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Sacred Peter

Norman MacCaig, 19 June 1980

Sacred Keeper 
by Peter Kavanagh.
Goldsmith Press, 403 pp., £4.40, May 1979, 0 904984 48 6
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Dead as Doornails 
by Anthony Cronin.
Poolbeg Press, 201 pp., £1.75, May 1980, 9780905169316
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The Macmillan Dictionary of Irish Literature 
edited by Robert Hogan.
Macmillan, 815 pp., £2, February 1980, 0 333 27085 1
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... My acceptance of an offer to review the Kavanagh book landed me in a mess of puzzles. Peter Kavanagh, the poet’s brother, starts straight off, sentence one, by announcing: ‘When I write about Patrick Kavanagh I write as a partisan, as his alter ego, almost as his evangelist.’ And if you think that’s a dubious basis for a biography, what about this? As far as possible I shall avoid writing of him as a brother since my interest in him was mainly as a poet ...

In Praise of Barley Brew

E.S. Turner: Combustible Belloc, 20 February 2003

Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc 
by Joseph Pearce.
HarperCollins, 306 pp., £20, July 2002, 0 00 274095 8
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... yet consigned to the skip two excellent earlier Lives, A.N. Wilson’s Hilaire Belloc (1984) and Robert Speaight’s The Life of Hilaire Belloc (1957). If a debunker were needed for this wittily bellicose (‘Bellocose’, Wilson suggests) Catholic author of more than 150 publications (which smacks of thraldom to the work ethic some call the Protestant ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland, 30 September 1999

Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... of Nations. But there was always a difficult undertow. Among de Valera’s greatest supporters was Robert Briscoe, a Jew who later became Lord Mayor of Dublin (as did his son Ben Briscoe), but he was never a minister in any Fianna Fáil government because of what Keogh calls ‘an undercurrent of hostility towards Jews in the country which even de Valera ...

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