I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

George O’Brien

He Had to Do Something

Sean O’Faoláin was not exactly a man of the people but a man who had ideas of the people. He was a Catholic, but he’d be damned if he was an Irish Catholic, and his taste veered towards the haute bourgeois, which was not the kind of thing you would shop locally for.

Hostage to Fortune

Brendan Behan’s brief, self-destructive moment in the American spotlight is a cautionary tale of excess. But we should also ask in whose interest was the myth of the man created? And what need did the wild Irishman fulfil for the American media and its audience?

American Berserk

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral can be seen as the start of his most prolific period, when he turned to focus more on questions of assimilation and social mobility in a country John F Kennedy called “a nation of immigrants”.

Down Under

Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly is Irish not in a straightforward or obvious way but is rather a metonymy for the citizen-outlier, the alternative history, the exemplary failure, the heroic victim, the road that is not just not travelled but is not on the map.

The Ends of the Earth

In 1936, James Agee and photographer Walker Evans travelled on assignment to Hale County in Alabama, a place inhabited by poor tenant farmers, where the world seemed ironclad, immutable, one year discernible from another only by another death or marriage, the unsurprising and largely joyless round of a life without exits.

Mean Street USA

From the novel of manners to the crime novel of bad manners

Into The Mainstream

According to ethnic fade theory, with the days of “No Irish Need Apply” having been, as it were, officially declared over, there was no longer any need for “Irish” as a social or civic marker any more. Ethnicity became a matter of harmless cultural practices – singing and dancing and observing saints’ days,

The School of Cool

Tin Pan Alley’s imaginative impoverishment, its slack tempi and banal lyrics, were nothing but expressions of limits and control, as ersatz as they were dispassionate. This kind of thing might be Big Brother’s idea of a good time, but it was pretty obviously just another of the many mind games he practised back in the good old days, when he wasn’t the family member he’s since become. One thing about progressive music was that it came across as self-consciously averse to being commercial. This greatly helped its sales.