Books

Lecture given to Kate O’Brien Winter School, February 2010 What I want to do in this talk is to celebrate the Irish short story and, in the process, to try to define what makes it so distinctive – and, indeed, to try and tease out what has drawn so many Irish writers to it. But […]

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The decade following Philip Larkin’s death in 1985 was calamitous for his reputation. On his demise, he was the most widely loved poet of his time and his passing was mourned by people for whom his beautifully crafted and deeply felt lyrics were proof that contemporary verse didn’t have to be obscurantist and alienating. But […]

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Irish Independent, July 23, 2011 Reviewing The Secret Scripture in 2008, I described Sebastian Barry as “an unrivalled chronicler of lost lives”, and his new novel also concerns people who, disregarded by society, have never been registered in the elitist ledgers of official history. As with its predecessor, the central character is a woman whose life coincides […]

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Irish Independent, February 11, 2012 When Philip Larkin died in 1985, he was England’s most loved modern poet. Then came Anthony Thwaite’s edition of the Selected Letters and Andrew Motion’s biography and suddenly Larkin was being denounced as a racist, porn-addicted misogynist whose tainted verse wasn’t fit to be taught in schools or colleges – as if art […]

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In Claire Kilroy’s new novel, a corrupt government minister doesn’t send hirelings to collect brown envelopes for the rezoning favours he’s about to render – he brazenly turns up himself to meet the property developer at a local pub and walks away with a jiffy bag that’s bulging with banknotes. In nearly every other detail, though, Kilroy’s picaresque […]

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September 29, 2012 So was it worth all the hype? Did it merit an embargo so strictly enforced that anyone outside the author’s immediate family didn’t see the book until 8am this Thursday? And after seven Harry Potter adventures, did The Casual Vacancy reveal that JK Rowling had finally grown up? Well, to answer the last question first, […]

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Irish Independent, September 8, 2012 Christopher Hitchens revelled in doing battle with political and religious foes, but all his debating and writing skills proved no match for the most intimate and lethal enemy of all, and so the oesophagal cancer that had breached his bodily defences in 2010 killed him last December. Not that he had any time […]

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Irish Independent, February 25, 2012 The teasing main title suggests a playful putdown of misery memoirs and earnest tomes about family dysfunction, but the book’s serious thrust is indicated by the subtitle and any matricide that’s contemplated here is purely figurative. Indeed, troublesome fathers loom larger than bothersome mothers in Toibin’s loosely-linked essays on writers and their families, […]

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Irish Independent, November 10, 2012 Now in its fifth edition, David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film has long been an indispensable bible for people who love to read and think about the movies. And an idiosyncratic one, too, because, despite its dull title and dictionary format, it’s a book crammed with shrewd insights, eloquent enthusiasms and withering putdowns. […]

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Irish Independent, January 12, 2013 In the early 1970s, Peter Sheridan’s career was at a low point. Playwright, actor and brother of future moviemaker Jim, he had embarked on an arts degree in University College Dublin but, with a wife and child to support, he needed a maintenance grant from Dublin Corporation. To this end he sought the […]

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Irish Independent, May 4, 2013 When asked how he achieved his lithe and spare prose style, the great crime writer Elmore Leonard said it was really quite simple – at the end of each day he revised what he’d just written “and whenever I come across an adjective I strike it out”. Indeed, sometimes it seems that […]

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Irish Independent, December 3, 2011 Was Amanda Ros the world’s worst novelist? That was the title recently bestowed on the Co Down-born author of ‘Irene Iddesleigh’, ‘Delina Delaney’ and other late-Victorian potboilers – books so derided for their ludicrous situations and awful prose that in the 1940s JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and other Oxford dons ran competitions to […]

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Irish Independent, February 18, 2012 The decade following a writer’s death is often the most cruel to his status. During his lifetime, Graham Greene was viewed as the most vitally topical of novelists, but on his demise in 1991 he was downgraded as too caught up in his times to be relevant anymore and his reputation has never […]

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Sex and Irish Literature

by John Boland

Irish Independent, 2011 When Eugene McCabe’s King of the Castle was premiered at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre in 1964, a man in the audience became so incensed by an onstage sexual proposition that he shouted at the offending actor “You dirty bastard!” His outburst was considered so quaint by visiting London critics that a reviewer from the Sunday Times […]

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Irish Independent, August 25, 2012 On the inside cover of Ian McEwan’s thirteenth full-length book, Peter Kemp of the Sunday Times declares its author to be “the supreme novelist of his generation”. Not, you will note, the supreme English novelist or even the supreme British novelist but simply the best in the world in whatever language. Indeed, so […]

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Irish Independent, February 23, 2013 Was it an accident or did he jump or was there skullduggery by MI5 or the IRA? Various speculations have been raised over the 1979 death in West Cork of 44-year-old Man Booker winner JG Farrell, and Lavinia Greacen devotes both her prologue and her epilogue to the circumstances surrounding his death. However, […]

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Irish Independent, April 13, 2013 When Irish yachtsman Tom first encounters Irish lawyer Clare, it’s at the quayside of Ortigia on Sicily’s south-east coast and he’s about to embark on a one-night stand with a French woman who has moored nearby. When he meets Clare again the next day, the French woman has sailed off into the sunrise. […]

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Irish Independent, April 27, 2013 Ciaran Collins’s outstanding first novel concerns a doomed teenage love affair in a rural West Cork small town sometime in the 1990s. Yet though the story is essentially tragic, comedy comes in the form of narrator Charlie, who proves from the outset to be a highly entertaining chronicler of what happens. Charlie is […]

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Irish Independent, October 22, 2011 Government relations with RTE have always been fraught with deep suspicion and never more so than in 1967 when long-time RTE career man TP Hardiman became the station’s third director-general. Erskine Childers had recently been appointed Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, a brief that included responsibility for broadcasting, and during a dinner with […]

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Lecture given to Kate O’Brien Winter School, February 2010 What I want to do in this talk is to celebrate the Irish short story and, in the process, to try to define what makes it so distinctive – and, indeed, to try and tease out what has drawn so many Irish writers to it. But […]

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