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Stony Ground

Peter D. McDonald: J.M. Coetzee, 20 October 2005

J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event 
by Derek Attridge.
Chicago, 225 pp., £13.50, May 2005, 0 226 03117 9
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Slow Man 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 265 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 436 20611 0
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... for Godot, say, tempts the unwary to ‘interpret’ in Sontag’s negative sense, but they do so only to undo them. Their power to produce political effects by literary means is, in part, dependent on this double gesture. They disturb engrained habits of reading by staging the allegorising process, whether through the liberal Medical Officer’s ...

Enid’s Scars

Peter McDonald, 23 June 1988

You must remember this 
by Joyce Carol Oates.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 333 46182 7
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A Case of Knives 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 266 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 7475 0074 6
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Burning your own 
by Glenn Patterson.
Chatto, 249 pp., £11.95, March 1988, 0 7011 3291 4
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... too, mimicking the unfinished, unfinishable histories in which people live. But the characters do come to resolutions of a kind, getting up from whatever severe battering they have received to start life again, sadder and only a little the wiser. For Enid, there is the prospect of musical success; for her Uncle Felix, after he takes a beating in the back ...

Between Kisses

Peter McDonald, 1 October 1987

The Propheteers 
by Max Apple.
Faber, 306 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 571 14878 6
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A Summer Affair 
by Ivan Klima, translated by Ewald Osers.
Chatto, 263 pp., £11.95, June 1987, 0 7011 3140 3
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People For Lunch 
by Georgina Hammick.
Methuen, 191 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 413 14900 5
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... its dream of pure consumerism, pure wealth, pure leisure and, of course, the life eternal. To do all this you need an extraordinary plot, and a canvas so big that the minute gradations of psychological realism are lost in its sweep, an animated cartoon rather than close-up naturalism. And on all the usual plot-and-character counts, The Propheteers is well ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... English Literature, and the names most ubiquitous in The Book History Reader, Roger Chartier and D.F. McKenzie, can be found on none of the new Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism’s several thousand pages. Perhaps this is as it should be; to call book history a theory would be to read it against the grain. For many literary critics a decade ago, the ...

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Can You Hear, Bird 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 9781857542240
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The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, March 1996, 1 85754 225 8
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Selected Poems 
by Barbara Guest.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, May 1996, 1 85754 158 8
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Selected Poems 1976-1996 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 126 pp., £9.99, March 1996, 0 19 283223 9
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Adam’s Dream 
by Peter McDonald.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, March 1996, 1 85224 333 3
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... a person for, or what we think of when we hear their name. Think of Larkin, for example, and what do your see? A head like a pale, bespectacled bean and then maybe an image or two from the better-known poems, the shabby lodger, say, of ‘Mr Bleaney’, or the stony couple of ‘An Arundel Tomb’. Such reflections, it might be objected, are very ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... a book of unrevised lectures called Varieties of Parable and a Collected Poems. Even now, with Peter McDonald’s intelligently re-edited Collected, we do not have all the MacNeice we could ask for. As McDonald points out, a Complete Poems would be considerably larger than the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: What’s in a name?, 19 October 2000

... Peter Lilley, an international fraud investigator and no relation of the Tory MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has written a book called Dirty Dealing: The Untold Truth about Global Money Laundering (Kogan Page, £16.99). Before outlining how best to prevent the crime, he explains the various ways to go about committing it, such as opening an anonymous Austrian Sparbuch – savings book – of which there are estimated to be twenty-six million in existence (Austria, for the record, has a population of just over eight million ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Hating Football, 27 June 2002

... and my father was getting all musical. ‘We’re here to show the world that we’re gonnae do or die,’ he sang unprophetically, ‘coz England cannae dae it coz they didnae qualify.’ My birthday was spoiled, and I decided always to hate football and to make my father pay. I had a hidden stash of books in a former breadbin upstairs – the revenge ...

Smirk Host Panegyric

Robert Potts: J.H. Prynne, 2 June 2016

by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe, 688 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 78037 154 2
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... this fate would befall J.H. Prynne: take him or leave him, it didn’t seem possible that he’d ever be acceptable. His name had become, as The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Poetry put it in 1994, ‘synonymous with all that is most rebarbative in the work of the contemporary English avant-garde’. Considering his obscurity (limited edition pamphlets ...

The Parliamentary Peloton

Peter Mair: Money and Politics, 25 February 2010

A Very British Revolution: The Expenses Scandal and How to Save Our Democracy 
by Martin Bell.
Icon, 246 pp., £11.99, October 2009, 978 1 84831 096 4
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... his counterpart. ‘This is marvellous,’ the visitor says, ‘but how can you afford it?’ ‘Do you see that bridge over there?’ his host asks. ‘What bridge?’ the visitor asks. ‘Exactly,’ his host replies: ‘100 per cent.’ Living in Italy (No. 63), and coming from Ireland (a surprisingly healthy 14th place), I had my own stories. I even have ...

As seen on TV

Keith Kyle, 26 September 1991

From the House of War 
by John Simpson.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 09 175034 2
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In the Eye of the Storm 
by Roger Cohen and Claudio Gatti.
Bloomsbury, 342 pp., £16.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1050 4
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... about to call him), was allowed to stay on in Baghdad when the Iraqis decided they were going to do without the others. Even before that it had been granted special facilities. Like Nasser in 1956, Saddam was counting heavily on use of the psychological arm in making war against the West, and in return for staying in business, CNN has been suspected of being ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... the people, places, books and songs that he has known.Songs matter more than you might think; so do some places, especially California, and so, by the end, do the mixed blessings of fame. The most important place, though, is the first: Mossbawn, County Derry, the farmland where Heaney – the son of a cattle dealer and a ...


Nick Laird: Ulster Revisited, 28 July 2011

... in the rain, dispensing bread to our children to feed the ducks, just like our parents used to do with us. And we watched the news and read the papers, which was the usual depressing experience. The two main stories in June were the handing over to relatives of the dead of the report by the Northern Ireland police’s Historical Enquiries Team into the ...


Anne Enright: Mrs Robinson Repents, 28 January 2010

... struck him as ‘bizarre’, in that the interview took place on the day her husband, Peter Robinson, went to Downing Street to accept the role of First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly ‘and there really was a sense that Iris had stolen his thunder’. Black, who was hired as her political adviser, does not say when he decided to ...


Susan McKay: Breakdown in Power-Sharing, 8 March 2018

... guise of equality’. Matters were not calmed by the decision of Adams’s successor, Mary Lou McDonald, to conclude her first speech as president to the party’s Ard Fheis with: ‘Up the republic! Up the rebels! Tiocfaidh ár lá!’ This, translated as ‘Our day will come,’ was the rallying cry of the IRA. Poetry helped, once or twice. When ...

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