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

Hating Jonathan Franzen

Kevin Power

Privileged, pretentious, arrogant, self-indulgent, mediocre, male, white. Those who dislike Franzen certainly don’t hold back. Is it the writing, or that he serves as a handy embodiment of a currently popular bogeyman: the smug elitist who disparages mass culture in the name of a snootily exclusive ‘tradition’?

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Where Yesterday Haunts Tomorrow

Alena Dvořáková

A lively account based on the fluctuating fortunes of one Russian-Armenian family illuminates the varying impact of large-scale historical developments in specific locations and on people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures. The Soviet Union, it becomes clear, was far from an undifferentiated monolith.

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Of Gardens and their Spirit

Brandon C Yen

Apart from the appeal of beauty and the medicinal or alimentary uses of plants, gardens reflect humanity’s attempt to understand its place in the world and to regain an edenic sense of belonging. As such, gardening is a pursuit that crosses national, cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries.

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From Now to Then

Siobhán Parkinson

A narrative structure which inverts fiction’s usual propulsion from a ‘then’ towards a point of closure that seems to be an inevitable consequence of events resembles our habits of reminiscence, which start with the vivid ‘now’ and look backwards towards a more sketchily remembered past.

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Rotters in Brexitland

Giles Newington

Jonathan Coe’s strengths as a writer – his humour, his clarity, and particularly the deft way he can sketch in the political background – make him well-equipped to sustain a state-of-the-nation novel that is credible and wide-ranging yet avoids being dragged down by the weightiness of its theme.

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Mistaking Identity

Tom Inglis

We are inclined to think of social identities as traits that are common to all members of a group, that a person cannot help acting like ‘a woman’ or ‘a Frenchman’. But identities are fluid and dynamic. People perform their identities, playing up, or down, their social roles and positions.

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Gorgeous and Sinful

Catherine Marshall

Harry Clarke’s work in stained glass can be read in a variety of ways – as modernist, late Victorian, political, even apolitical, but whichever way one argues about interpretations it is hard to question his achievements.

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Philosopher in a Hurry

Johnny Lyons

As a popular explainer of what philosophy is concerned with, Bryan Magee had few equals. Never, perhaps, has so much been owed by so many curious minds to a single intellect. But as his frank memoirs show, Magee was not just a man of intellect but one of will and, above all, appetite.

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Left in a Free State

Brian M Walker

Northern unionists developed the political and paramilitary muscle in the crisis of 100 years ago to defy nationalism and stay out of a united Ireland. Their Southern brethren were left with the options of accepting the will of the majority and becoming a minority in the new state or leaving.

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Down on the Plantation

Seamus Deane

Slavery was not an institution in colonial Ireland. Rather the condition was reclassified as an almost ontological one, that of ‘poverty’. This had a natural alliance with ‘Irish’, just as ‘negro’ had with ‘slave’ in the racial hierarchy that helped assuage class subjection among American whites.

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One Damn Thing After Another

John Paul McCarthy

John Burrow’s survey of the history-writing tradition, covering practitioners as diverse as the church father Eusebius and Henry Adams’s American classics, betrays a boyish delight in a fracas. His trademark is the chuckle that implies an acceptance of imperfection. Such, it concedes, is life.

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Building Jerusalem

Kris Anderson

David Kynaston, in the first volume of a projected major work, accomplishes his ambition to tell the story of the postwar changes in ordinary people's lives with a prose style that balances entertainment with erudition and in-depth historical assessment with gorgeous, fact-laden word pictures, all fused together in an exemplary narrative of a fascinating period. 

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The King's Man

Deirdre Serjeantson

As with the Easter Rising, there was in the early modern period more than one vision in play of Ireland’s destiny. Walter Quin, born in Dublin about 1575, was to die in 1640 “an ancient servant to the Royal family” – but in his case the royal family meant the Stuarts rather than the Habsburgs or Borghese, with whom O’Neill had lodged Ireland’s hopes. 

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Head Stuck in a Book

Angela Bourke

Images of women reading offer an edge: it might be rooted in a child’s anxiety about a mother whose attention is elsewhere, but often it’s an eroticised, voyeuristic feeling that we have caught the subject unawares. Writing culture assumes “the reader” to be male.

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A Moment of Slackness

Pauline Hall

The characters in a 1946 collection of Mary Lavin’s stories, now republished, are cramped by the pressure to be respectable, to be of account in a narrow world, heavy with judgement. Power relations are overturned, usually irrevocably, between colleagues, siblings, husband and wife.

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An Unsinkable Woman

Robert O’Byrne

In 1922, the 50-year-old Katherine Everett was despatched to see if anything could be saved from her godmother, Lady Ardilaun’s, property Macroom House. The story of her journey, the last 70 miles of it by bicycle, serves as a counterpoint to the blustery narratives of Ernie O’Malley and Tom Barry.

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Our Gods and Theirs

Patrick Claffey

Religious belief has the power to define, but also to divide peoples. While it can be seen as in some respects a retrogressive force, there is no basis for the secularist view that it is on the way out. As Régis Debray put it, ‘we can no more disinvent religion than we can the atom bomb’.

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Affinity with Far Away

Amanda Bell

A bilingual collection of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poems contains some new poems and many previously published. The decision to use new versions, suggesting that there is no definitive way of translating a poem, will no doubt give food for thought to students of translation studies.

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Disturbing a Mighty Ghost

Bernard O’Donoghue

No figure in Greek myth is more ambiguous than Orpheus, who is both the musician who can charm wild beasts and the uxorious husband who wins his wife, Eurydice, back from the underworld. Theo Dorgan has brought something new and marvellously achieved to this rich nexus of story.

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With Proust Down Memory Lane

Dick Edelstein

Ciaran Berry’s ability to move mercurially between simplicity and complexity, between a soufflé-light surface and deeper levels redolent of the rich complexity of a figgy pudding, makes his verse amenable as well as substantial.

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Out of his Depth?

Thomas Earls Fitzgerald

Cathal Brugha, a brave soldier but an inept politician, is probably best known for his tense relationship with Collins and his refusal to surrender during the fighting in O’Connell Street in the early stages of the civil war. He preferred to die fighting, charging his opponents head on.

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Return and No Shame

Keith Payne

Maureen Boyle gives us portraits and poems of our social history, the most democratic of histories, showing us yet again –and yes, it needs to be repeated, especially to the Minister for Education – the importance of history and how it offers among so much else, a perspective, empathy and a future.

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Games with the World

Catherine Ann Cullen

Poets, Ailbhe Darcy has written, should invest monstrously in their own personal mythology. Novelists build a fictional world for the space of a volume or several volumes, but the poet builds a fictional world across an entire life.

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Sunny Days, Fairy Nights

Lillis Ó Laoire

A new anthology of children’s literature in Irish asks what we can learn from a study of this field on the experience of childhood in Ireland. Secondly it asks if there are any distinctive aspects of childhood to be discerned from this study that are different from those to be found in English language literature.

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Though Lovers be Lost Love Shall Not

Jean O’Brien

For a writer who says she writes poetry as an aside, Anne Haverty sure packs it in; her journey takes us on a coruscating ride, tumbling with deftness, humour, irony and precision through history and Eastern Europe, with poems about vodka, life, love –and back to earth with a bump in Tipperary.

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Notes from the Other Island

Patrick Duffy

The collected reports of a former Irish correspondent for British media depict a country that is notably less prosperous than it is today but one in which it seems there was always time to talk. Many things have changed since, and some, like rural depopulation, have not.

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Chained to the Wheel

Colin Dardis

Louis Mulcahy is a master ceramic sculptor, and his poetry too focuses very closely on this art and craft. He wants us to understand the detail behind the obsession as well, and there are hints of regret over what it has cost him in terms of absence from the lives of others.

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The Word as Trampoline

Maeve O’Sullivan

James Finnegan is a poet concerned with ideas and with ecological matters. His observant eye can zoom in to pick up details about birds, dogs, cats, horses, reindeer and even penguins. There is some dark humour at work too, as in an imagined reversal of the human-pet relationship.

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Love in the Time of Austerity

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

An artful, nuanced take on life in post-Tiger Ireland, Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a breathtaking reflection on love and unequal exchange between two people seeking equilibrium in a time of perilous instability.

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High Jinks and Down to Earth

Gerard Smyth

A poetry collection by broadcaster John Kelly is flush with acute observation and understanding, as well as sparkling felicities of imaginative detail and linguistic invention. The references range from popular culture to the natural world, with the poems marked by both gravity and wit.

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A Book of Discomfort

Enda Wyley

Many people say they turn to poetry for comfort. They would be advised to avoid Jessica Traynor’s work, where death and the dead are a restless, persistent force and witches direct vicious and violent magic at men in payment for their transgressions.

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Mystics and Villagers

Thomas Goggin

The Indian poems of Gabriel Rosenstock’s latest collection are populated by saints and stics and interspersed with allusions that reinforce an image of timelessness and transcendence, many exploring the no-man’s-land separating the known and the metaphysical world.

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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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The Tenth Circle of Hell

European Council president Donald Tusk wondered if there should be a special place in the infernal regions for those who promoted Brexit without any idea of how it had to be negotiated. In the long run, the fools seem unlikely to be pardoned.

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If you gotta do it do it right

The newspapers have gone to the dogs completely. No one can spell or punctuate and the young people working there now obviously think grammar is just some kind of weird obsession of elderly fascists out to oppress them. But hold on, is it really as simple as all that?

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The Author of Himself

In his semi-autobiographical fiction James Joyce was not afraid to occasionally portray himself in a less than flattering light. But when the facts of his early life did not please him or suit his fictional purposes he was also very ready to edit them.

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Involuntary Icaruses

Before Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961 it was deemed advisable to test out the operation with an animal. The dog Laika became famous, but did not survive. An earlier test flight by balloon, in Dublin in the 1780s, also featured an unwilling passenger, a cat who sadly remains anonymous.

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Power to the Imagination

In the context of the controversy over commissioning policy at the Abbey we should be reminded why theatre matters and the degree to which it is a barometer of a nation’s psychic health. Plays, musicals and other performances are manifestations of the imagination in its most live, energising and present form.

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Diana Athill 1917-2019

Diana Athill was a publisher’s editor who worked with some of the most distinguished novelists of the twentieth century. She found a measure of fame at the end of her life through her wonderfully lucid and engaging memoirs, while she also fascinated with her frankness about her personal life.

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How Out is Out?

Britain, it still seems likely, will soon be leaving the EU: the question is how. But what will happen after that? And is there not a form of supporting Europe and its values, for those who want to, that can be open to individuals from the UK, or Turkey, or Belarus, or indeed Russia?

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What Big Hands You've Got

The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a familiar figure in mid-twentieth century Dublin. Along Baggot Street he stepped out like a real countryman come up to town, long strides and hands swinging. Many young women were a bit afraid of him, but he could well have been putting it on a bit.

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Seeking a Safe Haven

Ireland’s Jewish population, which increased dramatically around the turn of the twentieth century, differed from earlier influxes in that it was not focused on occupying land but was predominantly urban. Newspapers here kept the public well-informed about the horrors the Jews were fleeing.

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Mind The Language

Austria became a republic in late 1918, but its democracy collapsed in the 1930s. The director of Vienna's new contemporary history museum, asked what can be learned from the First Republic, says its history teaches us that democracy is a perishable good and can be fatally weakened by a coarsening of public language.

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Noises Off: Dublin’s Contested Monuments

Peter Sirr takes a walk about Dublin, looking up, sometimes looking down, at the ways in which the city has tried to commemorate its notable citizens, historical and imaginary. Statues, he finds, may be moving, may be moved elsewhere, and in extreme cases be removed by explosives.

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If Brexit became ‘Lexit’

Jeremy Corbyn, who dreams of a left-wing Brexit - a ‘Lexit’ - may not share the imperial nostalgia of the Tory Brexiters but his thinking belongs to an age when the white male working class was the basis of progressive politics. That age has passed and the history that made it possible has also gone

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Come back to Erin?

James Joyce’s strategy was to write as an exile from Ireland. That this exile should follow him into eternity was not part of the plan. In the early years after his death the Irish authorities displayed great hostility towards him. That has changed. Is it time to think of bringing his body home?

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Liberalism Under Threat

If politics continues on its present path discourse will become entirely populist and practice increasingly totalitarian, the charismatic leader ubiquitous, elections irregular, their outcomes predictable and the concept of society invoked only in terms of security rather than social justice.

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In the Beginning was the Word

Frank Hugh O’Donnell’s 'The Ruin of Education in Ireland', published in 1902, interpreted the Catholic church’s control of education as a British conspiracy to keep the Irish intellect stunted.

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Out with the old, in with the new

The Irish Party, being purely a vehicle to obtain Home Rule, was much more circumscribed than a modern political party, free to champion a diversity of issues. All its eggs were in one basket. From 1900 that gave it an appearance of intellectual jadedness and left it open to competition.

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Not Just Kooky

David Lynch spent five years getting Eraserhead made, from a screenplay of just twenty-one pages. One might think that only an extreme eccentric would make such efforts, but the image of Lynch as simply a kooky man is one that a new book sets out to dispel.

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