Sylvia Plath presented an image to the world – brilliant student, stellar emerging poet and active, outdoor girl – while within she was deeply troubled and prone to the swings of a disabling depression. A sparkling new biography does full justice to both sides of Plath, and to her blazing art.
As a person, Patricia Highsmith was simply vile: mean, cruel and hard.
In her second collection, Leeanne Quinn gives voice and presence to the Russian poets Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam. Like Tsvetaeva and Akhmatova, Quinn has experienced grief and loss; like them, she has an attraction for cemeteries.
Each past era, Maria Stepanova reminds us, has its own particular dust that settles in every corner. Those who conflate past with present or appropriate the memories of the dead for their own benefit move us further from the plains of memory and closer to the precipice of myth.
Many great novels, from ‘Lolita’ to ‘The Kindly Ones’, force our recognition through horror and disturbing conceptions of beauty we might seek to deny, but the proper defence of having written such works, the refutation of shallow moralistic attacks on them, is not the pained retort but the work itself.
In his posthumously published final collection, ‘Shadow of the Owl’, Matthew Sweeney employs the weapon of writing to cope with terminal illness. The book marks the moving and triumphant culmination of Sweeney’s unique brand of ‘imagistic narrative’ poetry.
Readers of Ferdia Mac Anna’s comic noir novel, newly reissued after twenty years, must suspend their disbelief, as the characters that rollick through the pages are quirky, fantastical, and at times, a bit superhuman, communicating mainly in quips.
In the first half of 1936 there were seventy political killings a month in Spain. This was really nothing new, rather the latest outbreak in a long war between ‘the ordered, timeless hierarchies’ of church, army and landowner and the urban proletariat and its peasant allies.
The internet was born around the same time as Roisin Kiberd herself. In ‘The Disconnect’, she traces its progress, from being ‑ just possibly ‑ an instrument for social good to its eventual emergence as just another way to make huge profits by exploiting our collective vulnerabilities.
Hergé, the creator of Tintin, was one of many Belgians to respond to an appeal from King Leopold to return to the country they had fled after its 1940 surrender and resume normal life. When the Allies landed in Normandy four years later some of them felt it wise to leave again.