Art Kavanagh

Talk about books: a fortnightly publication about things I’ve read

Substack now has direct messages. It’s not a feature I’m likely to use very much (I sent maybe one every two years on Twitter) but we’ll see.

This year’s choice for One Dublin, One Book is Louise Nealon’s Snowflake 📖. The idea is that as many people as possible should read it during April. I’ve already read and written about it but it’s probably not too early to reread it.

Bernard Kops is dead. He was 97, but it’s still sad. I fondly remember a playwriting workshop he led at the CityLit, early 1990s, and I went with my mother (who was visiting from Ireland) to a performance of Playing Sinatra 🎭 in, my unreliable memory is convinced, Croydon.

I just posted the latest Talk about books. It looks at philosophical materialism in Paradise Lost: Material particulars: Spirit and matter in Milton’s Paradise Lost 📖

Material particulars: Spirit and matter in Milton’s Paradise Lost

John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an epic poem in 12 books (10 in the first edition, 1667), running to over 10,000 words lines, about original sin, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise for disobedience to God’s command. It contains many surprises. Its author had, in Eikonoklastes, defended the execution of the former king, Charles I. In The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, he had advanced a remarkably liberal theory about the conditions in which a people can depose and replace their monarch, and choose the mode of government.

Unfortunate BP employee gets fired because she wasn’t sufficiently suspicious of her husband: Insider trading.

I’m always complaining about Google’s search results. It’s great for one thing, though: identifying half-remembered snippets of poetry. Last night, something I was reading made me think of

Sufficed of old the Cytherean girl

I couldn’t remember where it’s from — but Google does

Wayne Robins attempts to shape his 7-month-old grandson’s musical tastes and reminisces about “smoking a j and knocking back a bottle of Thunderbird with Mister Rogers” (or something like that) 🎶

The Critic magazine has a good article on Josephine Tey, two of whose novels have been reissued in Penguin’s Crime & Espionage series. I read and enjoyed The Daughter of Time 📖 years ago, and made an attempt on The Singing Sands in my early teens but was probably too young for it.

I’m again thinking about deleting my Substack account. I moved my newsletter >2 years ago, and I’m still on Substack only for the Notes, which I thought might be a substitute for Twitter, but really aren’t. I’m afraid I’ll regret deleting the account in future, but not getting much from it now.

I use Safari Reader View a lot, particularly on my phone. One thing that I find annoying is that it (often?) doesn’t display the author’s byline. I was two-thirds of the way through this piece about Goodreads before I realized that it was written by Lauren Oyler ☹️

I’ve updated my Talk about books post about William Empson’s reading of Joyce’s Ulysses from Mar 2021 to include page references from the Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition. When I originally posted it, I couldn’t find my paperback copy so used two ebook editions 📖

My original Talk about books post in July 2022 about Ted Chiang’s novella/long short story, “Anxiety is the dizzyness of freedom” had no page references because I worked from an ebook/online edition. I just updated the post to add page references from the Picador paperback of Exhalation 📚

John Newell, a County Down man … infiltrated the United Irishmen rebel group in 1796 and helped to imprison 200 members. Newell was paid £2,000 by the authorities and with remarkable hubris boasted about his exploits in a tell-all book. He ended up abducted, shot and secretly buried in County Antrim.

I hope he had time to spend his £2,000 first. Grisly secrets of the ‘disappeared’ of Anglo-Irish war uncovered by research

I’ve just posted in Talk about books: a second visit to Kate Atkinson’s series about an intermittently retired private investigator, looking in particular at the first book, Case Histories 📖, which I hadn’t reread when I wrote the first post.

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series revisited

Christopher Priest died just over a week ago. I’m not familiar with his writing, having read only one book by him. That was The Prestige (1995). Here’s my review (originally posted on Google+, now on my personal site). I haven’t reread the book since writing that review, so my opinions about it haven’t changed, but those about Nolan’s film have. I’ve finally given up trying to persuade myself that I like or admire any of them apart from the first two.

Hard to believe it’s 25 years since the Pinochet appeals and Lord Hoffman’s extraordinary mistake. Joshua Rozenberg has an excellent recap. As usual, I’m surprised how much detail I’d forgotten.

When you have a useful thing worth money and regularly leave it outdoors, ingenuity and an angle grinder will come for you in the end. You have to see yourself not so much as the bike’s owner as its foster carer, and just hope its next home will appreciate it.

Zoe Williams’s bike has been stolen. It’s an experience I’ve had too often, though I’m relieved to say that the last time was 30 years ago.

The latest Talk about books post is about Bernard MacLaverty’s short stories in Blank Pages and other stories (2021). The vulnerabilities and indignities of age are his great theme in many of these late stories.

Jagged and straight: Bernard MacLaverty, Blank Pages and other stories

The first time I ever saw Liam Neeson act it was in “My Dear Palestrina”, a television dramatization by Bernard MacLaverty of his short story of the same title. I was deeply impressed by Neeson’s performance and MacLaverty’s story alike, and left with the strong hunch that MacLaverty was one of the best short story writers alive. Yet, over the next 40 years, I read at most two more of his short stories.

Earlier this week I was surprised to learn that Ivor Browne had, until just a few days ago, still been alive. I hadn’t heard anything about him for decades. Now, he’s turned up in Ted Gioia’s The Honest Broker

Has Substack changed the way it handles link previews? I stopped including Twitter card meta tags in my blog posts about a year ago. For a while I replaced them with OG meta tags but I dropped all except OG:image because the others were just repeating what was already in the default meta tags.

My blog hasn’t been updating for the past few days. I just want to see if a new post will dislodge it.

Hi @help @manton There’s something strange going on with my blog. The log is full of lines like this

Publish: Already queued, scheduling +30 seconds

and it never finishes publishing. Any idea what’s up? Thanks.

I think I might disable crossposting from to BlueSky (the only place I have it enabled) because more often than not, once I’ve posted something on MB, I go straight over to BlueSky and delete the crosspost. Other hand, it’s nice being able to post proper links on 🦋 🤷🏻‍♂️