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

Her True Face

Gerald Dawe
Sylvia Plath presented an image to the world – brilliant student, stellar emerging poet and active, outdoor girl – while within she was deeply troubled and prone to the swings of a disabling depression. A sparkling new biography does full justice to both sides of Plath, and to her blazing art.
Mar 4, 2021, 11:15 AM

The Devil’s Disciple

Maura O’Kiely
As a person, Patricia Highsmith was simply vile: mean, cruel, hard, unloving and unlovable. But was she a good writer? Graham Greene, JG Ballard and Gore Vidal all thought so. She was more esteemed in Europe than the US, where her cynicism about human relationships didn’t go down well.
Mar 4, 2021, 11:11 AM

The Autonomy of the Past

Sarah O’Brien
Each past era, Maria Stepanova reminds us, has its own particular dust that settles in every corner. Those who conflate past with present or appropriate the memories of the dead for their own benefit move us further from the plains of memory and closer to the precipice of myth.
Mar 4, 2021, 11:02 AM

Eyes Wide Open

Daniel Fraser
Many great novels, from ‘Lolita’ to ‘The Kindly Ones’, force our recognition through horror and disturbing conceptions of beauty we might seek to deny, but the proper defence of having written such works, the refutation of shallow moralistic attacks on them, is not the pained retort but the work itself.
Mar 4, 2021, 10:59 AM

Writing as a Weapon

Tim Murphy
In his posthumously published final collection, ‘Shadow of the Owl’, Matthew Sweeney employs the weapon of writing to cope with terminal illness. The book marks the moving and triumphant culmination of Sweeney’s unique brand of ‘imagistic narrative’ poetry.
Mar 4, 2021, 10:55 AM

The Streets of London

Kathleen Shields
To be ‘a citizen of nowhere’, as nativist politicians sometimes like to smear city dwellers, is a nonsense. The very idea of citizenship grew out of cities and city states. The Londoners of Linda Grant’s ‘A Stranger City’ belong in a place and time, but they also know what it’s like to be told they don’t belong.
Mar 3, 2021, 15:29 PM

Travelling Man

Ross Moore
August Kleinzahler has worked chiefly in blue collar jobs, shunning the mainstream poetry scene and often adopting a pugilistic stance. He has, however, taught in creative writing courses, even if he sees them as being as destructive of true growth as Dutch elm disease.
Mar 3, 2021, 15:16 PM

Reading Empson

Sean Sheehan
William Empson’s reputation as a severely intellectual critic can be offputting for anyone coming to him for the first time, but it’s a misleading view. His mission was in another direction altogether, seeking to clarify what appears abstruse by establishing roots in ordinary life.
Feb 4, 2021, 14:45 PM

A Naipauline Conversion?

Suryapratim Roy
A new biographical study charts VS Naipaul’s progress from confidently judging the world to be simply ‘what it is’ to more ambivalently ‘charting a way in the world’. In later Naipaul, we find a writer more sympathetic to both his own past and the way others make sense of their lives.
Feb 4, 2021, 14:20 PM

Mother of Invention

Maura O’Kiely
Aunt Betty wasn’t who she said she was. Also known as Eileen and Patricia, she liked to be called Munca, after Beatrix Potter’s pet mouse. Getting on in life ‑ moving on, moving up ‑ was her compulsion, and any lie, any hurt to her family, could be justified along the way.
Jan 7, 2021, 17:07 PM

Cauldron Bubble

Leanne Ogasawara
Fermentation is a familiar process in food preparation but has also long been used as a metaphor for societal change, cultural change, political change, economic change. Driven by bacteria, it is a force that cannot be stopped. It recycles life, renews hope, and goes on and on.
Jan 7, 2021, 17:03 PM

Landscapes of Violence

Rita Sakr
Hassan Blasim’s fictional work has shown extraordinary literary vision and innovation, leaving the reader stunned by the formidable method in the seeming madness of his narrative techniques, which drive realism and surrealism into a wildly intimate encounter.
Jan 7, 2021, 16:58 PM

The Cat Laughs

Kevin Power
Philosophers, John Gray argues, imagine that life can be ordered by reason and principle, an absurd notion a cat would never subscribe to. Gray sees our lives as random events and our natures as determined by the body. But foolishly we find it difficult to accept that we are mere creatures of biology and chance.
Jan 7, 2021, 14:46 PM

Velvet Resolution

Alena Dvořáková
Hermione Lee’s authorised biography of Tom Stoppard gives us, between the lines, the sense of a man who, while charming, could be driven and sometimes emotionally distant. He also seems to have been remarkably keen to live what he saw as the traditional life of the English gentleman.
Jan 7, 2021, 14:27 PM

Two Legs Bad

Martin Tyrrell
George Orwell never wavered in his belief in democratic socialism, though he feared those in charge might succumb to the lure of totalitarianism. The author of a new study of the writer, however, argues that a socialist society is beyond human reach ‑ since we are simply not morally up to it.
Dec 6, 2020, 16:34 PM

The Impossibility of Memory

Theo Dorgan
When Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, the great oral epic of Western culture, was written down, something changed forever. There is a sense in which ‘Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire’, a lament first uttered in 1773, marks the last ripple outward from that momentous event.
Dec 6, 2020, 15:38 PM

The Case of the Vanishing Phantom

John Toohey
The supernatural tale thrived for over 100 years from about 1830, but now seems to exist only as pastiche. In the Internet age, no voice need be silent or stifled any more, even if no one is listening. The ghost story, let’s face it, is not sleeping but dead. And probably best left that way.
Dec 6, 2020, 15:14 PM

The Screen Went Blank

Tim Groenland
One of the consistent pleasures of Don DeLillo’s fiction is the sense of its author’s being attuned to frequencies of catastrophe that hum beneath the roar of the everyday: the toxic cloud on the horizon, the gunman in a lonely room, the ominous twitch in distant currency markets.
Nov 5, 2020, 19:51 PM

Pushing against the Corset

Afric McGlinchey
The extent to which poets play on language varies enormously, but in Geraldine Clarkson’s debut, in which it might be said she uses wit as a palate cleanser, the reader is in for a feast of juxtaposition, unusual metaphor and conceit, highly charged lines and double entendres.
Nov 5, 2020, 19:45 PM

Seigneur Moments

Kevin Power
Martin Amis’s work can be understood as a series of riffs on the base elements of male friendship: rivalry, companionship, sublimated desire. The bullshit quotient is in some ways an index of the bullshit quotient of male friendships, or maybe just the bullshit quotient of men.
Nov 5, 2020, 18:21 PM