons and Mothers

Ann Kennedy Smith

Samuel Beckett largely attempted to escape the maternal embrace, insisting that his future would be decided by him rather than her. Philip Larkin’s relationship with his mother seems to have been much warmer, based at least partially on a shared pessimistic attitude to life.

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For Nothing

Sean Byrne

Groups which benefited hugely from NAMA were the lawyers, estate agents and surveyors whose businesses had been hit by the bursting of the bubble. As the government cut allowances for carers and deprived the chronically sick of medical cards, €2.6 billion was set aside for professional fees. 

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The Ascent of Women

Ann Kennedy Smith

‘The average standard of mental power in man must be above that of women,’ Charles Darwin asserted. The opinion was perhaps surprising given the number of talented and active women he knew personally, as well as the wide-ranging social disadvantages they faced as a sex. Women working in the fields of botany, entomology and education often corresponded with the great scientist. 


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Not So Simple

Declan O’Driscoll

When a narrator declares her boredom and indifference, the danger is that this will be met with a responding yawn from an equally uninvolved reader. What maintains interest in Joanna Walsh’s work is the quality of the writing and the honesty of the insights.

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Let’s Shop

Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

‘Consumer culture’ may not be as new as we think it is. Consider the ordinary Venetian oar-maker who left his widow forty-three shirts, twenty-five sheets, sixty-three tablecloths and napkins and 105 pewter plates in 1633.  And what does Harrods’ offering of a hundred models of briar pipe tell us about the consumption patterns of London gentlemen in the 1890s?

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Solace and Silliness

Keith Payne

As a poet, Iggy McGovern celebrates certainties - the certainty of the slow ticking of a public house clock, ‘a quarter-hour ahead’, the certainty of scientific exploration, of a life clearly recalled, the certainty of the BBC Home Service and of course, the certainty of ageing.

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Not So Very Different

Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke

There can at times be an attention-seeking particularism about Irish writing – look at us, we like to say, look how unique, and how very interesting, we are. When I was a boy, we were taught that post-independence Ireland was poor but uniquely virtuous. Today we are taught that it was poor and uniquely wicked. Both positions are misguided: we were never as different as people have made out. 

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Morsels for a Feast

Edward Clarke

Out of a few ‘crumbs’ - the greening blade of a crocus, a gnarly old olive tree, the chatter of finch, the clouds that drift aimlessly by - Mark Burrows has gathered in his new collection, like a busker in the subway or Christ in a desert place, enough to handsomely sustain us.

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Noises from Beneath

Angela Nagle

Cyberutopians promised us the Internet would bring the end of hierarchies, industry, nationalism and gender oppression. But its political claims have proven largely empty while it has continued to spawn a particularly vicious male geek culture of obscenity and misogyny. Nagle’s essay, published in 2013, introduced themes which were later to be developed in her very successful book Kill All Normies (2017).

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Oral Culture and Popular Autonomy

Brian Earls

William Carleton at times conceived of his great narrative enterprise as a form of naive ethnography, asserting that his stories contained more “facts” about Ireland than any previously published work. His sources were multiple, his sea of story extending from refracted folktales, via Victorian melodrama, to the most commonplace clichés of commercial fiction and, indeed, improving tales. At its heart are the narratives and other oral forms of the pre-famine Irish countryside. 

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Folks Like Us

Carlo Gébler

The central characters in Bernard MacLaverty’s ‘Midwinter Break’ are frail, contrary, inadequate, self-serving, self-destructive, hopeless, hopeful, desperate, kindly, thoughtless, and all the other things that make people people. No wonder their story is so fascinating.

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A Time In Between

Éadaoín Lynch

Éadaoín Lynch writes on the British literature of the Second World War. Writers such as Roald Dahl wrote directly about the experience of killing in combat, and the godlike power of mechanised warfare. The dominant mode of writing death and killing lay in understatement, detachment and voyeurism.

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Giant Step

Dick Edelstein

While Geraldine Mitchell’s two preceding volumes of poetry were notably cohesive, in her new collection she constructs a more all-embracing context while maintaining an easily identifiable stylistic continuity. The result represents a considerable leap forward in her work.

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Talking Heads

Deirdre Serjeantson.

As recently as 1996, an English editor of an edition of a seventeenth century play wrote in a footnote to explain to students a puzzling reference that “the Irish were notoriously cruel and bloodthirsty”. This of course is very much a matter of perspective. Both sides in the sixteenth and seventeenth century conflict in Ireland used extreme violence. The Elizabethan English tended to see Irish beheadings as savagery; their own decapitations were simply an expression of due process.

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Inventing the Working Class

Marc Mulholland.

Karl Marx, born 200 years ago this month, was ‘a true and loyal friend, but a vehement and hateful enemy’. To be in his small circle was to feel part of something historic, but also to be exposed to constant critical scrutiny. Once he feared for his political reputation, Marx let no politesse hold him back. His correspondence with Friedrich Engels is full of unedifying abuse of almost everyone they knew.

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Humanism Comes to Town

Toby Barnard

Many of the features of other European Renaissance cities were missing from Dublin: no vibrant centre of learning, only an attenuated court, little local printing. Yet traders, administrators, soldiers and clerics arrived from overseas, as did manuscripts and books.

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The Hive Mind

John Fanning

Charged with reviving the ‘New Republic’, Franklin Foer hired good writers. Quality improved but sales didn’t. ‘Data specialists’ were hired, who insisted that the editor should focus on ‘snackable content’. He complied, but then resigned and wrote a very interesting book as revenge.

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Getting to Grey

Liam Hennessy

Bipolar disorder has been explained as an attempt to create a world in which everything is either black or white. The illness can only be treated, it is suggested, when the important third element is introduced.

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Astonished at Everything

Peter Sirr

Generosity and largeness of vision seem to meet happily in the poems of Uruguayan-French writer Jules Supervielle, which seem to cover great distances in short spaces.

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All or Nothing

Joschka Fischer

Those Germans who argue so vehemently against a so-called transfer union should realise that the EU has always been such a union. France got the CAP for its large rural economy and Germany the common market for its strong industry. Little has changed since.

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Birds, beasts and flowers

Gerald Dawe

DH Lawrence’s poetry offers a record of the powerful current of physical pleasure, the elusive joy of witnessing that which is different, and the kind of opinionated prickliness when things are not what they seem to be or should be.

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The Stilled World

Nicola Gordon Bowe

Unsentimental, sparing and unspecific, the painter Patrick Pye has sought figurative images to represent symbolically “the archetypes of our humanity” depicted in an alternative universe where expiation has been achieved.

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Philip Roth: 1933-2018

After Bernard Malamud (d 1986), Joseph Heller (1999), Saul Bellow (2005), John Updike (2009) and JD Salinger (2010), the death of Philip Roth removes from the scene the last of those great postwar American novelists who combined huge literary credibility with a large popular readership.

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Heart and Head

Seventy years ago this week an important congress on the future of Europe was held in The Hague. Some of the fracture lines which then existed still operate today. Britain's role at the event was particularly interesting.

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Slipping the Mortal Coil

Mark O'Connell has won the Wellcome Prize for his book on 'transhumanism', a movement which seeks to harness technology to enable us to jettison our bodies of flesh, blood and bone and upload our brains to eternal life.

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What country, friends, is this?

All the world’s a stage, the words you are hearing may well mean more than they seem to do, and what looks like the battlefield of Agincourt in northern France in 1415 could just as well be Ireland in 1599 ‑ or even 1943.

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Why Marx? Why now?

Marx and Engels were represented on the banners of Soviet-era May Day parades as two imposing greybeards. But Marx, born almost 200 years ago, had a restless and revolutionary mind, schooled by ‘relentless erudition’. A conference in Maynooth next month celebrates his legacy.

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Pierre Milza, historian: 1932-2018

Pierre Milza was a specialist in the history of fascism, which he saw as a distinct form of political extremism and mass mobilisation, largely confined to a particular time and a particular set of circumstances.

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The human right to claptrap

If we want children to be told only things that are true, we have a lot of work ahead of us, particularly at this time of year. But can we find sufficient sustenance, as children or as adults, in a diet that confines our imaginations to what is demonstrably verifiable?

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A Servant of the State

Frank Callanan spoke recently in commemoration of the state’s first minister for justice, Kevin O’Higgins, who was murdered in 1927 by rogue members of the IRA and the dominant theme of whose career was the primacy of civil government.

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The Toad Work

The discovery of agriculture was the original curse that turned humanity away from its idyllic hunter-gatherer existence. No one is quite sure how it got started. Was it a series of unfortunate accidents or perhaps the work of some obsessive Mark Zuckerberg type?

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A Half-National Treasure

Jonathan Swift is regarded with some pride as being one of the most notable of Ireland’s long line of great writers. The man himself however would have preferred to have been considered an Englishman – though he did the Irish people some service.

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Art For All

In a long career as art historian and arts administrator, Kenneth Clark exhibited a constant commitment to the idea that ‘high culture’ should be available to the widest possible audience. His traditionalist approach did not please everyone, but that did not faze him in the slightest.

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Stroke City

Ireland’s fifth-largest city has many attractions – a broad river, a beautiful natural situation enclosed by hills, a resilient and humorous population, and two names, one for each section of the community.

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Sparks from the Comet

Dubliners on Culture Night this year heard a talk about one of the most eminent Dublin newspapers of the early nineteenth century, delivered in the very heart of what was then the city's newspaper and publishing district.

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Will There Be Blood?

Most of us assume that blood will always be available for us should we need it in transfusion. But in Ireland the only source is from volunteers, who donate out of altruism, receiving nothing in return except perhaps a 'warm glow'.

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The Proust of Ormiston Crescent

In 1912, EM Forster travelled to Belfast to meet Forrest Reid, whose novel ‘The Bracknels’ he had greatly admired. The two men were to become lifelong friends. On Reid’s death in 1947, Forster wrote that he was the most important man in Belfast, ‘though Belfast knew him not’.

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John Ashbery: The Syntax of Time

What marked John Ashbery out from most of his contemporaries was his extraordinary immersion in syntax as the prime organising force of his verse. Many readers noted the parallels between his mature writings and the late novels of Henry James.

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Socrates and 'O Jogo Bonito'

The Brazilian footballer - and medical doctor - Sócrates was a hero not just on the pitch but off, and his courageous engagements with politics in a dark era offer a good introduction to the country's recent history.

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New Books

Irish Literature

Featuring a full chapter extract from The Abode of Fancy by Sam Coll and a poem from Paula Meehan's new collection, Geomantic.

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World Literature

Featuring 2016 Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty's The Sellout.

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Irish History & Politics

Featuring Hell at the Gates, in which Brian Cowen, the late Brian Lenihan, Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, Mary Harney and many others recount in their own words the inside story behind the government's infamous bailout.

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World History & Politics

Featuring Final Solution, David Cesarani's sweeping reappraisal challenging the accepted explanations for the anti-Jewish politics of Nazi Germany.

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Irish Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Paul Howard's I Read the News Today, Oh Boy, the extraordinary story of the young Irishman who was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

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World Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin, an exploration of the lyrics and tunes that have won Clive James and his musical partner, Pete Atkin, a fanatical cult following.

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Ireland 1912 - 1922

Featuring Wherever the Firing Line Extends, Ronan McGreevey's study of the places where the Irish made their mark in World War I and are remembered in the monuments, cemeteries and landscapes of France and Flanders.

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More New Books ...