Neuroscientific speculation has escaped from the laboratory and is now the rickety foundation for scores of bestselling, populist books. The sceptical writer and journalist Steven Poole has described the phenomenon as ‘an intellectual pestilence’ and ‘neurotrash’.
The history that played out for Lenin and his commissars, who assumed dictatorial powers, was built on tactical opportunism coupled with simple good luck. One of the first acts was the setting up of the Cheka political police, with the slogan “Death to the bourgeoisie” written on its walls.
There is now a steady flow of books trying to explain what Derek Mahon, in a welcome recent return to poetry, referred to as “the age of unbeauty, rage and anger”. One of the first out of the traps was Pankaj Mishra’s The Age of Anger. Mishra is an Indian-born writer now based in London.
Julia O’Mahony is a writer, living and working in Dublin. She currently contributes literary features to Totally Dublin magazine, as well as pieces on current affairs, book releases, and cultural goings-on in the Dublin area. She is the winner of the Pete Walsh Award for Critical Writing.
Dublin is often eulogised for its houses’ brickwork and fanlights, for its smoky bars and pseudo-poets declaiming over stout and whiskey, but a short walk from the centre of the city are places which are more interesting and more important to making sense of Irish society