Mistaken by Neil Jordan

Towards the end of Neil Jordan’s new novel, the narrator reflects on “that strange obsession with past decades, the fifties, the forties, the twenties, that bedevilled Irish fiction. Didn’t they ever write about the present?” The same question could be asked of this book, in which the present proves no match for the lovingly recollected […]

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WILD SWANS AND OTHER REVERIES: WB YEATS IN MID-CAREER

Nineteen hundred and nineteen marked the end of an eventful and turbulent decade for William Butler Yeats, both personally and artistically, and the volume of poems he published that year, The Wild Swans at Coole, was its poetic summing-up. His previous collection, Responsibilities, which was published in 1914, had revealed a poet whose range of […]

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William Trevor

William Trevor is Ireland’s greatest living writer of fiction and one of the world’s finest short story writers. He is also very prolific. The Collected Stories, which runs to almost 1,300 pages, was published in 1992 and since then there have been four more volumes, and he has also published nineteen novels. The latter are […]

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LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON. By Greil Marcus.

Halfway through this eccentric and irritating book, the author lists the sixteen albums that Van Morrison released between 1980 and 1996 and then, dismissing them all as unworthy of consideration, asks rhetorically: “How do you write off more than fifteen albums and more than fifteen years of the work of a great artist?” The short […]

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THE WIDOWS OF EASTWICK. By John Updike.

About halfway through this sequel to the 1984 bestseller The Witches of Eastwick, I found myself doing what no conscientious reader likes to countenance, let alone admit – I started skimming the pages, hoping to follow the narrative thread without having to endure yet more of the author’s adjective-laden prose in which no detail is […]

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Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. By John Updike.

John Updike writes so beautifully that it’s tempting for a reviewer simply to quote him. Here he is on William Trevor: “His breadth of empathy, his deeply humane ruefulness, and his love for the sound of demotic English in all its inflections of class and geography give his short stories the timbre of novels.” And […]

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A TV Year

It was the decade in which there were more programmes than ever to watch, though just as few worth watching. Indeed, more invariably means less, and so when the very finite number of good programmes capable of being made are spread over 187 channels, they hardly register amid the gunge that surrounds them. There’s only […]

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Departure Day; You have been warned…

Every cloud has a silver lining. Yes, over 130,000 people have been forced to seek work outside Ireland within two years, and, yes, more than 280,000 jobs have evaporated since the recession began, and, as if that’s not bad enough, a third of recently-polled young Irish adults have declared their intention to emigrate in 2011, […]

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Everyone’s a Critic

Book clubs are everywhere and if they encourage people to read good books and to analyse and articulate their thoughts about what they’re reading, that’s undoubtedly a good thing – just as Socrates assured us that the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined book is probably a waste of time, too. The only […]

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FRANK: The Making of a Legend by James Kaplan

Dolly Sinatra was a tough woman. A midwife and a back-street abortionist – nicknamed “Hatpin Dolly” and twice arrested for the latter activity – she was a formidable figure both as a mini-Mafia figure in her rough-and-tumble New Jersey neighbourhood and also in the confines of her home, where she inflicted hard love on her […]

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How short can a short story be?

Brevity, as Shakespeare noted,  is the soul of wit, which is probably one of the reasons why some readers cherish the lyric poem over the epic and the short story over the novel. But how short can a short story be before it loses all substance and meaning? Very short, indeed, in the view of […]

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Shakespeare and Company – Sunday Miscellany

Shakespeare and Company is one of the most famous bookshops in the world but for fifty years it’s been living under false pretences. Situated on the quays in Paris, just around the corner from Boulevard St Michel and facing the side of Notre Dame, it’s been a place of pilgrimage by tourists who want to […]

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The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold loves to grab you with her opening lines. Her 1999 memoir, Lucky, begins: “In the tunnel where I was raped,  a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheatre, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered.” Her first […]

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THE PRIEST By Gerard O’Donovan

Thomas Harris has a lot to answer for. There had been serial killers in fiction before he came along, of course, but Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs set the template for what is now a staple, indeed a cliché, of contemporary crime writing, and there are few authors entering the field who […]

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John McCormack: Sunday Miscellany

When John McCormack was at the pinnacle of his popular fame, Rachmaninov said to him: “John, you sing a good song well but you sing a bad song magnificently.” Rachmaninov was not alone in this lofty view of the songs that McCormack favoured, especially in the latter half of his career when he had abandoned […]

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maeve brennan

In another life, Maeve Brennan could have been my mother, and in a way I see her as such. Born within two years of each other, they were Dubliners from neighbouring suburbs – my mother from Richmond Hill in Rathmines, Maeve from Cherryfield Avenue, a mile away in Ranelagh. Both of them were thin, petite, […]

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TV Review

Having written last Saturday about the programmes I had most admired in the past twelve months, it was with some degree of interest that I tuned into Ireland’s Top TV Moments, a compilation of what 3e deemed to be the most riveting television occasions of 2010. Puzzlingly, nothing that I had singled out featured in […]

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Francois Truffaut

Ever since I was a teenager and saw Les Quatre Cents Coups in the Fine Arts Cinema Club that used to exist in the basement of Busaras, Francois Truffaut has been one of my heroes. It was in that movie – made 50 years ago this summer, though showing no signs of ageing – that […]

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Pat’s substance will win out over style

THOSE of us who’ve managed to get through our lives without listening to RTE 2fm — certainly not in the evening and hardly ever in the morning, even when Gerry Ryan was in situ — will be bidding adieu to Ryan Tubridy later in the summer when he moves from his 9am Radio 1 slot […]

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The Frontline; Gary Glitter…

Alan O’Brien’s tirade from the audience on last Monday’s edition of The Frontline (RTE1) was an outburst waiting to happen, and I’m only surprised such an expression of fury at the salaries of top broadcasters hadn’t occurred sooner – on Pat Kenny’s morning radio programme, say, or the Marian Finucane Show or Joe Duffy’s Liveline: […]

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