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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Smile, and turn up the power

Martin Tyrrell
In a Yale experiment in the 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram found that large numbers of ordinary, inoffensive people were prepared to administer painful electric shocks to another person, similarly ordinary and inoffensive, sometimes even when a fatality seemed possible.
Dec 5, 2019, 18:05 PM

Macavity was there

Matthew Parkinson Bennett
Founded in 1929, Faber & Faber had the benefit of the best connections and an astute director who also happened to be one of Britain’s greatest poets. Still, it might not have survived all those years as an independent publisher had it not been for a certain collection of children’s verse.
Dec 5, 2019, 18:01 PM

A troll avant la lettre

Luke Warde
‘You can’t say a thing these days’ is the predictable chorus of the reactionary in the face of ‘political correctness gone mad’. In reality they say all they want to say: as the French antisemitic writer Céline put it, ‘once you’re recognised to be a clown you can say anything’.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:54 PM

Tarantulas and Dynamite

Sean Sheehan
Nietzsche’s reputation was tarnished for a long time by his posthumous adoption by Hitler. In fact the philosopher was repelled by antisemitism. It is now clear that his writings were curated after his death by his sister Elisabeth to make them Nazi-friendly.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:48 PM

Morbid symptoms

John Wilson Foster
The Western literary canon is only one casualty in North American departments of English, superseded by courses designed to redress the sins of white male patriarchs and colonialists. The curriculum spirals outwardly, growing ever more specialised by cultural minority.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:40 PM

Martha or Mary?

Caitriona Clear
Should religious women stay in their own ‘female’ spheres, or compete on an equal level with men in worlds constructed by and for men? Some Protestant American women have chosen to follow the religious life quietly while others embrace showbusiness and razzmatazz.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:36 PM

For the dark times ahead

Andreas Hess
In the early 1930s Bertolt Brecht fled Germany for Prague, then spent some time in Paris before escaping to Denmark, Sweden and eventually Finland, before finally travelling via the Soviet Union to the United States. His experience as a mid-twentieth century refugee is far from irrelevant today.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:31 PM

The Greatest of These

George O’Brien
Colbert Kearney comes from a strong republican tradition: his IRB grandfather wrote the words of the national anthem. The grandson’s memoir, however, is less concerned with ‘the people’ than with persons, in particular his father, whose love for his family is here celebrated, and repaid.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:27 PM

A Champion for the Poor

Fergus O’Donoghue
Father John Spratt, a Dublin-born Carmelite priest whose energy seems to have been limitless, not only built Whitefriar Street church but established an orphanage, two schools, and a night refuge for children and dismissed servants. He also campaigned vigorously for temperance.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:24 PM

Is Larkin good for you?

Johnny Lyons
A defining characteristic of art, as Martin Amis wrote, is its inability to lower our spirits, even if its message is irredeemably gloomy. The genius of Philip Larkin’s poetry rests, at least in part, on his gift of somehow sublimating our appreciation of life by amplifying its ordinariness.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:16 PM

The church of unbelievers

Mairéad Carew
The language of religion is poetry, metaphor, symbolism and allegory. Scientists and religious people alike are both attempting to understand the deep mysteries of life and the aggressive, mindless jeering of the so-called ‘new atheists’ will get us nowhere.
Dec 5, 2019, 17:02 PM

Of bishops and nighties

Farrel Corcoran
A mildly salacious exchange in 1966 between Gay Byrne and a ‘Late Late’ guest, and the controversy which followed, were often later cited as a classic example of the binary clash between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Ireland. But was the controversy largely a media-fuelled affair?
Dec 5, 2019, 16:57 PM

Thinking About Women

Caroline Hurley
Lucy Ellman’s massive new novel is an encyclopaedic narrative whose stream of consciousness style recalls Rabelais and Sterne, Kerouac, Woolf, Vonnegut, and of course Joyce, the subject of one of three classic biographies of Irish writers written by her father.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:41 PM

Words of love, words of venom

Neil Hegarty
Christine Dwyer Hickey has written a profoundly empathetic novel, its impact all the greater for its abiding reticence. Its great achievement lies in its balance of a deliberately unshowy form and tone and the great sweeps and depths of feeling embedded with the narrative.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:34 PM

The past present

Afric McGlinchey
What distinguishes Peter Sirr’s latest collection from the usual themes of nostalgia and consciousness of time passing is a kind of psychic connection with both the observed and the unseen worlds, a conflation of past and present, where ‘centuries hang like apples on the trees’.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:28 PM

Ulysses Usurped

Tiana M Fischer
The protagonist of Mary Costello’s new novel is a Joyce obsessive. Sadly, he seems to have been less enriched than ruined by ‘Ulysses’. And while desperately trying to be Leopold Bloom, he has more of a touch of Stephen Dedalus about him than he realises.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:18 PM

Down among the Greeks

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
References to a First Communion, a birthday, suggest a recognisably Irish calendar, where seasons, generations, routine festivals, interweave, and time tolerates these interlocking layers of the traditional and brand-new, which sit alongside a range of reference from classical mythology.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:08 PM

Nobber is Hell

Michael O’Loughlin
It is Co Meath in the fourteenth century, the plague year of 1348 in fact, and on the frontier a group of Norman adventurers brushes up against the Gaels. The ensuing bloody clash resembles the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.
Dec 5, 2019, 16:03 PM

Navigating loss

Amanda Bell
Mary Noonan’s descriptive powers recall, in their meticulous detail, Elizabeth Bishop. She is a poet of the senses – this collection is drenched in colour, from the blue of her father’s eyes to the dreamy greens of the swamps, but of all the senses, sound is perhaps the most prominent.
Dec 5, 2019, 15:58 PM

Listen up, kid

Maura O’Kiely
One hundred celebrities offer advice that they feel might have been useful to their younger selves long before they were famous – and in many cases rich. The advice ranges from the endearing to the surprisingly revelatory, to the brave and wise, to the predictably smug.
Dec 5, 2019, 15:35 PM