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.

Issue 114, September 2019

A Penny for their Thoughts

The liberal ‘Dublin Penny Journal’ and the conservative ‘Dublin University Magazine’, both published in the early 1830s, can be seen as Protestant responses to Catholic Emancipation, the responses of a group by no means ready to give up its ambition to control the Irish future.

The Glimmer

Nineteen Eighty-Four ends with the total defeat of its rebellious protagonist Winston Smith. Or so it seems. But if the victory of the Party seemed final in 1984, who could it have been who wrote (in ‘oldspeak’) the book’s appendix, dated 2050, entitled ‘The Principles of Newspeak’?

Buying Consent

The problem with ‘sex work’ is that it misunderstands prostitution

Identity? Mine’s knottier than yours

If one wanted to write a contemporary comic novel about Irish academia the action would surely have to take place at an Irish Studies conference, somewhere off the island, and the big intellectual beasts would tussle over Irish ‘identity’ – a concept they all without exception love. But what does it mean?

Waiting for Dilly

In Kevin Barry’s new novel two drug-dealers reminisce about their shared past in a stylised, expletive-filled Hiberno-English. The language used to disentangle their characters and circumstances is wildly expressive and full of observations and inflections that are unexpected and perfectly placed.

Stasis in Darkness

In Ingeborg Bachmann’s newly reissued novel ‘Malina’, questions of existence, and the relation of the one who writes to what is written, are continually at play. This is not to say that it is not ‘serious’, rather that its effects are often achieved through parody, laughter, allusion and humour.

Love Your Hair

Hair – rather than skin colour –can be seen as the principal signifier of race and has the power to confer classification as black or not. The story of how ‘treatments’ for taming black hair were developed by black entrepreneurs is a depressingly familiar capitalist narrative.

Wartime Voices

After the deluge of books, documentaries, exhibitions, conferences and commemorations marking the course of the First World War, there is something affirming in returning to the texts of poems written just before, during and somewhat after that cataclysmic event.

The Valley of Tears

Comfort and security are illusory in Frank McGuinness’s new poetry collection. They are always weighed down by the fears that are kept to hand. In ‘A Dream About My Father’, the dream is of the father’s death. Comfort, community, family all collapse and vanish.

Wakey, wakey

John W Sexton wants you to ‘wake for the first time’. That is the gauntlet-throw-down of his verse – poems which constantly make you invest time and thought, inverting thoughts and thought patterns and opening you to the idea of ‘thinking yourself into being’.