Art Kavanagh

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

I’ve been trying to write a response to this piece in Vox by Sigal Samuel, “3 Body Problem’s most mind-bending question isn’t about aliens”. I’m not happy with what I’ve got so far but don’t want to spend any more time on it. Maybe I should just let the draft sit there for another week.

I read Jane Harper’s The Dry a few weeks ago and enjoyed it thoroughly; but yesterday I found another book of hers, The Lost Man on special offer (€5 for a new hardback) and I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to buy it. I wonder why not. I got Téa Obreht’s Inland instead 📚

Last summer, my brain’s internal radio was alternating Tommy Steele’s “Little White Bull” and the musichall tune “Down at the Old Bull and Bush”. I thought I must have seen something about a bull somewhere, but it turned out that the earworms had independent coincidental origins.

I hate earworms, but can’t get rid of them. For weeks now, I have been waking up with Moore’s “She Is Far from the Land”🎶 playing in my head, and I have no idea what’s put it there. I’m sure I haven’t heard it recently (that’s to say in the last 50ish years).

The latest Talk about books is Incorrigibly plural: Lucy Caldwell, ed. Being Various. The 6th Faber anthology of “New Irish short stories”📖 includes 24 stories. I’ve written about 4 stories, with brief notes on 4 more.

Incorrigibly plural: Lucy Caldwell, ed. Being Various

Since 2005, Faber & Faber have published a series of anthologies of “New Irish short stories”, the first two being edited by David Marcus. Subsequent volumes appeared under the editorship of Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry and Deirdre Madden respectively. The most recent anthology, Being Various (2019) was edited and introduced by Lucy Caldwell. There are 24 stories here, all newly written: the copyright page says “All the stories are printed here for the first time”, though Sally Rooney’s story “Colour and Light” appeared (as “Color and Light”) in The New Yorker in March 2019, a few weeks before publication of the anthology.

This Irish Times headline quotes somebody as saying that Simon Harris used to turn up in suits three times too big for him. If he wore suits three sizes too big I could accept it but suits three times too big would have to be specially made, wouldn’t they?

I think this may be all my fault. I just looked up Trevor Griffiths on Wikipedia and (having gone down a rabbit hole) elsewhere a few days ago, in part to see if he was still alive. And now he isn’t. Sorry about that 🎭

Latest post on my own site: Print-on-demand? Amazon has been sending out print-on-demand copies of books when they run out of traditionally printed regular stock (which they deliberately keep at low levels). Is this acceptable?

Fears that AI poses some kind of existential threat are highly effective misdirection. AI isn’t going to achieve “world domination”™️. The humans running the corporations that make it probably will unless stopped ☹️

I liked Dervla McTiernan’s first three novels and found the fourth readable if unsatisfactory in some respects. But, on the basis of her piece in Crime Reads yesterday, I don’t expect to be reading her new one. It doesn’t sound like the kind of story that would appeal to me 📚

I bought a copy of Tana French’s The Wych Elm about 4½ years ago but have only now got around to reading it. It’s devastating, even if you find the narrator unsympathetic, as many reviewers did. There are parts of it I liked very much but overall it leaves a sour aftertaste 📖

Maybe it’s actually a good review: clearly letting me know that this book is not for me!

Here’s an extremely irritating book review. I’ve read just 2 of Nicole Flattery’s short stories and didn’t like them. I suspected she might be a better novelist than a short story writer. But this review leaves me with no inclination to find out for myself.

Here’s yet another good reason not to buy books from Amazon 📚

The new Talk about books post (on time, for the first time in ages) looks at Caroline O’Donoghue’s second novel for adults, Scenes of a Graphic Nature 📖. A filmmaker in her late 20s tries to find out what happened 60 years earlier, when her father was the lone survivor of a school tragedy.

Caroline O’Donoghue, Scenes of a Graphic Nature

Caroline O’Donoghue has written three novels for adults and a YA series. So far, I’ve read only the second of the adult novels though, based on reviews of the third, I intend to read The Rachel Incident (2023) as soon as I can get it in B-format paperback. The second adult novel, Scenes of a Graphic Nature (2020), is the first-person narrative of Charlotte Regan, who is just about to turn 29.

Flying six people to space is cheaper than sending an asylum seeker to Rwanda, an MP has said.

Cheaper to send people into space than to Rwanda, MPs hear Flying them there, maybe, but what about food, shelter, oxygen, protective clothing etc? I don’t think he’s thought this through.

I’ve just deleted my Substack account, something I’ve been thinking about for a while. That means cancelling my one paid subscription. The unpaid ones I can continue to read via RSS 😎 I had been thinking of going paid on Jeremy Noel-Tod’s Some Flowers Soon but I’ll have to manage without it.

I don’t see how you could spend even an hour in Dublin and not see the ruinous impact of the tech industry. We sold the city to these companies and made it impossible for anyone else to live here.

Nicole Flattery. When I lived in London for 18 years I missed Dublin. Reading this, I see that, more than 12 years after I came back to Ireland, I still do ☹️

My iPhone 12 Mini’s small screen means that I use Safari’s reader view a lot. But the way it leaves out author names/bylines is really frustrating. I know the fault is largely the publishers’ who don’t necessarily mark up such things “semantically”. I know I’ve said this before.

So it was easy for me to be the titular lead director.

Hey, a rare sighting of “titular” used in the old-fashioned (IMO “correct”) sense. These days, people say things like “titular character” where they would once simply have said “title character”. That drives me nuts, I’m afraid 🍿

I regularly mix up names that aren’t at all alike, so you can imagine how confused I was, having seen posters around Westport for a concert by Cara Dillon, I just read that Clara Dillon recently published her first novel.

I really wanted the Autonomy fiasco to be HP’s fault, not Lynch’s. Of course, it’s possible for both things to be true: even if Lynch inflated the value, it doesn’t necessarily follow that HP didn’t screw up.

My phone service provider regularly sends me emails urging me to “go 5G”, though there’s no 5G coverage in this area. Even 4G is a bit spotty since the storms earlier in the year ☹️