The supreme stylist plucks at the strings of his own oeuvre

Here is a review I wrote for the Irish Examiner a few months ago…

Blue.pngThe Blue Guitar
John Banville
Viking; €19.99
Review: Val Nolan

John Banville returns to the art world in the quietly absorbing referential puzzle box which is his first novel in three years. The story may be slight but then one reads Banville for the prose and not the plot: Oliver Otway Orme – “O O O. An absurdity” – is a professional painter and an amateur thief. He “steals” the wife of a friend, is discovered, retreats to various shabby boltholes to pen an address to an “inexistent confessor”, and eventually submits to the messy fallout of his affair.

In Banville’s hands, this simple tale becomes a darkly comic vehicle for digressive colour: Orme tell us the history of “a few hundred acres of passable land”, of “a fatal accident I witnessed as a young man” (in Paris, naturally), and on and on, while merely glossing over the specifics of his infidelity. “There must,” he says, “surely be something or somewhere I don’t want to get to, hence all these seemingly innocent meanderings down dusty by-roads”. Of course, each incident is weighed heavily with meaning but then the structure of The Blue Guitar is strong enough to bear it all.

Strong enough too to carry the magpieish aspect of Banville’s own intellect. This is after all a novel which takes its title from a Wallace Stevens poem while opening by simultaneously invoking a minor Greek deity of theft and echoing one of literature’s most famous opening lines – “Call me Autolycus,” Orme wryly says by way of introduction – and thus the book announces its referential nature from the get-go. Later Orme adds that “a large part of the pleasure of stealing derives from the possibility of being caught” and, for the reader as well, there is considerable enjoyment to be found in catching the novel’s endless allusions.

References to art and literature predominate, yet, more often than not, the most overt are to texts of a fantastical nature. These include Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and even (via “Omnium”, that “fundamental substance of the universe”) Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. Further call-backs conjure Banville’s own back-catalogue and fans of the author will recognize, for instance, the name Vandeleur from The Untouchable (1997) and the character of Adam Godly from The Infinities (2009).

Banville’s light touch in this regard offers a reflective and nostalgic backwards glance which aligns with the depiction of Orme himself. In that regard, character, text and, yes, even author blur together in satisfying fashion (with even the protagonist’s own sister thinking that he is a writer and not a painter). From a certain angle it is as though Banville is conducting a self-interrogation of sorts. One wonders, is he actually talking about a character named Orme… or me, meaning the writer himself?

For cloaked in Orme’s asides about art are insights equally applicable to the craft and practice of writing. “Everyone thinks it must be easy” if “you have some skill and master a few basic rules,” Banville-as-Orme says. He seems to be discussing not just writing in general but speaking to the authors of beautifully wrought but unimaginative and destined-to-be-forgotten literary writing in particular. Because “technique you can acquire, technique you can learn, with time and effort, but what about the rest of it, the bit that really counts”? Indeed, on occasion he seems to go for the jugular of misery fiction specifically: “I’m tired of brooding,” he says, “it availeth naught”.

By contrast, the pre-eminent stylist of his generation leavens the “new-old world” of The Blue Guitar with ideas more at home in speculative writing (and one should not be surprised given that he is also the author of some of the most notable European science novels, among them Doctor Copernicus, 1976, and Kepler, 1982). A kind of vague apocalypticism thus pervades the backdrop of this book. Eerie airships ply the skies between “spectacular showers of meteorites”. Meanwhile conversations are peppered with offhand remarks about “nasty new germs coming from outer space” and solar storms which show “no sign of abating”.

Moreover, clues sprinkled throughout indicate that Banville has set The Blue Guitar in the same physics-wise world as The Infinities. It is the seminal work of that novel’s patriarch, Godly’s “famous Brahma Postulate”, which has led to “the new science” and its acknowledgement of “intersecting universes”. All very intriguing, though Banville never allows it to overshadow the ordinary. He deploys it sparingly as the basis of hallucinatory moments of insight whereby Orme seems to glimpse the possibilities of other lives in mirrors and reflections.

Beyond that, however, the “technological wizardry” said to have changed the world has not had much impact on the dishevelment of the novel’s resolutely old-fashioned cast. Everyone here has a glass eye or a “Merovingian mother”. Everyone exudes a “lonely hauteur” within the “charmed if sombre realm of the half-mad”. It feels, if anything, like the rural 1980s, and it is in the dissonance between that threadbare ambiance and talk of “Godly particles” that the peculiar flavour of The Blue Guitar – the unmistakable Banvillianism of the novel – is at its most apparent.

That Orme inhabits the headspace of so many Banville protagonists before him – the outsider, the thief, the autobiographer – only reinforces this effect. As a narrator he is not strictly reliable and admits to changing people’s names for his own amusement, yet he is all too aware that “when I’m gone there will be no one here to register the world in just the way I do”. Again Orme might well be speaking for his creator, a distinctive talent capable of finding meaning in the most banal of images: a cup of undrunk tea; the fogged-up windows of a car; an artist’s dispassionate gaze.

Dr. Val Nolan lectures on Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.

  • This article originally appeared in the Irish Examiner on 19 September 2015, Weekend, pp.34-35.


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Short sharp shocks from nasty little haunted house tale

Slade House

David Mitchell
Spectre; £12.99
Review: Val Nolan

David Mitchell is, in many ways, like the initial protagonist of his latest spooky offering: an immense imagination in a world where mould-breakers and genre-benders are too often told that “you have to act normal. Can you do that, please?”. Thankfully, however, Mitchell seldom limits himself to the normality of realism alone. It is in fact his great strength as a novelist that he so readily marries masterful prose to big ideas such as the sentient satellite of Ghostwritten (1999), the nested narratives of Cloud Atlas (2004), or the vast battle between good and evil which provides the backdrop to The Bone Clocks (2014).

In Slade House, set within the world of that latter novel, one finds Mitchell very much at play. Here he gives us a grand old home “that only blurs into existence one night every nine years”, a building “like a board game designed by M.C. Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever”. It is a classic haunted house inhabited by Norah and Jonah Grayer, sibling “soul vampires” who prey on lonely, isolated people.

The author’s signature technique of constructing longer works from interlinked stories here results in five novellas set across forty years. As they progress, we meet a young boy in the 1970s, a racist detective in the late 1980s, a 90s college student participating in a paranormal field trip, her reporter sister searching her out a decade later, and, finally, the clever, cruel Norah Grayer of the present day.

In a microcosm of how Slade House itself fits into what Mitchell calls his “Übernovel” – the interconnected characters and motifs from across his published writing – past characters blur into each subsequent story as the Grayer’s victims pass messages from one generation to the next. In this way they themselves become the true phantoms of this inside-out ghost story, for Norah and Jonah, despite their power, are ultimately mortal and in many ways are the ones who are really being haunted here.

While the bickering rivalry of the Grayers showcases the author’s skill at creating well-defined characters, the writing here is, on the whole, a little less thrillingly sharp than in The Bone Clocks. But, then again, that is appropriate as Slade House is dessert to that novel’s rich, multi-course meal and is unashamedly a work of genre drawing on horror and fantasy in equal measure. Those who appreciate “something a bit like The Da Vinci Code” will relish talk of “atemporals”, “psychosoterica”, “reality bubbles”, and so on (indeed, it is in these latter stretches that the novel’s relationship to The Bone Clocks is most clearly spelled out) though a straight literary audience may find such occult bric-à-brac to be more challenging. On the other hand, there is still a considerable amount for such readers to enjoy in Mitchell’s evocative and endlessly inventive imagery.

That said, to draw too firm a line between the speculative and literary facets of Mitchell’s work is to do a disservice to one of the great contemporary novelists in these islands. For though his fiction is frequently structured around partitions and section breaks, his real strength lies in his willingness to bring together literary style with the endless possibilities of genre writing. It is an aspect of his work which the brief, often quite nasty Slade House provides a frighteningly effective example of.


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Journey to the ends of the universe recalls a classic tale

Here’s a recent review I wrote for the Irish Examiner

Poseidon’s Wake
Alastair Reynolds
Gollancz; €28.50; ebook €12.99
Review: Val Nolan

There has always been a strain of Science Fiction concerned with exploring the human condition via journeys to faraway places. Star Trek is the obvious example, but the tendency is just as apparent in proto-SF such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Indeed, from secrets hidden in a “dusty-looking” copy of the latter to a prominent character tellingly named Swift, it is to that book, published almost three hundred years ago, that this latest interstellar adventure from Alastair Reynolds looks.

A follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth (2012) and On the Steel Breeze (2013), Poseidon’s Wake carries the story of the Akinya family forward several hundred more years while mostly fulfilling its promise to act as a stand-alone work. The Akinyas, the “movers and shakers of history”, are here represented by Goma, the biologist daughter of a disgraced physicist, and by her uncle Kanu, human ambassador to a Mars overrun by intelligent machines.

Gorma has dedicated her life to “Tantors”, genetically engineered elephants “with the resilience to survive in space”. Tantors possess consciousness, however Gorma has been unable to find a cure for cognitive decline in the herd. Kanu, meanwhile, is introduced to the reader on the day he dies. Revived by the machines, he is coerced by the robotic Swift into an investigation of a shared concern: “the larger narrative of his family – the things they had made, the events they had caused, the web of responsibilities they had inherited”.

A mishmash of Swift’s – the real Swift’s – ideas, filtered through the imagination of Reynolds, is apparent from the get-go. The flying island encountered by Gulliver finds its counterpart in a mobile, hollowed-out asteroid. Knowledge sans application, a characteristic of Gulliver’s Laputans, is echoed by the “Watchkeepers”, alien automata “so clever they forgot how to be conscious”. Later talking elephants take the place of talking horses and, if that was not enough to cement the homage, Reynolds grants his Swift a “face, outfit, and bearing approximating those of a young man of learning of the late eighteenth century”.

Yet where Jonathan Swift produced a satire of his genre, Reynolds is not necessarily ridiculing anyone. Unless, perhaps, you consider his dramatis personæ to be a needling of those who maintain Space Opera to be the domain of only white, male, heterosexual protagonists. Because even if that was not intentional, Reynolds’s focus here, as throughout the trilogy, on characters of African heritage and diverse sexualities offers an oblique comment on recent controversies in the SF community.

Thus with a nod to the past, Reynolds tells a contemporary story in a future that is very much his own. Gorma and Kanu’s travels lead them from the Martian robots to the Tantors to the “zombie-machine” Watchkeepers, but the literal elephants in the room are always the questions of self-awareness and cooperation. Each race possesses a different form of consciousness, a further contrast to the accepted norm, but, without being didactic about it, Reynolds demonstrates each – including humans – to be incapable of unlocking the novel’s tantalising secrets alone.

Concluding in a tense but beautifully imagined rescue mission reminiscent of writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Poseidon’s Wake is a novel unafraid to ask big questions about human nature and, for that matter, about the “truth of life’s fate in the cosmos”. The dubious prize which Gorma and Kanu chase is a typically Reynoldian esoteric mystery, yes, but the thoughts it provokes are sure to stay with the reader long after the novelty of elephants in spacesuits has “passed into the Remembering”.


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We’re all Folk’d now…

Completely Folk’d
Laurence Donaghy
Blackstaff Press; £7.99
Review: Val Nolan

Endings are difficult. For the reader it means saying goodbye to familiar characters and worlds while for the writer, especially a series writer, it brings the challenges of crafting a capstone which is true to what has come before. Popular culture is littered with finales which have lost what made their originals distinctive but, thankfully, this final part of Laurence Donaghy’s Irish fantasy series is not one of them.

The conclusion to the story begun in Folk’d (2013) and continued by Folk’d Up (2014), Completely Folk’d is an energetic culmination sure to entertain a YA audience and to please those readers who have accompanied the characters thus far. Run through with the author’s distinctive irreverence, and nerdishly garnished with references to films and TV shows, the book successfully integrates a new widescreen perspective into the established story while nonetheless being entirely consistent with its existing supernatural family drama.

Nodding towards Stephen King, the Langolierish opening of Completely Folk’d follows directly from the conclusion of Folk’d Up where the entire island of Ireland was excised from the face of the Earth:

“The Irish Sea had been halted, as if by the hand of God in an irregular line. The waters swirled and rebounded off an invisible wall, preventing tens of millions of gallons of seawater from rushing in and filling a great nothingness – a vast void where the island of Ireland had been.
Ireland was gone. Lock, stock, and barrel it was gone.”

This is the first stage of “The Merging” whereby Ireland and the “Otherworld” will be brought together by the faerie witch-queen Carman. And this on top of the alternate timelines and supernatural incursions which have already defined the series.

The fluid nature of such a reality is reflected in Donaghy’s unconstrained prose. After all, the crises facing the novel’s characters calls not for fine speeches (though there are a share of those on offer) but for a raw, immediate narrative style, for expletive-filled dialogue, and for literal smash-cuts between scenes. Linguistically so, this is not dainty, elven High Fantasy; it is instead the smash-bang-wallop vernacular of a Saturday night in Belfast.

Danny Morrigan, “one of the Morrigans”, is still reeling from the revelations and the “insane vision quest” of the first two books. Now it is time for him to embrace his responsibilities as “part of an ancient bloodline charged with protecting Ireland from being overrun by a race of beings who had come to be known as – ha! – faeries”. Reunited with Ellie after their separation by the last book’s parallel reality, Danny’s mission is not simply to save Ireland, it is to regain the family that was stolen from him. Though of course, in mythological resonant fashion, he and Ellie are about to discover that their son Luke is no longer the eight-month old innocent who was taken from them.

Like the prior volumes, this is a carefully structured book and its pacey plotline nicely balances the present day events with relevant flashbacks to strengthen both character motivation and the Folk’d mythology. Moreover, linking the stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann to the often seemingly magical internet age grants Donaghy’s faerie threat a contemporary insidiousness. They may be supernatural but, by “harvesting the fear of the humans” via smartphones, the scariest aspect of the faeries is again their embodiment of corporate skulduggery, even a touch of state surveillance.

It is interesting too to see an author who has lived in the Northern Irish capital all his life portray a city overrun by literal demons. Otherworld Belfast “looked like a city during wartime, besieged and aflame”. The first indication of its translocation “had been the screams […] upsetting to hear but not exactly uncommon in Belfast in the wee hours”. Tellingly though, guns do not work in the Otherworld. Combat there is closer, more primal, and this gives Donaghy a lot to work with in the fight scenes which make up the majority of the novel.

This is not to say that Completely Folk’d is weighted towards action at the expense of its protagonists’ development. After all, the convergence of battles ancient and modern to decide “the fate of Ireland” would matter very little if Donaghy’s expansive cast did not flex and grow to the degree that they do. Thus the completion of Danny’s Hero’s Journey is complimented by solid roles for his friend Steve and his father Tony Morrigan. Yet it is perhaps Ellie who is best served here vis-à-vis the previous books (her confrontation with a faerie’s human puppet is a particular delight).

A surprisingly generous conclusion follows these figures into their transformed lives, and, for that matter, their response to the world’s fearful reaction when Ireland is snatched away and then magically returned to Earth. It’s not exactly ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ but, in allowing the surviving characters to take charge of and defend their changed world, this extended goodbye fulfils a similar narrative role and, more than that, it allows Donaghy to end his outlandish tale on very human terms.

A Belfast Buffy by way of Star Wars (the fact that Danny’s son is named Luke leaves one tempted to read a key sequence here as an inversion of a legendary scene from that film franchise), Completely Folk’d is to be commended for going all in to wrap up the series and its storylines in rousing fashion. The fact that one finds oneself reaching repeatedly for screen analogies in discussing the book further leads to the belief that the Folk’d trilogy would readily translate to, say, a TV miniseries or the like. Perhaps when Game of Thrones eventually frees up Belfast’s production resources, someone might fancy tackling the project…? Until such a time, however, fans of the first two books will not be disappointed to read how it all ends.


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Down and out in Dublin and Poland

Here’s a recent piece I wrote for the Irish Examiner

Greetings, HeroGreetings, Hero
Aiden O’Reilly
Honest Publishing; £13.99
Review: Val Nolan

Balancing its outward perspective with an interrogatory approach to the secrets hidden in the human heart and mind, the fifteen stories of Aiden O’Reilly’s very fine debut offer the reader a series of candid dispatches from a changing Europe. It is a volume defined by a sense of unease. The characters here are linked by their incredulity towards official narratives; belief in any “central source of validation” is forever beyond their reach. They are stateless not simply in their wanderings but in their unsettled mentalities.

In his opening pieces, O’Reilly depicts a generation of young people drifting across the continent. His protagonists are decoupled from family and nation and live their lives through chance encounters, drunken hook-ups, and missed connections. Yes they suffer disappointments but, at heart, they are optimistic creatures of agency. Youth emboldens them. They make decisions and they follow them through.

As a reformed mathematician, O’Reilly has a clear affinity for puzzles which colours many of the stories here. The interactions between his men and women play out like games for which we must intuit the rules as they progress. Fragmentary pieces like ‘Contempt’ encourage participatory reading. Greetings, Hero is thus a book which rewards attention as much as it demands it.

This is especially true of the collection’s inventive middle offerings. In ‘Roman Empires’ one encounters a belief that the “malicious influence of the Romans continues unabated, as strong as ever it was”. Indeed, some people even want the Empire to come back. It is a short but intriguing examination of history as, at best practical eccentricity, at worst, aggressive “lies and propaganda”. It is also the most Murakami-esque of the stories here (flavoured with a dash of Philip K. Dick’s late insistence on the secret continuance of the Roman Empire’s power).

Another standout begins, “They have taken my parents to the re-education camp”. The mother and father in question are relics of a religious age buttressed by corporal punishment and homophobia; they hold ideas which “offend us all”. It is a pointed conceit yet, given the story’s length, it does not wear out its welcome. ‘Self-Assembly’ meanwhile tackles – in a very literal fashion – the question of women being seen as objects by men. The slippery reality of the story perturbs the reader in a manner which has its closest analogue among contemporary Irish short fiction in Mike McCormack’s scrutiny of the relationship between philosophy and technology.

Yet it is in the long central novella, from which the collection as a whole draws its title, that O’Reilly’s overarching project is at its clearest. Its protagonist is an English tutor at a small Polish university negotiating bars, bureaucracy, and the challenges of international friendship. The story has a strong immersive quality in its first half while in its second, which focuses on a return to Dublin, it combines this with an astute depiction of multi-cultural life in a Celtic Tiger Ireland of “fat bastard businessmen”.

Winding through all of this is the enigmatic presence of “Silent Michal”. In his search for a way to express himself, Michal serves as the totem figure for O’Reilly’s cast. All are seeking better ways to articulate who they are. The barriers they face are emotional, are economic, but more than anything they are linguistic. They reveal Greetings, Hero as a book about modes of expression, about how they can be changed by money or by love. After all, it is surely no accident that the final story here is titled ‘Words Spoken’. Readers seeking fresh, prickly fiction should therefore listen closely.

This article originally appeared in the Irish Examiner on December 6th, 2014.


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What good are the artists? Or, for that matter, the critics?

Here’s a recent review I wrote  for the Irish Examiner

Oxford Life in BooksThe Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books

John Carey

Faber; £18.99

Review: Val Nolan

It is no surprise to find that this memoir by Britain’s leading literary critic is full of symbols: A shallow-bottomed canoe which goes to places other boats dare not; a Bakelite radio that picks up nothing but static from the universe beyond the written word; the Crystal Palace in flames as the era of empires draws to a close. Yet John Carey’s earliest memory is the oddest of all: an elephant on a London street. Of the many totems in The Unexpected Professor, this great beast – mighty in reputation but charming in person – is perhaps the one which most resembles the author.

An academic, biographer, and a longstanding presence in the British press, (particularly in the Sunday Times, for which he has written since 1975), the eighty year old Carey is now an emeritus professor at Oxford where he taught English literature for four decades. He has chaired the Booker prize, authored volumes about Donne, Thackeray, and William Golding, and, famously, has proven to be an uncompromising critic. It is therefore a revelation to meet him as a child reading the kind of Biggles adventures which taught that “courage matters more than understanding poetry”.

No doubt it does, depending on the courage required or the poetry in question, however the double-take such a comment elicits is typical of Carey’s irreverent and entertaining journey to the top of the ivory tower. At no point is he beyond mining the streak of the ridiculous which runs through mid-century British life and, indeed, once he undertakes his National Service he discovers that, far from Biggles, the army “turned out to consist, to an unexpectedly large extent, of dressing and undressing very quickly and often”.

The armed forces also exhibited a slavish devotion to the English class system and, in that way at least, the pantomime of soldiery suitably prepared Carey for the “infectious snobbishness” of Oxford. The undergraduate years he describes were an unreal life of book-littered rooms, servants (or “scouts” in the local parlance), and luxurious meals even as the rest of Britain struggled with post-war austerity. Carey, the proud but then self-conscious product of a grammar school education, learned to pretend “to be like any other St. John’s freshman”. Nowadays he supposes that “a lot of them were pretending too”.

Servants aside, the opulence might leave some contemporary students jealous, but Carey himself wisely refused to buy into Oxford’s elitism and social division. His move from St. John’s to the leftist and tolerant Balliol College, a “civilised place where disagreement could resolve itself in laughter, not anger,” suited him well. Within its walls he found his ideal Oxford, an institution “full of brilliant minds” where class distinctions “counted for nothing”.

It is here too that the real meat of The Unexpected Professor reveals itself. The book is a time capsule from a just-past age when universities regarded their Humanities departments as engines of intellectual and creative energy, not a hindrance to league table mobility or national economic goals. The shift from then to now is all the more remarkable when one considers the titanic, if idiosyncratic, talent to emerge from the system Carey encountered: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, W.H. Auden… none of whom could have functioned within the pharaonic third level culture of today, a maze of branding, quotas, bloated bureaucracy, and strategic visions.

“I heard,” Carey writes, “that one of my ex-students, when he was appointed to a lectureship at a provincial university, innocently proposed that they should give the same amount of time to teaching as I had. He was laughed at, on the grounds that their staff-to-student ratio made it impossible. All the same, I think he had a point, and the current abandonment of regular tutor-student contact in many English universities seems to me a disgrace”.

Not that the author claims all was ideal in his day. For one thing “women were segregated in five heavily fortified colleges on the outskirts of town”. For another, “the Oxford English syllabus in the 1950s was a scandal or a joke, depending on your sense of humour. Its cut-off point was 1832 – that is, it omitted all Victorian and twentieth century literature”. Equally, the glimpse into the Bodleian Library’s catalogue room, “virtually the same as it had been throughout the nineteenth century,” is delightfully kooky in a Harry Potter fashion, but today’s option of searching its holdings online instead is unquestionably a positive achievement of the Internet Age.

Of course, part of the pleasure of The Unexpected Professor is being allowed to peruse Carey’s own lifelong library. “Literature,” he says, “trains you in ways of thought outside your own place and time”. Here he offers asides on great books from Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, “the world’s first science-fiction novel,” to how the treatment of Sancho Panza in Don Quixote “reeked of injustice and class discrimination”. George Eliot “is great because she is serious and rational. Dickens is great because he is not. He is an anarchic comic genius, and critics who treated him as a moralist seemed to me way off course”.

A keen eye and a sharp wit eventually brought Carey out of the academy’s cloistered halls and into the realm of mainstream book reviewing. For one of his first assignments he was sent Seamus Heaney’s early pamphlet Eleven Poems (1965) which he devoured with “mounting astonishment” and decided that, if this was the kind of work available, then writing for the papers was a “job to hang on to”.

Reviewers, he says, “can make enemies,” which is true if you are doing it right, but he nonetheless believes in the value and vitality of broadsheet criticism while also admitting that, though it is guided by knowledge and experience, such work is always subjective. Anyone who has read his infamous What Good Are the Arts? (2005) knows that Carey believes some readers will just like a book and some readers won’t. Which is about as accurate a description of reviewing as this critic has come across, and a salve, perhaps, for those writers who feel slighted.

Certainly Carey himself has been attacked in the past however this new volume is unlikely to provoke the same ire as, for instance, The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992). A minor but enjoyable work by a major figure, The Unexpected Professor is accessible, welcoming, and lively. Or, if you prefer, the exact opposite of most academic writing. Whether he be dining with Robert Graves or feeling “shamed by the nobility” of Ted Hughes, John Carey’s palpable joy at literature and learning jumps off the page. If he is immodest at times (and he is), well, he has earned that right. This warm and engaging record of books read and book written only proves as much.

Dr. Val Nolan teaches literature at NUI Galway. His story ‘The Irish Astronaut’ has been selected for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Volume Eight) to be published by Solaris in May.

This article originally appeared in the Irish Examiner, Saturday 5 April 2014 (Weekend, pp.34-35).


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