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.

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Freedom From the Bind

One of the first things a school-aged child is taught to do is tie their shoelaces. It’s a frustrating process, really, for both adult and child. The tutelage is never transmitted easily. Children’s noses wrinkle in concentration, frustrated by the way their unconditioned fingers fumble to make the bunny ears, or perfect the “loop, swoop, and pull” methodology. If they are lucky enough to get it right on the first try, the work is not yet over, for the nature of shoelaces is that they come untied, and instruction must inevitably be repeated. But the dedication to tying and re-tying these strings is what ensures a trip-free day. When the child can tie independently, they are ready to go to school and presumably run, slide, or swing without fear. In other words, the ties, and commitment to them, are what gives a child freedom. Domenico Starnone’s Ties presents the story of a family with respective “strings” that come loose when one member chooses to leave. The novel, published in 2014, is the most recent in a well-respected lineage written by the esteemed Italian journalist, screenwriter, and novelist. Set in Naples, where Starnone was born, Ties presents the universal plotline of a man leaving his family for a younger woman colleague. However in this case the narratives are written with a psychological complexity that illuminates insights of the human condition from which all readers can learn. The novel is written from multiple perspectives. While employment of this device is quite effective, Starnone’s choice is made even more interesting by the literary puzzle piece this particular novel represents. Because of the similar plotline and Starnone’s juggling of male and female points of view, many speculate that Ties is the sequel to Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment. This theory would affirm a suspicion that Ferrante is, in fact, the well-known literary translator Anita Raja, who is also Starnone’s wife. However in some corners the speculation goes so far as to suggest that Ferrante is in fact Starnone himself. The mystique of the novel aids in its reception (or deception), which now has the literary world abuzz. Told in three parts, with three distinct points of view, and covering events over the course of decades, the novel’s form illuminates the shattering and re-piecing together of “happily ever after”. In a narrative arc that mimics the tragic lag between a person’s ability to understand what on earth he’s done and face the…

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