Listen up, kid
One hundred celebrities offer advice that they feel might have been useful to their younger selves long before they were famous – and in many cases rich. The advice ranges from the endearing to the surprisingly revelatory, to the brave and wise, to the predictably smug.
Mary Noonan’s descriptive powers recall, in their meticulous detail, Elizabeth Bishop. She is a poet of the senses – this collection is drenched in colour, from the blue of her father’s eyes to the dreamy greens of the swamps, but of all the senses, sound is perhaps the most prominent.
Nobber is Hell
It is Co Meath in the fourteenth century, the plague year of 1348 in fact, and on the frontier a group of Norman adventurers brushes up against the Gaels. The ensuing bloody clash resembles the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.
Down among the Greeks
References to a First Communion, a birthday, suggest a recognisably Irish calendar, where seasons, generations, routine festivals, interweave, and time tolerates these interlocking layers of the traditional and brand-new, which sit alongside a range of reference from classical mythology.
The protagonist of Mary Costello’s new novel is a Joyce obsessive. Sadly, he seems to have been less enriched than ruined by ‘Ulysses’. And while desperately trying to be Leopold Bloom, he has more of a touch of Stephen Dedalus about him than he realises.
The past present
What distinguishes Peter Sirr’s latest collection from the usual themes of nostalgia and consciousness of time passing is a kind of psychic connection with both the observed and the unseen worlds, a conflation of past and present, where ‘centuries hang like apples on the trees’.
Words of love, words of venom
Christine Dwyer Hickey has written a profoundly empathetic novel, its impact all the greater for its abiding reticence. Its great achievement lies in its balance of a deliberately unshowy form and tone and the great sweeps and depths of feeling embedded with the narrative.
Thinking About Women
Lucy Ellman’s massive new novel is an encyclopaedic narrative whose stream of consciousness style recalls Rabelais and Sterne, Kerouac, Woolf, Vonnegut, and of course Joyce, the subject of one of three classic biographies of Irish writers written by her father.
Of bishops and nighties
A mildly salacious exchange in 1966 between Gay Byrne and a ‘Late Late’ guest, and the controversy which followed, were often later cited as a classic example of the binary clash between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Ireland. But was the controversy largely a media-fuelled affair?
The church of unbelievers
The language of religion is poetry, metaphor, symbolism and allegory. Scientists and religious people alike are both attempting to understand the deep mysteries of life and the aggressive, mindless jeering of the so-called ‘new atheists’ will get us nowhere.