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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Not So Simple

Break.up, by Joanna Walsh, Tuskar Rock, 272 pp, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1781259931 Liberating The Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature, edited by Isabel Waidner, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 272 pp, £6.00, ISBN: 978-1999924508 The troublesome personal pronoun – the all seeing “I” – is always present. No matter how far you travel, “I” always turns up. “All love stories begin with the letter I.” As, it seems, do no-love stories. The narrator of Joanna Walsh’s Break.up is at the end point of a relationship, though she is reluctant to see it as the end. The “I” that reflects on why this point was reached is reluctant to accept the absolute finality of the connection. Delusions are more easily maintained now because of technology. The “I” can look at old emails; find WiFi hotspots that allow anxious checks for new emails; locate the exact time of every significant event because it is all recorded on your personal tagging device. If we connected once, might we not connect again? To probe the reasons for the ending of the relationship, the narrator of Break.up travels to several cities, beginning with Paris. Why she travels, or why she moves from city to city is never entirely clear. She seems curiously uninvolved and detached everywhere she goes. There is no interaction – beyond the unavoidable ordering of food and so on – with strangers in the cities. She wanders freely, but without the mischievous intent of a Situationist dérive (a drift in Paris). Indeed, when in Athens, she says: “you can’t walk one city to the map of another”. But one of Guy Debord’s friends once wandered through Harz in Germany using a map of London. Such subversive playfulness would have added another dimension to the book. Instead what the narrator prefers is to loiter in those “non-places” (as Marc Augé called them) – railway stations, airport waiting areas, internet cafés (the internet being nowhere and everywhere) – where decision-making is suspended and there is a neutral space in which she can more easily locate her disappointed, dislocated self. The non-places help to clarify the non-relationship. In such places, and throughout the book, she maintains a conversation with the “he” that is no longer hers. Each city, from the narrator’s solipsistic viewpoint, allows open access to thwarted hopes. As Marx wrote: “Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves.” Men, and women. We’re not so…

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