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On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien, 16 February 2017

... significant American poets called as little attention to themselves in their lifetimes as Michael O’Brien, who died last November at the age of 77. Much as with Lorine Niedecker – whose ‘silences’, he wrote, ‘derive from an intellectual conviction that art, like science, demands total concentration on the object of attention’ – his poetry was ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... in the Nevada gambling city. The screenplay was adapted by Figgis from a novel of the same name by John O’Brien (who himself committed suicide shortly after Figgis had acquired the rights to film his book). Figgis signals his awareness of Hollywood’s current sweep-it-under-the-carpet attitude to alcohol in the deftly judged opening scene. Looking ...

Freak Anatomist

John Mullan: Hilary Mantel, 1 October 1998

The Giant, O'Brien 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 211 pp., £14.99, September 1998, 1 85702 884 8
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... of Surgeons hangs the portrait by Joshua Reynolds of the 18th-century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. It has been much darkened by the bitumen content of Reynolds’s paint, and restoration work in the Fifties has not been able to prevent the fading into the surrounding gloom of many of its supporting details. Only Hunter’s face, once bathed in ...

Lordspeak

R.W. Johnson, 2 June 1988

Passion and Cunning, and Other Essays 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 293 pp., £18, March 1988, 0 297 79280 6
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God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Harvard, 97 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 674 35510 5
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... Daizy [sic], give me your anser [sic] do’. Such Afrikaner wooing of English-speakers, reflects O’Brien, has fortuitously coincided with the need to rephrase apartheid. Once it was Bantu Administration. Then it was separate development. Then it was community development, then co-operation and development. Perhaps, muses ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien, 24 October 2013

Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... Lawn’, the Irish Times column written, on and off, for almost a quarter of a century by Flann O’Brien (or, if you prefer, Myles na Gopaleen, or Brian O’Nolan). My favourite has always been the catechism of cliché. When things are few, what also are they? Far between. What are stocks of fuel doing when they are low? Running. How low are they ...

Diary

Ronan Bennett: The IRA Ceasefire, 22 September 1994

... Gerald Seymour novel and reach over to turn the radio off. Then I recognise the voice – it’s John Humphrys on Today. I concentrate. On the Falls, apparently, men with hard, cold eyes used to stare sullenly from behind the iron railings that surround the pubs and clubs, planning their next operation. It is Day One, Thursday 1 September. The IRA ...

The Cruiser

Christopher Hitchens, 22 February 1996

On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy through an Age of Unreason 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Free Press, 168 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 02 874094 7
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... the backslidings. Hypocrisy waits at every intersection. But it remains the fact that Conor Cruise O’Brien has been one of the great stylists of our time, whether writing about France, Britain, Ireland or Africa. It further remains a fact that his has been a voice attuned to the discourse of reason, and that when he has been ‘mobbish’ (his own preferred ...

In the Line of Fire

George O’Brien: The Sniper, 28 November 2002

... You Can Be’): ‘An Army of One’, whatever that’s supposed to mean. It can’t have inspired John Muhammad, can it? After he was caught, everybody was soon out shopping again. But it wasn’t easy to believe it was over. There was a lot of information to take in: John Lee Malvo, 17, for instance. For a while it was ...

Conor Cruise O’Zion

David Gilmour, 19 June 1986

The Siege: The Saga of Zionism and Israel 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 798 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 297 78393 9
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... Conor Cruise O’Brien has enjoyed a career of variety and distinction: diplomat, politician, man of letters, an expert on Africa, Irish history and French literature. International affairs have interested him since his UN days in the late Fifties, when his ideas were close to Sartre’s. In a book on Camus published in 1970, O’Brien berated Camus for not supporting Sartre: had he done so, together they ‘would have rallied opinion more decisively and earlier against imperialist wars, not only in Algeria, but also in Indo-China-Vietnam and elsewhere ...

Sing Tantarara

Colin Kidd, 30 October 1997

Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... of public opinion. The Presidential election of 1800, in which Jefferson trounced the incumbent John Adams, witnessed an outpouring of newspaper and pamphlet comment directed against his religious indifferentism. Could he be so sure that an atheist would neither pick his pocket nor break his leg? Soon after his death, a fellow Virginian, ‘Black Horse ...

Cool Brains

Nicholas Guyatt: Demythologising the antebellum South, 2 June 2005

Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South 
by Michael O’Brien.
North Carolina, 1354 pp., £64.95, March 2004, 0 8078 2800 9
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... its first 48 years, a period of dominance interrupted only by the single-term administrations of John Adams and his son John Quincy. Conversely, 24 years after Andrew Jackson of Tennessee left the White House in 1837, the next generation of Southerners led 11 states out of the Union, founding a Southern Confederacy to ...

Flann O’Brien’s Lies

Colm Tóibín, 5 January 2012

... writers were Fernando Pessoa, born 1888, died 1935; Jorge Luis Borges, born 1899, died 1986; Flann O’Brien, born 1911, died 1966. Each of them was brought up not only in a shadow country and city, or a place that felt as though it lived now in the shade, but also with two or more languages and with an often disruptive relationship between the ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... it made womanhood a lightning rod for attitudes to capitalist modernity. What Adam Smith’s pupil John Millar decried as the ‘habits of avarice’ of ‘polished nations’ generated much moral disquiet in 18th-century Britain. People fretted about ostentation and epicureanism, about the emasculation of manners and morals by ‘unmanly ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... wider social and cultural contexts – education acts, decolonisation, immigration – while Sean O’Brien, author of The Deregulated Muse, a fine critical panorama of contemporary poetry, commends ‘the emergence of new poetries from formerly unsuspected sources’. There is also a step towards devolution, with Armitage and Crawford including a more than ...

Ireland at Swim

Denis Donoghue, 21 April 1983

The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1977-1981 
edited by M.P. Hederman and R. Kearney, with a preface by Seamus Heaney.
Blackwater Press/Colin Smythe, 930 pp., £25, October 1982, 9780905471136
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A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Knopf, 352 pp., $16.95, April 1983, 0 394 42225 2
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... in 1968. Several of their colleagues are from the North: the poets Seamus Heaney, Seamus Deane, John Montague, Michael Longley. Deane, especially, has been important to them, arguing about Irish literature and the question of tradition, the North, the two languages, the available rhetorics. I have been reading The Crane Bag in association with Hugh ...

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