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

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.

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aleese

A Mission to Unite

Patricia Craig

Deeply Catholic, though also feminist and liberal, President Mary McAleese built bridges between the denominations. Her commitment was impressive and her story is an inspiring one, even if its large cast of popes, cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns sometimes overwhelms.

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myers

Toasted Heretic

Kevin Myers scored a notable political success in persuading Ireland to remember its First World War dead. He frequently punctured fashionable illusions and could have been an effective voice of intelligent conservatism if only he had been able to control his inner adolescent.

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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.

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The Aptest Form

David O'Connor

Ranking writers is silly. Affinity, love, allure; consolation, seduction, desire; want – these are the words. Yet it cannot be resisted: no one writes a more alluring, more seductive sentence than Brian Dillon.

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Laughter from the Grave

Katrina Goldstone

In a media mire of tragedy porn and toothrotsweet sentimentality designed to blunt both our senses and our judgement, revisiting Jenny Diski’s essays, with their wonderful jokes and deftly contained anger, is both a pleasurable experience and a salutary exercise.

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Ambassador of Conscience

Hugh Logue

Kevin Boyle’s authority within People’s Democracy and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association derived essentially from his calm, measured delivery. Others certainly had charisma to burn, but as one contemporary observer put it ‘this guy had analysis’.

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The Most Gifted Woman in Ireland

Tadhg Foley

Hannah Lynch’s enthusiasm for travel was central to her writing. Her status as a lone, unchaperoned woman traveller, and coming from Ireland, a country much travelled against, doubtless sharpened her critique of existing dominant travel narratives.

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This Is Not About Me

Kathleen Shields

Why do novelists write novels about novelists? Maylis Besserie presents the thoughts of an elderly gentleman from another generation, someone removed from her by era, gender and nationality, and thus asserts, in defiance of current orthodoxy, the independence of artistic creation.

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The Liar’s Dividend

Luke Warde

If what passes for political satire has as its chief effect the buttressing of the belief that all politics is mired in deceit, then shameless, unconcealed mendacity can come to seem, however perversely, refreshingly honest ‑ with results that by now are too depressingly clear.

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Unintended Consequences

Brian M Walker

In December 1920 the Catholic bishop of Cork said violence in the city had ‘become like a devil’s competition in feats of murder and arson’ between the IRA and Crown forces. Shortly afterwards a large gang of men destroyed the printing presses of the ‘Examiner’, which had printed his pastoral.

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Shaping ‘Nature’

Michael Cronin

The problem for many of the ‘improvers’ of 19th century Ireland was that they saw too much ‘nature’ – wild, uncivilised, uncouth. An unwillingness to face the implications of expropriation meant that ‘improvement’ was more often tendentious, moral scold than economic remedy.

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Empire Loyalists

Maurice Walsh

For Walter Bagehot, the best-known editor of ‘The Economist’, the prospect of workers organising to defend their interests represented ‘an evil of the first magnitude’. The paper’s first love, however, was always empire, British of course; but after that ran out of road American would do.

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Her Dance with History

Theo Dorgan

One might have expected of Eavan Boland’s posthumously published last collection a certain composure, poems that would speak at last of a history in which she could, finally, begin to feel at home, a history of inclusion, of comfort with contradictions. This is not that book.

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Il Miglior Fabbro

William Wall

Ezra Pound was a fascist and, even after the Holocaust, an unrepentant antisemite, yet he was also a brilliant poet, a great synthesiser of cultures and absolutely central to Modernism in English as an associate of Eliot and Yeats and a fierce champion of the young James Joyce.

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Two Stools and a Passion

Thomas O’Grady

Two men, ensconced on barstools – talking. The pub is a man’s world: ‘Dark wood, old mirrors, smoke-drenched walls and ceilings. And photographs of men. Jockeys, footballers, men drinking, writers ‑ all men ‑ rebels, boxers. The women were guests. The men were at home.’

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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.

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The Power of Concentration

Gerald Dawe

A new study provides a view of Seamus Heaney as a poet who broke through to the hearts and minds of the general reader, precisely because his poetic instincts were formed by the full resources and range of the English language, both historical and present-day, demotic and biblical.

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Not the Death of Love

Enda Coyle-Greene

The ‘After Dennis O’Driscoll’ section of Julie O’Callaghan’s new collection is another example of her genius with brevity. That one word, ‘After’, not only gives all due respect to the importance of her late husband’s work but also sets out the strange new ‘after’ life in which she finds herself.

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Parables of Intimacy

Ben Keatinge

Chris Agee has written extensively on the essayist Hubert Butler and is editor, with his son Jacob, of Butler’s Balkan Essays. The Agees, father and son, are uniquely qualified to elucidate the intimacies of hospitality and of hatred that characterise both the Balkans and Northern Ireland.

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The Stuff That Hurts

Tadhg Hoey

Kevin Barry’s characters speak in ways we don’t often encounter in contemporary Irish literature. In fact, much of his vitality comes from the results he gets from steeping today’s hybridised English in the darker hues of the Hiberno-English of the rural Ireland of the past.

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Legal Fictions

David Blake Knox

In the story ‘Ichthyanthrope’ a defendant in a murder trial urges his counsel to present an explanation for his wife’s death that defies conventional reason, arguing that it matters less if that defence is true than that it should be original and delivered to the jury with complete conviction.

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The Art of Honesty

Liam Mac Amhlaigh

Caitríona Ní Chléirchín is adept in using mythology to engage with deep feelings. Her poems can be appreciated without knowledge of their literary pedigree, but for anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with the Irish literary and song tradition there is added enjoyment.

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The Spirit of Cities

Leanne Ogasawara

Cities are smells: Cairo is mango and ginger, Beirut sun, sea, smoke and lemons. But in many of our cities the waters are rising. In Bangkok the water is inexorably reaching up and those familiar fragrances we have loved ‑ of noodles, tiger balm and teak – may soon be washed away.

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Remembering How We Stood

Declan Toohey

Peter Cunningham’s new novel recognises the centrality of femininity to the revolutionary period, while a subplot acknowledges that homosexuality existed beyond the pages of Roger Casement’s diary. The epilogue asks us to bring a critical eye to all things historical, fiction or otherwise.

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Scourging Buffoonery

Amanda Bell

Rita Ann Higgins’s new collection ranges from polemical pandemic poems to a meditation on the society which locked up its unwanted – ‘poor devils with leaky brains and acres galore’ – and a caustic satire on those Christian Irish who wish to offer asylum only to Christians.

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Imperial Warrior

Angus Mitchell

Kennedy Trevaskis was a colonial administrator for the British empire until, in 1964, he was sacked by a Labour minister he sneered at as ‘a Hampstead Socialist’. His memoir reminds us of a vanished world of empire in which, to those in charge, black lives didn’t greatly matter.

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Do not laugh, do not dance

Rosita Sweetman

Large numbers of Moroccan women confided to Leila Slimani, on a book tour to promote her first novel, their ‘sexual suffering, frustration and alienation’. Their stories, with a blistering commentary from Slimani, make for a frightening but fascinating account of her country’s repressive culture.

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A Female Text

Clíona Ní Ríordáin

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s writing in her first prose work is as compelling and accomplished as in her best poetry. The book reveals her as a writer who is willing to take risks, to push back boundaries, refusing to let herself be hemmed in by the demands of genre, gender or tradition.

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Kiss Kiss Scratch Scratch

Maura O’Kiely

A huge and stately galleon, sailing slowly into harbour and slightly holed beneath the waterline, André Talley has a story or two to tell of his years in the highest reaches of the fashion industry. And for his readers’ amusement, he has a great big axe to grind too.

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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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Forthcoming Events and News

A regularly updated diary of events of literary and artistic interest and news from the publishing and arts worlds

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Rupture Rapture

A hundred years ago this month Yeats published ‘The Second Coming’ in an American magazine. The poem, Joe Cleary argues, did not wait to reflect calmly on rupture and crisis but swallowed them hot. Art does not brood on historical events but aspires itself to be the event.

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Letter from Paris

I have met people, including some of my friends and their teenage children, who were proud to say, after the terrorist attacks, that they were definitely ‘not Charlie’. Many indeed felt that the cartoons led to Islamophobia and were an elitist insult to an oppressed and powerless minority.

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A Difficult Healing

Donald Trump’s exit is gratifying. The United States will now have a president who is decent, civil and honest. However, in a political society which has never been more divided and in which citizens have this year bought 17 million guns, uniting the people will not be easy.

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Derek Mahon, the poet

Although Mahon was the last poet one would accuse of naivety, he was attracted to an ideal of simplicity, writes Magdalena Kay. This correlates with a tacit conviction that feelings of insignificance can bring on ecstasy: ‘Such tiny houses, such enormous skies!’

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Derek Mahon: 1941-2020

Derek’s was a life characterised by a certain turbulence, dedication to his craft, a disputatious impulse and an inner reserve sometimes bordering on the stand-offish. But when the mood took him he was uproarious company.

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A Long Way Down

Brian Friel, in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, refers to the sudden disappearance from their Donegal home in the 1930s of two of his aunts, Rose and Agnes. The play is not wholly autobiographical, but the true story of what happened to these women is deeply sad but perhaps not so unusual.

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Likeability

Thirty years after the publication of the ‘Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing’ many critics still dismiss Irish women’s writing as lacking ‘seriousness’ and deride them and their female characters for a supposed lack of ‘likeability’. Could it be that they just don’t like women?

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John Hume 1937-2020

Two years ago, Michael Lillis published a review of two books about the former SDLP leader, enriched by his personal experience as an official of the Irish government in working with Hume in the diplomatic process which preceded the Belfast Agreement. We are republishing part of it here.

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Foclóir or Folklore?

Darach Ó Séaghdha’s bestselling book ‘Motherfoclóir’ developed from his successful Twitter project ‘The Irish For’. In the book he has been willing, keen even, to lay into scholarly lexicographers past and present. But the number of mistakes in his own work does not inspire confidence.

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When in Dublin …

A copy of the events magazine ‘In Dublin’ from 40 years ago, long filed away, reveals a city in which it was just becoming possible to publicise gay rights networks and when young whippersnappers like Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín were starting to flex their intellectual and polemical muscles.

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This England

While it cannot be ruled out that Boris Johnson will execute a U-turn at the last minute and throw Gove and Cummings under the bus, hard Brexit talk has taken on a dynamic that will be difficult to stop. If this is the course that is taken, Britain is heading for a harsh collision with reality.

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That’s far enough!

The Dutch were told they could have a ‘sex buddy’ during lockdown but Boris Johnson appears to have ruled that sex can only take place between cohabiting couples. Fear of infection in fact has had a long history of affecting romantic relationships.

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James Dalton – ‘an innocent man’?

IRA intelligence-gathering was highly functional during the War of Independence, but the threshold of guilt and the criteria for punishment could be capricious. Instances of putative informing could be shrouded in spite and the designations ‘spy’ or ‘informer’ sometimes no more than a label of convenience.

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Apocalypse No

Predictions of apocalypse tend to situate the ultimate hour within the lifetime of the predicter. Unsurprisingly, since the notion is essentially a metaphorical transference of our individual mortality. And in both biblical and secular versions it is profoundly anti-political, distracting us from what we must do.

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Leopold Locked Down

Had he set it in March or April 2020, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ would probably have been a much shorter novel. Some of the episodes would have been ruled out by confinement measures, while others simply couldn’t be allowed to have happened, being quite politically incorrect.

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On the Make

A major book prize has been won by David Hayton for his biographical study of the historian Lewis Namier, who believed that in the 18th century a man never entered parliament to benefit humanity any more than a child would dream of a birthday cake so that others might eat it.

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Escaping Lockdown with WB Yeats

From his Galway tower, amid the bitterness of civil war, Yeats looked out his window at an empty starling’s nest and imagined that bees might come to settle there. A timely image, for replacing bitter dissension with bee-like co-operation is surely the path to sweetness and light.

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IRELAND IN THE EUROPEAN EYE, GISELA HOLFTER AND BETTINA MIGGE (EDS)

A former minister for enterprise famously suggested that while Ireland was physically closer to Berlin it was spiritually, and economically, closer to Boston. As our neighbouring island prepares to push off into the North Atlantic, it is worth asking if this is still a tenable orientation for the state.

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FIVE IRISH WOMEN, BY EMER NOLAN

The following is an extract from Emer Nolan’s Five Irish Women: The second republic, 1960-2016, published this month by Manchester University Press.

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The Unstoppable Irish, by Dan Milner

The Irish in New York faced much of the same hostility from a Protestant establishment that wished to exclude them as they did at home. But eventually they came to belong, based on their service in the US army their role in maintaining law and order, their political skills, and, not least, their sheer numbers.

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Marriage and the Irish, Salvador Ryan (ed)

This fascinating miscellany comprises seventy-nine short pieces on marriage practices in Ireland over approximately 1,300 years. During this period the institution of marriage was organised around property, status, succession and, in the case of the elite, politics.

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Rogue States, by Fred Johnston

In Fred Johnston’s new collection the subject is the experience of cancer or suspected cancer. The prevailing mood is one of grim fatalism; there is no belief in the medical world doing good. This is a world without Ms Nightingales.

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A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A history of the interactions between Ireland and Scotland over two millennia, told in a series of 120 episodes, ranges entertainingly from the Roman governor Agricola’s plan to invade Ireland from Scotland to 21st century pitch invasions at Ibrox and Celtic Park.

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To Live Like a Moor, Olivia Remie Constable

The cultural absorption or lack of it of large immigrant communities may not have predictable outcomes. The relationship between culture and politics, it seems, is not straightforward and drawing political conclusions from cultural practices is an inexact business.

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The One Hundred Best Novels in Translation, by Boyd Tonkin

A new anthology of works of fiction translated into English is modest about its ambitions and disclaims any ambition to be ‘canonical’. Nevertheless it is a smartly executed work, which invites us to fill in some gaps in our literary education and ‘get out a bit more’.

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Revivalism and Modern Irish Literature, by Fionntán de Brún

Once independence was won, the question facing Irish ideologues and leaders was how to make revival real. It was then that the tenuous and tentative nature of the relation between the cultural and the political became clear. Those different spheres would never march in lockstep.

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Love Notes from a German Building Site, Adrian Duncan

In Berlin, an old building is being repurposed for use as a computer store. In the middle of a bleak winter, the construction workers have inadequate time, inadequate resources, speak many different languages and have managers fresh from the Celtic Tiger building boom. Nothing can go wrong.

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Pirate Queen, Tony Lee and Sam Hart

The indomitable Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, is the heroine of a new graphic novel that will entertain and inform children from nine years upwards.

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Nano Nagle, the Life and the Legacy, Raftery, Delaney and Nowlan-Roebuck

Nano Nagle’s emphasis on educating the Catholic poor had a political dimension and contributed to the integration of the several parts of Catholic Ireland into a whole which had the potential of politically focusing the majority. In this sense it is not too fanciful to see her  work as prefiguring that of O’Connell.

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A Short History of Drunkenness, Mark Forsyth

A Ukrainian proverb can be taken to illustrate our human attraction – and perhaps our occasional uneasiness about that attraction – to alcohol, its pleasures and dangers. “The church is near,” it goes, “and the tavern is far. It is snowing heavily. I shall walk carefully.”

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Monster Agitators: O’Connell’s Repealers, 1843 Ireland, Vincent Ruddy

O’Connell’s Monster Meetings came to an abrupt halt in October 1843 when the Viceroy  mobilsed four battalions of troops, some four hundred armed RIC and Metropolitan Police and moved three gunships into Dublin Bay 

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Then Again, Pat Boran

In a poem about O’Connell Street’s Spire, the monument becomes a dagger, a skewer, an extended middle finger. None of the names are inclusive of us, the citizens; the Spire is the ‘we’ reduced to ‘I’, which might be seen as the opposite of Boran’s project, to expand the ‘I’ to ‘we’.

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