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 115, October 2019

Locked up, Locked out

At the ‘academy’, where you can be sent for ‘bumptious behaviour’, the boys were called students, rather than inmates, to distinguish them from the violent offenders that populated prisons. All the violent offenders at the academy were on the staff.

Look at Me

The sonnet emerged in the Renaissance just as the concept of an explorable and variable self became culturally pervasive. Like a multi-barred cage within which the heart, mind and body paces like a bear, the form allowed sophisticated selves to show themselves to be sophisticated.

In her Element

In Kathleen Jamie’s new collection, the prose is matter-of-fact as well as lyrical – we come away full of a sense of things having been placed in order, dissected, rattled enough to ensure they fall back into place in a way that makes them catch the light that little bit more.

Divided We Stand

Initially, unionists and nationalists equally opposed partition, which was first proposed by British politicians in 1912 as a short-term expedient to overcome deadlock. In this context, the creation of two parliaments in Ireland served to delegate responsibility for unification to the Irish.

Many Rooms, Many Doors

In poem after poem we recognise Jean O’Brien’s signature style, her unique perspective as myth-maker who takes what is real and gives it back to us in all its mysterious particularity, whether a health check or a sea ride from Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, her daughter’s tattoo or a swing in autumn.

Freed White Dove

Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s new collection is preoccupied with the many tensions of French and Irish cultural and political history from the late nineteenth century through to contemporary times, tensions which are deftly revealed through personal stories of the many inhabitants of this book.

History from the Top

An account of Irish history whose gaze is fixed on intellectual or elite culture and does not engage with whole areas of the existence of the inhabitants of the island, particularly those who found themselves on the sharp end of colonisation, must necessarily be an incomplete one.

Telling Tales

Zadie Smith has said that she is not by nature a political person, her business as a writer rather being ‘the intimate lives of people’. Nevertheless, she concurs with Orwell that all writing is political and has been particularly concerned to explore the politics of identity.

What are we going to do?

Most people born today can expect to become centenarians, but the structuring of education and work are still built around outdated models. These are now under attack from two sides: the reality that retirement could last 40 years and the threat to jobs from automation, AI and robots.

The Odd Couple

Emma Donoghue’s tenth novel is concerned with the relationship between an elderly man and his eleven-year-old grandnephew, who is entrusted to him after his mother is imprisoned for drug abuse. While the narrative deals with some of the darker aspects of life, this is not a dark book.