York, England | Published: 15 March, 2008
ISSUE 3 | Pages: 185-212 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2008-3099
This issue sees eleven literature book reviews. They include a new novel by Roddy Doyle where he updates us on the protagonist we first encountered in The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996); Anne Enright’s The Gathering, which won the Man Booker prize for fiction in 2007; the Collected Poems of Michael Longley, the poet who has recently been appointed Professor of Poetry for Ireland; William Trevor’s new book of stories; a collection of contemporary Irish short stories edited by David Marcus; a cultural history of Ireland during the Second World War; Eavan Boland’s thoughtful collection of comments on writing by Irish writers; essays on Irish women writers from an American perspective; a series of new essays on George Moore; a companion to the Irish novel in the Cambridge series; and a book of essays mapping Irish studies in the new century. As ever, I wanted to include reviewers who were experts in their fields as well as those less well-known or relative newcomers to seeing their names in print. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all the reviewers for providing something to awaken interest or to stimulate discussion for those of you reading this.
2007 was the year of Louis MacNeice, being the centenary of his birth. There was a symbolic moment in September during the conference dedicated to him at Queen’s University Belfast when the leading Northern Irish poets gathered at his graveside in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Church at Carrowdore in County Antrim. Even though he has been dead for some forty-five years, MacNeice’s presence continues to be felt strongly. 2007 also witnessed a new Faber edition of his poetry edited by Peter McDonald, an edition which prints MacNeice’s poetry in groupings corresponding closely to the collections published by Faber between 1935 and 1963 (see Louis MacNeice, Collected Poems ed. Peter McDonald). Faber also reprinted an edition of MacNeice’s autobiography The Strings Are False, with an introduction by Derek Mahon, and, forthcoming in 2008, there is to be an edition of Autumn Journal, the poem MacNeice wrote on the eve of the Second World War and which continues to be of interest especially to Irish and Spanish readers. In another edition, Selected Poems, also by Faber, Michael Longley makes a strong case for reading MacNeice as our contemporary. Perhaps for the next issue someone will submit an essay on MacNeice to our journal.
One of the novels I have been re-reading these last few months has a title taken from a MacNeice poem: Where They Were Missed (Penguin, 2007). The author is the Belfast-born writer Lucy Caldwell, whose play Leaves received plaudits when it was staged at the National Theatre in London in March 2007. I can think of few novels written by an author in her early twenties which are as accomplished as this one. Like MacNeice, Caldwell has a keen eye for hauntings, for what’s been lost, for false strings, only now the loss is wrapped in the continuing trauma of sectarianism and the Troubles. I say I have been re-reading this novel because its full effect only comes with a second reading. In attending to the great Irish theme of loss, Caldwell reminds us that families carry not only their own history inside them but also a wider history that accords with but is not identical to what happens there. As she quite properly remarks in a short interview about the novel: «
Cheating at Canasta
The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7
Ireland Beyond Boundaries: Mapping Irish Studies in the Twenty-First Century
George Moore. Artistic Visions and Literary Worlds
Opening the Field: Irish Women, Texts and Contexts
Irish Writers on Writing
That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War
The Cambridge Companion to the Irish Novel