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

Reading Empson

Sean Sheehan
William Empson’s reputation as a severely intellectual critic can be offputting for anyone coming to him for the first time, but it’s a misleading view. His mission was in another direction altogether, seeking to clarify what appears abstruse by establishing roots in ordinary life.
Feb 4, 2021, 14:45 PM

A Naipauline Conversion?

Suryapratim Roy
A new biographical study charts VS Naipaul’s progress from confidently judging the world to be simply ‘what it is’ to more ambivalently ‘charting a way in the world’. In later Naipaul, we find a writer more sympathetic to both his own past and the way others make sense of their lives.
Feb 4, 2021, 14:20 PM

Mother of Invention

Maura O’Kiely
Aunt Betty wasn’t who she said she was. Also known as Eileen and Patricia, she liked to be called Munca, after Beatrix Potter’s pet mouse. Getting on in life ‑ moving on, moving up ‑ was her compulsion, and any lie, any hurt to her family, could be justified along the way.
Jan 7, 2021, 17:07 PM

Cauldron Bubble

Leanne Ogasawara
Fermentation is a familiar process in food preparation but has also long been used as a metaphor for societal change, cultural change, political change, economic change. Driven by bacteria, it is a force that cannot be stopped. It recycles life, renews hope, and goes on and on.
Jan 7, 2021, 17:03 PM

Landscapes of Violence

Rita Sakr
Hassan Blasim’s fictional work has shown extraordinary literary vision and innovation, leaving the reader stunned by the formidable method in the seeming madness of his narrative techniques, which drive realism and surrealism into a wildly intimate encounter.
Jan 7, 2021, 16:58 PM

The Cat Laughs

Kevin Power
Philosophers, John Gray argues, imagine that life can be ordered by reason and principle, an absurd notion a cat would never subscribe to. Gray sees our lives as random events and our natures as determined by the body. But foolishly we find it difficult to accept that we are mere creatures of biology and chance.
Jan 7, 2021, 14:46 PM

Velvet Resolution

Alena Dvořáková
Hermione Lee’s authorised biography of Tom Stoppard gives us, between the lines, the sense of a man who, while charming, could be driven and sometimes emotionally distant. He also seems to have been remarkably keen to live what he saw as the traditional life of the English gentleman.
Jan 7, 2021, 14:27 PM

Two Legs Bad

Martin Tyrrell
George Orwell never wavered in his belief in democratic socialism, though he feared those in charge might succumb to the lure of totalitarianism. The author of a new study of the writer, however, argues that a socialist society is beyond human reach ‑ since we are simply not morally up to it.
Dec 6, 2020, 16:34 PM

The Impossibility of Memory

Theo Dorgan
When Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, the great oral epic of Western culture, was written down, something changed forever. There is a sense in which ‘Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire’, a lament first uttered in 1773, marks the last ripple outward from that momentous event.
Dec 6, 2020, 15:38 PM

The Case of the Vanishing Phantom

John Toohey
The supernatural tale thrived for over 100 years from about 1830, but now seems to exist only as pastiche. In the Internet age, no voice need be silent or stifled any more, even if no one is listening. The ghost story, let’s face it, is not sleeping but dead. And probably best left that way.
Dec 6, 2020, 15:14 PM

The Screen Went Blank

Tim Groenland
One of the consistent pleasures of Don DeLillo’s fiction is the sense of its author’s being attuned to frequencies of catastrophe that hum beneath the roar of the everyday: the toxic cloud on the horizon, the gunman in a lonely room, the ominous twitch in distant currency markets.
Nov 5, 2020, 19:51 PM

Pushing against the Corset

Afric McGlinchey
The extent to which poets play on language varies enormously, but in Geraldine Clarkson’s debut, in which it might be said she uses wit as a palate cleanser, the reader is in for a feast of juxtaposition, unusual metaphor and conceit, highly charged lines and double entendres.
Nov 5, 2020, 19:45 PM

Seigneur Moments

Kevin Power
Martin Amis’s work can be understood as a series of riffs on the base elements of male friendship: rivalry, companionship, sublimated desire. The bullshit quotient is in some ways an index of the bullshit quotient of male friendships, or maybe just the bullshit quotient of men.
Nov 5, 2020, 18:21 PM

The Aptest Form

David O'Connor
Ranking writers is silly. Affinity, love, allure; consolation, seduction, desire; want – these are the words. Yet it cannot be resisted: no one writes a more alluring, more seductive sentence than Brian Dillon.
Nov 5, 2020, 11:38 AM

Laughter from the Grave

Katrina Goldstone
In a media mire of tragedy porn and toothrotsweet sentimentality designed to blunt both our senses and our judgement, revisiting Jenny Diski’s essays, with their wonderful jokes and deftly contained anger, is both a pleasurable experience and a salutary exercise.
Nov 5, 2020, 11:32 AM

This Is Not About Me

Kathleen Shields
Why do novelists write novels about novelists? Maylis Besserie presents the thoughts of an elderly gentleman from another generation, someone removed from her by era, gender and nationality, and thus asserts, in defiance of current orthodoxy, the independence of artistic creation.
Nov 5, 2020, 11:17 AM

The Spirit of Cities

Leanne Ogasawara
Cities are smells: Cairo is mango and ginger, Beirut sun, sea, smoke and lemons. But in many of our cities the waters are rising. In Bangkok the water is inexorably reaching up and those familiar fragrances we have loved ‑ of noodles, tiger balm and teak – may soon be washed away.
Oct 7, 2020, 10:42 AM

Do not laugh, do not dance

Rosita Sweetman
Large numbers of Moroccan women confided to Leila Slimani, on a book tour to promote her first novel, their ‘sexual suffering, frustration and alienation’. Their stories, with a blistering commentary from Slimani, make for a frightening but fascinating account of her country’s repressive culture.
Oct 7, 2020, 10:17 AM

Il Miglior Fabbro

William Wall
Ezra Pound was a fascist and, even after the Holocaust, an unrepentant antisemite, yet he was also a brilliant poet, a great synthesiser of cultures and absolutely central to Modernism in English as an associate of Eliot and Yeats and a fierce champion of the young James Joyce.
Oct 7, 2020, 09:39 AM

Getting it Straight

Sean Nam
After a crisis of faith in the early 1890s Paul Valéry abandoned poetry for some decades. He didn’t stop writing, however, getting up at dawn each day to work on his notebooks, 250 of them eventually, occupying 27,000 pages. This intellectual exercise he kept up for fifty years.
Oct 6, 2020, 19:39 PM