I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

THE UNITY DEBATE

Getting There

Blueprints for the path to a successful referendum and a united Ireland
Brendan O’Leary thinks a referendum might be called around 2030 and that it can probably be won by non-unionists since by then Northern Ireland’s future will be in the hands of a non-Protestant majority of voting age. I have some doubts about both the timescale and the result in that timescale. Why, for example, has the nationalist vote – Sinn Féin plus the SDLP – been stuck at around 40 per cent for the past 24 years?

POPULAR MUSIC

Artistic Differences

Martin Tyrrell
The Fab Two: Lennon and McCarney working with and against each other Lennon was far the more socially privileged of the two. The house he grew up in had a name, ‘Mendips’, not a number, and the remnants of a bell system for calling servants. McCartney, who lived in a rented house and, from age fourteen, in a low-income single-parent household, would go to Mendips anxious to make an impression on Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, who didn't hide the fact that she saw him as a social inferior. It was Lennon himself who decided, somewhat belatedly, that he was working class.

Dublin Review of Books

Death in the Valley

Thomas McCarthy
Poems of flight, new beginnings, sad partings and rich harvests

Rumpled Giant

Gerald Dawe
The greatest 20th century poet writing in English along with WB Yeats

The Grapes of Mirth

Andreas Hess
The traditions and development of a very special Spanish wine

Their Story

Rosita Sweetman
Nine families of sister siblings who were influential in Irish history

A Surrealist’s Journey

Eoin O’Brien
The life and myriad achievements of scientist and artist Desmond Morris

Roots Music

Fióna Bolger
Poems leading from the forest to the book, and the roots of book in forest

EMPIRE

The Best Intentions

Dermot Dix
A British soldier and administrator in 18thc America, India and Ireland

IRISH LITERATURE

Inventing the Republic?

Joe Cleary
Irish writers and their attitudes to the events of the revolutionary period

ESSAYS

Light and Shade

David O’Connor
A new collection of critical essays from the Co Wexford novelist Colm Tóibín

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS

The Good Fight

Maurice Walsh
American foreign correspondents at large in an age of optimism

TENNIS

When Beauty Lands

Donal Moloney
The giddy promise and remarkable elegance of tennis genius Roger Federer

POPULAR MUSIC

Artistic Differences

Martin Tyrrell
The Fab Two: Lennon and McCarney working with and against each other

THE UNITY DEBATE

Getting There

Andy Pollak
Blueprints for the path to a successful referendum and a united Ireland

TENNIS

When Beauty Lands

The giddy promise and remarkable elegance of tennis genius Roger Federer Most on-court oppositions are muddy. Nearly all players have a similar style of play. If you take out the extraneous elements, such as a player’s off-court personality or on-court antics, there is often not much contrast left. Then, at a moment when there was increasingly heavy emphasis on honing certain skillsets to the detriment of others and the last embers of elegance seemed to be dying, along came a player who rekindled the sacred fire. Part of Roger Federer’s genius was thus to rescue the baby from the bathwater.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS

The Good Fight

American foreign correspondents at large in an age of optimism
Isolationism gave an illusion of innocence. It was possible to believe in ‘a simple good-hearted Uncle Sam looking out upon a rather wicked and generally double-crossing world’. Long before the Cold War came along there was a clear acceptance of the primacy of American values. ‘To Americanize enough of the world so that we shall have a climate favourable to our growth is indeed a call to destiny,’ wrote Dorothy Thompson.

ESSAYS

Light and Shade

A new collection of critical essays from the Co Wexford novelist Colm Tóibín
Tóibín writes that he cannot accept that writers should be ‘good people’. But what makes a good person? Who decides? To John Charles McQuaid, John McGahern, whom he had fired, was not a good person; to the college priest who promised to wipe the smirk off Tóibín’s face, Tóibín was not a good person; to many of the Irish legal establishment, homosexuals were not good people.

IRISH LITERATURE

Inventing the Republic?

Irish writers and their attitudes to the events of the revolutionary period
The writers celebrated in ‘Inventing Ireland’, Declan Kiberd says, were ‘imbued with republican and democratic ideals’. That most of the major Irish writers who hit their stride early in the 20th century were broadly critical of British rule and favoured some form or other of Irish self-rule may be allowed. But how deeply, it might be asked, were they committed to ‘republican and democratic ideals’?

FROM PREVIOUS ISSUES

Mean Street USA

George O’Brien
From the novel of manners to the crime novel of bad manners

The Big D

Seamus O’Mahony
Christopher Hitchens enlists science in the face of death

Tales from Bective

Jana Fischerova
Mary Lavin was not banned, but did she leave things out?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alex Bramwell
A Russian-Irish writer in the tradition of Bulgakov

BLOG

Celebrating Bricktop

A recent serendipitous find in the Oxfam shop in Belfast and costing all of £1.75, Professor Sharpley-Whiting’s account (she’s a US academic specialising in African-American and Diaspora studies) of the African-American women who travelled to Paris during the roaring 1920s to showcase their creativity away from the restrictive Jim Crow laws of their native land is an illuminating read. Last month (October) being Black History Month, it struck me as I read that the titular Bricktop was arguably the most famous African-American of Irish heritage that you’ve never heard of. Renowned for her red hair and face full of freckles, she was eulogised in print by F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, had a famous song written for her by Cole Porter, appeared and was mentioned in Woody Allen films and was spoken about by TS Eliot, who said of her humble roots and later success “to her thorn she gave a rose”. Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith was born in Alderson, West Virginia in 1895. “I was the talk of the town, the first red-haired and freckled Negro baby born in that area,” she later said. It was her shock of red hair that gave her the lifelong nickname of Bricktop. Her grandfather or father (accounts differ) was a white Irish man ‑ family genealogy suggests he was a plantation owner. Bricktop could never forget her Irish roots – or be allowed to forget, as most people who met her would ask her about the red hair and...
Bricktop may be the most famous African-American of Irish heritage you’ve never heard of. Renowned for her red hair and freckles, she was eulogised by Fitzgerald and Hemingway and had a famous song written for her by Cole Porter, appeared and was mentioned in Woody Allen films and was spoken of by TS Eliot, who said of her humble roots and later success ‘to her thorn she gave a rose’.

EMPIRE

The Best Intentions

A British soldier and administrator in 18thc America, India and Ireland
After the defeat of the 1798 rebellion, Cornwallis’s task was to buy support for the Act of Union; he complained to a friend that ‘my occupation is now of the most unpleasant nature, negotiating and jobbing with the most corrupt people under heaven’. He equally abhorred the violence of the rebels and the militia and strongly objected to the anti-Catholic bigotry he heard at the dinner table in Dublin Castle.

Blogs et cetera

Appreciation

Brian O’Doherty: 1928-2022

Luke Gibbons
They are described by their shadows. Brian O’Doherty on Edward Hopper With the death in New York of the Irish-American artist, writer and critic Brian O’Doherty, on November 7th, it can be said of the Irish literary landscape that another oak has fallen. This was the description of the passing of Seamus Heaney in 2013, and Seamus Deane in 2021, the image being particularly appropriate since Doire, the name of both writers’ native county, means an oak grove. The association of trees with knowledge goes back to the Ogham alphabet associated with the Druids in ancient times, and no contemporary artist... With the death of artist, writer and critic Brian O’Doherty, it can be said that another oak has fallen. This was the description of the passing of Seamus Heaney in 2013, and Seamus Deane in 2021. The association of trees with knowledge goes back to the Ogham alphabet, and no contemporary artist did more to rekindle interest in this abstract system of lettering than Brian O’Doherty, most famously in his Mondrian-like ‘Ogham on Broadway’.

BLOG

The Killer and his Little Friend

A decade ago, Zakhar Prilepin was a Russian extremist, and the political party he belonged to was banned. These days he is the mainstream. Prilepin has not changed. Vladimir Putin has. When Putin’s pet project, the Kerch bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, was bombed and partially destroyed in October, the Russian political hardliner and Ukraine war veteran Prilepin said: “This gives us a chance. Mobilisation in all spheres should finally begin. In all spheres, and I am not only talking about soldiers going to the front.” Eleven days later, Putin announced martial law in the occupied territories of Ukraine and...
I had taken Prilepin for a liberal, but in fact he was a member of the banned National Bolshevik Party, founded by, among others, Aleksandr Dugin, who has called for the total destruction of the Ukrainian state. The ‘Nazbols’, as their eclectic pageantry suggested, believed there was nothing wrong with communism a bit of fascism couldn’t put right.