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 125, September 2020

Songs from Old Weird America

After listening to Dylan and the Band’s ‘Basement Tapes’ material, Greil Marcus wrote that this music reflected ‘a community as deep, as electric, as perverse and as conflicted as all America’. In 2017 Conor McPherson triumphantly transplanted these and other Dylan songs to the stage.

The Queen’s English

Language shift in Ireland has usually been seen as deriving from integration into the British economy and the resulting pragmatic choices made by peasants. But this is to neglect the role of the state, which conducted its business in English and tended to force its clients to do the same.

Then Again

Politics has become a pageant of scandals, with high moral dudgeon the preferred rhetorical mode. In flight from uncertainty, we have abjured the ethical obligation to be uncertain – to pause and say maybe, rather than scream yes or no. Enter Zadie Smith, the essayist of contingency.

Into Africa

An account of a young Oxford graduate heading to Addis Ababa in 1961 to teach in a prestigious school geared to servicing the needs of expatriate and privileged Ethiopian mixed-sex youth might bring to mind Evelyn Waugh. But no. This is a serious and realistic novel.

A Female Text

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s writing in her first prose work is as compelling and accomplished as in her best poetry. The book reveals her as a writer who is willing to take risks, to push back boundaries, refusing to let herself be hemmed in by the demands of genre, gender or tradition.

Whatever You Say

The narrator of Alice Lyons’s novel, an American of Irish stock raised in New Jersey, finds on a second visit to the auld sod that she has to learn to speak the language ‑ which is not as easy as she thought, as the true native language, she finds, is not Irish but silence.

The Procrustean Bed

Since her remarkable debut, ‘The Heel of Bernadette’, Colette Bryce has shown both variation and range in her work, developing a distinctive poetic personality that places her outside of and beyond the ‘Northern thing’.

Women with a Movie Camera

A new volume of critical essays aims to analyse and challenge the processes that can foster and normalise the exclusion of women in the Irish film industry, in the hope that the experiences of women in the industry will be recorded and not lost to future film histories.

Under the Still Skies

The rain never seems to stop at the Scottish cabin park of Summerwater, where the population of holidaymakers reveals itself as representative of the larger nation of which it is a sodden subset, looking for scapegoats to blame for its own constricting discontent.