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

The Electability Obsession

Those supporting centrist candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination suggest that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are not electable in a contest with Donald Trump. But there is really no evidence that any of the four leading candidates is less electable than any other.
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Looking after Number One

A rereading of a classic two-volume biography of Julius Caesar reveals a vain, grasping and unscrupulous individual, but also a man of vision, talent and unquestionable leadership skills, political to his finger-tips, who would stop at nothing to satisfy his voracious ambitions.
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A Sunburnt Country

In response to Australia’s calamitous forest fires prime minister Scott Morrison and his government blandly reassure Australians they have ‘been there before and come through’, thus enacting the dictum that power is the capacity to talk without listening and the ability to afford not to learn.
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What’s happened to Scottish Labour?

British Labour’s seats in Scotland were always an important part of its majority - when it got a majority. Last week it recorded its lowest percentage vote there since 1910. Why? Because it behaved as if it owned its seats and failed to listen to what its working class voters told it they wanted.
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Fiat lux

Lucy of Syracuse was a young woman of strong principles who wasn’t going to let anyone put one over on her. Today she is honoured as the bringer of light in darkness, an appropriate saint for this time of year.
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Things can only get better

After another defeat for the Labour Party in Britain it is time for some clear thinking, and action. It's not as if this debacle was not predicted. The party recovered from the depths once before, though one should be wary of thinking that the recipe that proved successful then can simply be repeated.
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Harmless Hatred

Election results suggest that Scotland, once a supplier of many useful seats to the British Labour Party, has transferred its allegiance very decisively to the Scottish National Party. But is this likely to lead to independence and continued EU membership? That could well be a quite different matter.
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The review as cultural bridge

Frank Kermode argued that the modern literary review offered academic writers the chance to introduce sometimes complex ideas about literature or history or art to a larger audience. All they had to do was to write clearly and not forget that learning can be a pleasure.
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Clive James (1939-2019)

Clive James knew that an unintelligent intelligentsia is a permanent feature of human history. He knew that the hard-to-read would go on being worshipped, and that writers who were merely funny, informed, and scrupulously honest would have to find their way as best they could.
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Regrets, he had a few

Jonathan Miller was famous as a comic actor, satirist, medical man, highbrow television presenter, theatre and opera director, and all-round intellectual. And yet he regretted having failed to concentrate on his medical career, telling many interviewers that he felt he had been a ‘flop’.
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History wars

History books sell, particularly if they are packaged by publishers in a way that makes them attractive to the general reader in search of enlightenment. A recent history of France has sold more than 100,000 copies – though it is not everyone’s tasse de thé.
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Why do fools fall in love?

The idea that because a person is beautiful, or handsome, she or he must be good is a trap that humans fall into time and time again. This causes a great deal of misery, but also provides material for thousands of popular songs and even some great novels.
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The Real Susan

A recent widely reviewed biography has portrayed Susan Sontag as an imperious, vain and often cruel woman who had no real friends. The Susan I knew, writes Ed Vulliamy, was not like that at all but rather a humorous, listening person who preferred to talk of others than herself.
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With the people

A new book argues that it is largely the insistence that central and eastern Europe should slavishly follow the western, free-market model that led to the success of ‘illiberal’ populism. Perhaps, but one should not forget the sins of the liberals, or the political skills of the populists themselves.
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At rest in Zurich

James Joyce died in Zurich in January 1941 after fleeing Vichy France. There is now a proposal to have him exhumed and brought back to Dublin, but there is no reason to believe he is particularly unhappy where he lies in Fluntern cemetery, listening to the roars of the lions from the nearby zoo.
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Fighting England with Knife and Fork

James Joyce, though ill-disposed to Irish establishments, had time for Arthur Griffith, the first president of the Irish Free State, who is referenced in ‘Ulysses’. This goes back in part to Griffith’s defence of Joyce’s right to have his views on Yeats’s Irish Literary Theatre heard.
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The price of everything

William Petty was one of the precursors of modern quantitative economics. He anticipated the problem of valuing human life, which is central to modern cost benefit analysis, assessing the lives of the Irish who were killed in Cromwell’s campaigns to be worth about £15 each.
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Within and Without

In 1579 Dublin’s pig-warden is Barnaby Rathe, bellman, master and beadle of the beggars. His main problem is less the escaped pigs who must be rounded up or the beggars than the slippery citizens who won't pay him for his labours. Peter Sirr on Dublin's walls.
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And back to England?

The words ‘England’ or ‘English’ appear 356 times in Shakespeare’s pre-Jacobean plays but only thirty-nine times after Scotland’s King James took power in London. Conversely, ‘Britain’ appears only twice in the Elizabethan plays but twenty-nine times in those written under James.
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Small Potatoes and Civil War

Acceptance or rejection of the Anglo-Irish Treaty was immaterial to tackling the problems facing independent Ireland. The ensuing Civil War is so iconic and so constantly referenced because our political leaders insisted it was of immense importance. But really it was not.
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