A necessary literary device to throw characters together in unfamiliar settings, communal family/friend away-events feature a lot in genre and popular fiction. If fiction teaches us anything it is that we should steer well clear of attempting anything similar in real life.
Seamus Heaney’s Virgil translation was one of a number of posthumous publications, but now it seems there is no more to come. As Auden wrote in memory of Yeats, the poet has become his admirers. And of course there are the poems, on offer here in a new selection by Heaney’s family.
For Michael, the engineer protagonist of Adrian Duncan’s new novel, lovers’ entwined arms are a reminder of the connections of girders on a suspension bridge. For readers sated with sensitive literary heroes, Duncan analytical and oblique approach to relationships could come as a relief.
Laura wants to be a big-time sharp-talking actress like those in the ’40s films noirs she watched with her father. She has loads of parts in her: ‘easy-to-see parts and long forgotten parts and parts I encounter in my problematic dreams. I have shadow parts. They do not wish me well.’
There are things you ‘know for a fact’ but perhaps cannot prove. Sometimes the frustration of such situations can drive a journalist to turn to fiction, as Frank Connolly has done with a compelling story set against the background of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.
The 19th century construction of Irish identity involved opposition to ‘English materialism’, with an accompanying tendency to belittle or exclude the industrial North East. But is Protestant desire to be ‘fully national’ sometimes like a man wanting to rent a room in another’s house?
In previous ages, the apocalypse was envisaged as a great, singular occurrence. What marks our age out more than previous ones may be the realisation that what we had thought of as one apocalyptically levelling event might rather come for us in a multitude of smaller waves.
In an age obsessed with technology and consumerism Janet Mullarney’s work reverts to a basic humanity, but does so in complex ways. Her art, Declan McGonagle has written, reminds us ‘that we all swim in a sea of continuities, of memories and dreams which suffuse our reality’.