Shriver’s irritation: a pose that doesn’t add up to a set of ideas If the polemicist is to be convincing, we must glimpse, beneath the opinions, a deeper coherence – of self-knowledge, emotional stability, awareness of context perhaps. If this isn’t there, all we have is style, tricks of rhetoric. The incoherent polemicist, therefore, must be a virtuoso of style ‑ Shaw might be a good example. But Lionel Shriver is no virtuoso. She is by turns flippant, clumsy, shouty, preachy and glib. Under such conditions a tone of desperation rapidly obtrudes. The reader feels hectored. The reader grows annoyed.
In 1921, the second Dáil innovatively nominated a minister for fine arts, Count Horace Plunkett, and two staff. In his nineteen weeks in office, Plunkett organised one public event, a sexcentenary celebration of Dante. Then his ministry was subsumed into a department of education. Plunkett’s appointment was the first of many false starts, as the state, like many others throughout the twentieth century, struggled with the idea of supporting the arts as a good in itself.
Frank McGuinness is a writer of openness and adventure. Openness to form: while best known as a playwright, while highly regarded as a poet since the 1990s, he has made forays into other genres, writing short fiction in the early 1980s and publishing two novels in the last decade; openness to varying manner and textures, which can range from tightly focused social realism to fantasy. The list of his stage and film adaptations suggests a keen literary appetite, eager to try anything.
As might be expected, the immediate response to the Rising of those that were or would soon become the leading Irish writers was probably as complex as that of the Irish public more generally. If a generalisation might be risked, the letters and other early writings of 1916 suggest a sense of stunned incomprehension, this sooner or later modulating in some cases into a grudging respect for the executed leaders.
The achievement of a great entertainer, ‘queen of crime’ Agatha Christie Agatha Christie wrote of her fictional mystery writer alter ego Ariadne Oliver that ‘she was a lucky woman who had established a happy knack of writing what quite a lot of people wanted to read’. This may be too modest, and there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek about it. Christie took the orthodox detective story as it existed during the First World War and earlier and raised it to a new level of playfulness and intrigue. Murder in her novels is treated as a game, magnified to the point of narrative plenitude, and often garnished with a decorative and macabre overlay.
FROM PREVIOUS ISSUES
The troubadour who mangled ‘Moore’s Melodies’ and inspired Joyce We’ve all heard of Percy French haven’t we? An accomplished songwriter, painter, author, and entertainer, we have all come across him somewhere – for many it is his songs, from the nostalgic Mountains of Mourne to the humorous Are ye right there, Michael? about the West Clare Railway. For me it was his understated presence in Eugene McCabe’s Death and Nightingales, and my mother owned a watercolour painted by him.
The life of Belfast trade unionist and revolutionary socialist James Baird “Rotten Prods” were defined so by their unionist opponents, who accused a spectrum of dissidents from Presbyterian tenant farmer radicals to, in the case of James Baird, a trade union militant with syndicalist views, of being part of a traitorous fifth column undermining the communal unity which was the bedrock of Ulster Protestant resistance to Home Rule and later to Sinn Féin. As Emmet O’Connor points out, there were hundreds of such working class radicals in the heartlands of Belfast’s engineering and shipbuilding industries in its glory days from the 1890s to the end of the First World War.