Nose Stuck in a Book
A certain kind of child can be sceptical of the benefits of fresh air, sturdy play or hand-me-down versions of femininity or masculinity, especially when a vast and various world is within reach simply through knowing how 26 letters variously combine and which way up to hold a book.
In 1954 Norman Mailer discovered marijuana. It gave him an insight into the mind of the Almighty, which it turned out was quite a lot like his own. He began to formulate the ideas that would shape his literary work over the next decade. Unfortunately they were not very good ideas.
Humanism Comes to Town
Many of the features of other European Renaissance cities were missing from Dublin: no vibrant centre of learning, only an attenuated court, little local printing. Yet traders, administrators, soldiers and clerics arrived from overseas, as did manuscripts and books.
Inventing the Working Class
Karl Marx, born 200 years ago this month, was ‘a true and loyal friend, but a vehement and hateful enemy’. To be in his small circle was to feel part of something historic, but also to be exposed to constant critical scrutiny. Once he feared for his political reputation, Marx let no politesse hold him back. His correspondence with Friedrich Engels is full of unedifying abuse of almost everyone they knew.
As recently as 1996, an English editor of an edition of a seventeenth century play wrote in a footnote to explain to students a puzzling reference that “the Irish were notoriously cruel and bloodthirsty”. This of course is very much a matter of perspective. Both sides in the sixteenth and seventeenth century conflict in Ireland used extreme violence. The Elizabethan English tended to see Irish beheadings as savagery; their own decapitations were simply an expression of due process.
While Geraldine Mitchell’s two preceding volumes of poetry were notably cohesive, in her new collection she constructs a more all-embracing context while maintaining an easily identifiable stylistic continuity. The result represents a considerable leap forward in her work.
A Time In Between
Éadaoín Lynch writes on the British literature of the Second World War. Writers such as Roald Dahl wrote directly about the experience of killing in combat, and the godlike power of mechanised warfare. The dominant mode of writing death and killing lay in understatement, detachment and voyeurism.
Folks Like Us
The central characters in Bernard MacLaverty’s ‘Midwinter Break’ are frail, contrary, inadequate, self-serving, self-destructive, hopeless, hopeful, desperate, kindly, thoughtless, and all the other things that make people people. No wonder their story is so fascinating.
Oral Culture and Popular Autonomy
William Carleton at times conceived of his great narrative enterprise as a form of naive ethnography, asserting that his stories contained more “facts” about Ireland than any previously published work. His sources were multiple, his sea of story extending from refracted folktales, via Victorian melodrama, to the most commonplace clichés of commercial fiction and, indeed, improving tales. At its heart are the narratives and other oral forms of the pre-famine Irish countryside.
Noises from Beneath
Cyberutopians promised us the Internet would bring the end of hierarchies, industry, nationalism and gender oppression. But its political claims have proven largely empty while it has continued to spawn a particularly vicious male geek culture of obscenity and misogyny. Nagle’s essay, published in 2013, introduced themes which were later to be developed in her very successful book Kill All Normies (2017).