Is art predicated upon the artist’s psychology? Is the cost of high achievement inevitably a compromise with mental health and the destruction of human bonds? Robert Lowell believed his creativity was inevitably tied to feelings of drowning, that there was some ‘flaw in the motor’.
Is ‘pragmatism’ toward China really a permission Europeans give themselves to revert to uses of power that are an inherent part of European history? Can the economic exploitation that produces clusters of infection in meat-processing plants and the suicides at Foxconn factories be linked?
Had Eileen O’Shaughnessy not taken up with George Orwell, she might have found success, if not fame, in her own right, possibly as an academic or a child psychologist. Her loss was to be his gain, something neither he nor most of his biographers have properly taken on board.
Michele Roberts, the acclaimed author of twenty-five books, was rather put out when her new novel was rejected. For a year, she wrote a diary as an exercise in recuperation. The result is more joyous than jaundiced, something bright and exhilarating wrested from discomposure and dismay.
The poems in Miriam Gamble’s new collection show her to be a truly imaginative writer: in ‘Plume’, the creamy-white heads of meadowsweet are compared to the ‘creamy wigs’ of the 18th century, to ‘the shape of Scotland’, and to fat gathered in the top of old-school milk bottles.
In Cauvery Madhavan’s novel, May Twomey and her brother Gerry are the ‘Anglo-Indian’ descendants of an Irish soldier in the British army. A little like the Anglo-Irish – neither one thing nor the other – they feel somewhat outside society, once not white enough and now not brown enough.
When he agreed to allow her to be his biographer Samuel Beckett told Deirdre Bair that his friends would help her and his enemies would also surely seek her out. She was to find that while Beckett was honourable if elusive, it could be hard to tell his friends and enemies apart.
Japanese poets have traditionally taken pilgrimages to locations of great scenic allure, seeking out wondrous places that are so inviting, so lovely, that poems wish to settle in them. A German professor wakes from a disturbing dream and journeys to such a site. Why? He has no idea.