Summer reads: 25 books to entertain and enlighten

Cyril’s story is his own, but as it bounces through the decades from the 1940s to the present decade, it also reflects the different challenges faced by gay men in Ireland over the last 70 years. In his brilliant new book, Dublin writer Mark O’Connell goes to America to meet dozens of people who do. What led the young Queen Victoria to support the persecution of an innocent young woman? But who was the real Elizabeth Lyon? “This makes no sense,” writes Fitzmaurice about the act of plunging into the icy waters. A terrifying, fascinating and often funny insight into a brave new world. Worsley is an unashamedly partial biographer (“This is, unashamedly, the story of my Jane,” she writes, “every word of it written with love”) and her new book all the more entertaining for it. He finds more happiness abroad, but he can’t ignore his roots forever. The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll (Simon and Schuster, £6.99) As far as the rest of Dublin is concerned, no one lives in the abandoned mill near the canal. Sporty, popular and aristocratic, Ben represents everything that Martin isn’t, and Martin is entranced by him. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury, £12.99) Two days after Abraham Lincoln’s young son Willie dies, the devastated president visits the crypt where his child’s body lies. JUST DIVE.” The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Transworld, £16.99) Charles Avery, the hero of John Boyne’s 10th novel, is born out of wedlock in 1945. Sarah Carroll’s debut novel is a heartbreaking story that will captivate readers of all ages. (Published July 27th) The Cows by Dawn O’Porter (Harper Collins, £14.99) Tara is a documentary maker and single mother whose life is turned upside down when a humiliating video of her becomes an online sensation. So when sympathetic Uncle Parker comes up with a plan to make the rest of the Bagthorpes believe Jack has psychic powers, he can’t resist the opportunity to finally stand out. And who was the young murder victim behind the phrase “sweet F.A.”? “That’s why it makes perfect sense. (Published July 13th) The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott (Sceptre, £16.99) In 1724, an infamous thief called Jack Sheppard was sent to the gallows at Tyburn. Carey (Orbit, £13.99) An armoured mobile laboratory called Rosalind Franklin is making its way through what used to be Britain. Funny, poignant and always …

Carrie Fisher’s death due to ‘sleep apnoea and other causes’

Born in Beverly Hills, Carrie Fisher got her show business start at age 12 in her mother’s Las Vegas nightclub act. The death last year of actor Carrie Fisher, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, was due to sleep apnoea and other causes, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said in a statement on Friday. The sad story of Whitney Houston’s bisexual love triangle The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office has since found she died of sleep apnoea and “other undetermined factors”, said the coroner. Fisher reprised the role in later Star Wars sequels, gaining sex symbol status in Return of the Jedi in 1983 when her Leia character was enslaved by the diabolical Jabba the Hutt. She was a mental health advocate who spoke about her struggles with bipolar disorder and cocaine addiction. She made her film debut as a teenager in 1975 comedy Shampoo, two years before her breakthrough in the first Star Wars movie. After undergoing treatment in the mid-1980s for cocaine addiction, Fisher wrote the bestselling novel Postcards from the Edge, about a drug-abusing actress forced to move in with her mother. Fisher also had atherosclerotic heart disease and had used drugs, the statement said, but noted the significance of these factors in relation to her death had not been ascertained. Gifted review: Gives glorified TV movies a better name Nails review: And you thought Irish hospitals were bad … Aside from her film work, she was also popular as a writer and humorist and her memoir “The Princess Diarist” was released a few weeks before she died. Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Fisher came from a Hollywood family, as the daughter of actor Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. Eddie Fisher died in 2010. In the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, also known as Episode VII of the franchise, she appeared again as Leia, who by then had become an astute military general. The book was later adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Fisher died aged 60 on December 27th, four days after she became unresponsive on a flight from London to Los Angeles and was rushed to a hospital. Suffered a stroke The day after Carrie Fisher died, Reynolds, who starred in Hollywood musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain suffered …

How is the new Taoiseach younger than me?

Take a breath, old idiots. Oh, our policemen get younger and younger. As a conservative chap Leo Varadkar will be discouraging teenagers from siring future taoisigh when they should be concentrating on their Junior Certificate As a medical man Dr Varadkar will know that the timings only just work out. I always expected he’d claw his way to the top.” Nothing prepared us for this. The shift is not imagined. The bouncing Sir Mick Jagger is now older than the tweedy Macmillan was when he left office. His James Bond is Timothy Dalton. That priest doesn’t look old enough to drive. “Wasn’t he younger brother to that guy who nearly died drinking developing fluid?” I imagined myself saying. We like to think that, when the head of state came of age, he danced to the latest by Bobby Darin. How are we expected to take this man seriously? Richard Nixon was 61. Good stuff. Then there’s this mess over in France. Dwight D Eisenhower was 62 when he took office. Nothing ages a fellow so much as discovering he is now older than the head of state. I find that, at 53, I am exactly the average age for accession to the office of UK prime minister. Generations have fallen away. Maybe those of us who remember the old money should just place ourselves on the ice floe and leave the future to the youths in lounge suits. Jim Callaghan was 64. The good news is that, when Leo had his 18th birthday, Reet Petite by Jackie Wilson was at number two. Over the past few decades older people have felt less need to slip into cultural irrelevance as hair recedes and bones seize up. Get your head around this. If he has a Dr Who then it’s probably Sylvester McCoy, but the series was in hiatus before he was old enough to care. Oh well. That’s practically contemporary. The current, unpleasant situation differs from that which distressed earlier neurotic greybeards. David Davis will do nicely at 69. Mrs May is closing in on 60. The first Taoiseach to take office when younger than me is technically of an age to be my son. Amber Rudd is a few months older than me. “A bright little spark. Harold Macmillan was 62 when he became UK prime minister. This wasn’t supposed to happen yet. But the favourite, Boris Johnson, is a few …

Joyce in Court and Irish Divorce/Joyce’s Ulysses reviews

While he has his limitations as a Joyce critic – his blanket dismissal of the academic Joyce world is far too broad-brush – in his own field he has the gifts of clarity, expertise and a deep knowledge of what he is talking about, not always the case in this area. Its central thesis is quite simple: contrary to what had been thought, divorce in Ireland was “a realistic option” for Bloom or Molly should they have chosen to seek it. But it is a feature of Joyce’s work – one of its most engaging features – that it does indeed serve as a locus where some many different interests can converge – and few indeed are the topics that are without relevance to it. Although much of this material has been covered recently by Kevin Birmingham and Joseph Hassett, it is good to have Hardiman’s particular angle – born of an experience not directly available to the other two authors – on the judicial dilemmas posed by Joyce’s work. Only later did he gravitate to the law, having dabbled in politics as well, not an uncommon course for legal eagles. Thus Hardiman’s twin concerns find ample ground for expression in the very wide field that Joyce’s work provides. He approaches the whole issue of Joyce, the law and history with special authority. And, it should be added, his preoccupation with literature as well – he was keenly aware of Joyce’s importance as novelist, as stylist, as innovator, though, as he often made clear, he greatly disliked the way some of Joyce’s academic exponents talked about the work. He also raises interesting questions about Bloom’s financial stability as it is generally understood. The essay “Law, Crime and Punishment in Bloomsday Dublin” is a masterly summary of the principal legal themes in Ulysses. Wealth of information First, it should be said that Hardiman has thoroughly scoured the work – not just Ulysses but Joyce’s journalism as well, and Finnegans Wake also – for material that has a bearing on his major concerns. It covers murder cases, civil actions, drunken and adulterous barristers, eminent and not so eminent judges, libels, writs, bequests for masses, crimes and punishments in all their guises. Ulysses is explicitly meant to be an encyclopaedia, after all. As its editor, Neil Belton, says, it may not be quite the book that its author would probably have produced given …

Give me a crash course in: social welfare for artists

“Who gave you permission to be a poet?” the judge asked him. You do, is the easy answer. Despite Ireland’s illustrious artistic reputation, artistic pursuits have not been officially recognised as a legitimate focus for their energies. Last Monday Leo Varadkar and Heather Humphries launched an initiative to make it easier for artists and writers to access social welfare supports. Ministers Varadkar and Humphries are to be congratulated for taking on an issue most politicians have preferred to ignore. Then there is the question of how the Irish Writers Centre and Visual Artists Ireland fulfil their role. Once, on a morning stroll, George Bernard Shaw encountered a neighbour who greeted him: “Ah, Mr Shaw, you are so lucky to be an artist.” Yes, he replied, “I had a great stroke of luck this morning. “Who gave me permission to be a human being?” he replied. Who decides if you are an artist? In the departmental press release there is also a suggestion that the classification “self-employed professional artist” might have a one-year span in terms of accessing the support of the Department of Social Protection. He was exiled, an experience that produced some great poetry at considerable personal cost). By and large, visual artists and writers engage in a huge number of occupations to make a living, all the while subsidising their artistic endeavours. It is a pilot initiative, though, and will be reviewed after one year. However Humphries says that, having monitored this pilot scheme, they will consider the possibility of extending it to other artistic disciplines. What about composers, musicians, actors, dancers and other creatives? Why don’t they get regular jobs to support their vocational pursuits? No. That’s exactly what most of them do. Would that work in 21st-century Ireland? In fact, most wouldn’t opt for it by choice. Two organisations have been mentioned, the Irish Writers Centre and Visual Artists Ireland. They certainly hope for inspiration and are occasionally lucky enough to be possessed by it. What happened this week? Apparently not. But do artists actually work? A job well done then? They remain, for the moment, outside the net. Beyond that it is a thorny issue. At some point along the line politics is inescapably allied to bureaucracy. (It didn’t work for Brodsky either. Don’t they just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike? And their chances of striking it rich are vanishingly small, rather …

Hook to Coppinger: ‘You have no manners. Now shut up’

“He is one hundred and t… “I don’t know,” comes the listless reply, promptly taking the wind out of O’Rourke’s sails.  This opening exchange somehow sets the tone for the ensuing discussion. But alas, he fails to practise what he preaches. Aside from a spirited exchange between Doherty and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith over welfare fraud, it’s a dutiful overview of possible developments rather than an expectant heralding of a new era. But, in a worrying sign for the incoming Taoiseach, the response is strangely muted.  Shane Coleman, co-host of Newstalk Breakfast (weekdays), is regularly teased by his colleague Paul Williams for being a politics nerd. He bemoans the “half-demotion” of Mary Mitchell O’Connor to a newly created super junior ministry. An exasperated O’Rourke dismisses this as oversimplification, pointing to other factors such as “plantation, dispossession and nationalism”. O’Rourke strays on to thin ice too, however. “I can’t believe you take this seriously,” says Dawkins incredulously, stressing that unexplained spontaneous recoveries happen in medicine, regardless of prayer.  Dawkins turns out to be an unlikely fan of Jesus’s teachings It’s not all fireworks. “Just shut up, will ya?” Who says civil society is dead? Coppinger’s speech, a catalogue of what she sees as Kenny’s failings in office, is marked by monotone earnestness and a certain gracelessness, but for Hook it proves she hasn’t got “a shred of good manners”.  Cranking up his irritation, the presenter wheels out medieval monarch Henry II’s famous complaint about the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket: “Who will rid me of this difficult priest?” (The more usually accepted quote says “turbulent priest”, but no matter.) The presenter echoes these sentiments in regard to Coppinger, though presumably without seeking the same outcome: Becket, after all, was murdered on the back of Henry’s outburst. “All right, you’ve made your point,” says Coleman, resuming the role of ever-patient straight man. 100 per cent behind Theresa May,” Mitchell says, catching herself before committing an egregious sin. Damp squib On the face of things, Seán O’Rourke approaches the new premier’s arrival with a due sense of occasion, broadcasting Wednesday’s edition of his show (Today with Seán O’Rourke, RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) from famed Dáil hangout Buswells Hotel. It’s a compelling encounter. It’s like lunchtime in Nando’s, there are so many Ministers around the table Doubting the ability of new Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to reform An Garda Síochána, he …

Poem of the Week: The Hook and the Needle

Her friend is huge with news. Slide out the vinyl, lower the stylus and she’s through – leaving a note that she hoped would say more – in the blink of an eye: metal worker, rock chick, Communist, vanished across to Belfast on the Liverpool ferry – just for a holiday, promise – blindingly short- skirted, ready to blow a hole as wide as a gunwale in my staggered father’s heart. My mother’s Irish children dangle off walls and fences and imagine each half of their bodies awash with differently-coloured blood. Her purple regulation beret’s stuffed in her blazer pocket and for years it’s been too tight: England tethered fast in sad allotments, dripping on toast for tea, her father hacking coal dust into hankies, never to work again, the wireless a sodden blanket over every single stifled evening since consciousness began. Sinéad Morrissey has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best collection for On Balance (Carcanet) This new band – my brother shares their flat in Liverpool – their first single’s due out soon – he says it’s a sure- fire number one – they’re set to be massive – My mother snaps her throat shut, blows an ‘O’ as neat as a bracelet, flicks ash from her cigarette and listens. Her mother falling asleep of an afternoon with her apron on in a suntrap at the end of the garden sinks out of sight, and not even riots or bombs or the postman shot dead in Kilwilkie for handling letters tarnished by stamps of the Queen can summon her up again. On the other side of the needle, my mother’s freezing her knitted socks off practising smoke rings at the back of the Craft Hut in Miss Violet Markham’s School for Girls in Chesterfield. Hooks and needles: the lives we stitch, the lives we pull apart to sew from scratch once more among our opposites – my mother’s gypsy slipperiness still exists in me, who, over halfway through perhaps (one never knows), am hitching high my skirts and running, aiming for the needle, ditching almost everything I own, shutting my eyes, as she once did, to land where she began, in a confetti of sweet pea and snapdragon, the tea still warm in its cosy, the back door on the latch. This poem was commissioned as part of Liverpool Presents Sgt Pepper at 50, curated by Séan …

From Brian McGilloway to Elena Varvello, the best new crime fiction

reads like a collaboration between Daphne du Maurier and Megan Abbott, a superb psychological study marinated in a teenage boy’s simmering hormones. On the cusp of manhood, Elia is obsessed with Anna Trabuio, the mother of his new friend Stefano; the story proceeds by way of alternate chapters, as Elia recounts his recently unemployed father’s descent into depression and psychosis while also (in chapters titled “Truth”) imagining his father’s actions as he abducts a woman and takes her into the woods. Desperate to escape her humdrum existence in Brighton, an aspiring writer, Alice Dark, is delighted when Bo invites her to spend a week at her home in the Lake District. He is the editor of Trouble Is Our Business (New Island Books) Sarah Stovell’s debut, Exquisite (Orenda Books, £8.99), opens with Bo Luxton, an author and creative-writing lecturer, encountering that rarest of beasts the promising student. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. High on the moors, self-proclaimed “King” David Hartley leads the Cragg Vale Coiners, a band of outlaws engaged in “the yellow trade”, which is to say the clipping and forging of coins. The dark, lyrical intensity brings to mind David Peace and Gordon Burn in a superbly detailed and eloquently crude depiction of Hartley’s place and time as the uneducated philosopher-king revels, as he puts it himself, in “the fine art of the coinin and the clippen, makine munny and fucken the man”. Soon he is on his way to Berlin as a courier carrying crucial information to the Irish Ambassador, there to encounter Francis Stuart and Frank Ryan, among others. By turns harrowing, tender and hopeful, City of Lies is Russell’s most accomplished novel. The clean-living and morally sound Lucy Black may be too good to be true by the standards of today’s crime fiction as she pursues the truth through Derry’s claustrophobic labyrinth, but, like McGilloway’s previous creation DI Benedict Devlin, she represents the hope that things may change – perhaps even for the better. A compelling tale of twisted loyalties and betrayals, the story plays out in the mean streets and back alleyways populated by a lost tribe, long since poisoned and abandoned by their politicians, who wander the concrete wilderness following the faint echo of the long-promised “peace dividend”. Exquisite is a psychological thriller in which, unusually, both protagonists appear equally unhinged Exquisite is a psychological thriller in which, unusually, both protagonists …

Diane Keaton: ‘Where would I be without Woody? I wouldn’t be here’

Uncoiling from her patterned sofa in the Soho Hotel, she reveals a huge belt, a wide-collared shirt and wonderful boots with tongues the size of beach towels. So, I keep to myself. I get up at five every morning and never stay up late. There’s certainly no whiff of punk about it. Right? I didn’t know how I got that. I wasn’t sure.” So what advice would she have for anybody facing the same dilemmas? The movie was a big hit and that really matters. In 1996 she adopted a daughter. Was that what she always felt she would do? I know,” she laughs. “Like, I’d come into the room and say: ‘Your glasses are on crooked.’ And then you would say: ‘My glasses are on crooked?’ in a way that says: ‘F**k you!’ Because that’s insulting. “I am trying to think of what the downsides are to fame,” she ponders. Five years later she adopted a son. Right?” So, it’s to do with repetition? It’s a different way, but it doesn’t matter.” Yet Keaton is a very definitely a trained actor. Heartbreaking and scary.” We’re proud of him. I wasn’t even a night person in New York. Would you?” I don’t suppose I would. “It was late. But that was very strange. Never. He’s a good writer. Jimmy Caan is exactly the same. That seems like a brave decision to make in middle age. Harry Potter? I don’t know how I got it. “Oh, you should be, man. Annie Hall was everything. And that woman didn’t have a voice. Photograph: Paramount Pictures FIVE KEY DIANE KEATON PERFORMANCES THE GODFATHER (1972) And the Godfather Part II, obviously. Perhaps she’s as dry and abrasive as new sandpaper. But they thought it was a thing of the past. She talks about all of them with some warmth. He asked me to do it and then he let me do it as I wanted. She dated Warren Beatty during the making of Reds. Did he say that? Will Diane Keaton be like Diane Keaton? Right out of the Neighbourhood Playhouse, I auditioned for Hair. Others look soggier at the edges. I challenge you to conceive of more delightful casting than Keaton as the middle-class widow and Brendan Gleeson as the eccentric park dweller for whom she falls. I didn’t understand. Keaton made the most of a thankless role: the WASP outsider who marries …

The Times We Lived In: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue

No, wait: maybe they’re recreating a scene from a famous movie of a few years’ vintage. Chris Cowper (left) and the man with the glasses, who is Alan Douglas, the manager of British Airways’ Irish operation, appear to be somewhat uneasy about their high-class visitor. Mr Douglas is attempting a smile, but it has strayed off course and become a grimace. Cowper: “Can you fly this plane and land it?” Mr Douglas: “Surely you can’t be serious.” Mr Boland: “I am serious. Capt. The occasion was joyful enough. But there’s an awkwardness about this particular image which suggests that a minister in the cockpit is, when you get right down to it, about as welcome as a tarantula in the bath. At this column, the sight of politicians in unexpected places has often made us smile. No wonder the real pilot, named as Capt. It must have seemed the perfect excuse for a spot of party political spin. At 9.10am on November 10th, the biggest aircraft ever to have flown the Dublin-London route to that date – a British Airways Boeing 757 with the capacity to carry 189 passengers as well as boasting 1,800 cubic feet of luggage, mail and cargo space – touched down after its first scheduled flight. But someone should have told the then minister for the public service, John Boland, that he was supposed to twinkle genially at the camera, not look like Dracula at a wake – and certainly not fiddle about with buttons whose functions are way, way beyond his aeronautical abilities. Capt. Maybe they’re just trying to figure out how to switch on the windscreen wipers – always a conundrum, when you sit down at the controls of a new vehicle, and to judge by the amount of rain on the windows, it’s a particularly nasty November morning. And don’t call me Shirley.” Arminta Wallace These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99. Cowper is either wringing his hands, or trying desperately hard to prevent himself from knocking Mr Boland’s hand from his knobs.

Transgression used to be an artistic tactic. Now it belongs to the far right

God (or at least the Christian God) is mocked – regularly. The postmodernist alt-right culture of provocation has precisely opposite aims: it uses shame and threat to close down the space for expression and to exclude whole groups from it by delegitimising them. It represented not just “the shock of the new” but, more obviously, the shock of the shocking. It belongs to the neofascists. And there were so many taboos to break: depictions of sex, obscene language, descriptions of bodily functions, blasphemy. It is impossible for us to appreciate how vile something like Henrik Ibsen’s play Ghosts, which turns on hereditary syphilis, seemed to quite intelligent and cultured critics. It was about expanding the space for human freedom and legitimising groups – homosexual people, for example – who had been placed beyond the pale. It gets its thrills by breaching the taboos erected by progressive culture against homophobia, racism, misogyny and xenophobia. The self-styled alt-right is fuelled by the thrill of transgression. The provocative assault on accepted norms of decency is itself the new normal. She couldn’t bring herself to finish it, so we don’t know how she would have coped when it gets really filthy, with Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. Girls!” The frat-boy fascists of the internet are no longer marginal: Donald Trump is a walking, or more likely golf-carting, embodiment of transgression These days transgression doesn’t belong to the progressive avant-garde. Sex scenes that would have been scarcely possible in the most outre cinema are standard fare in TV blockbusters like Game of Thrones. It made audiences and readers feel that they were involved with the artists in an act of rebellion against bourgeois piety and institutional repression. Transgression raised the stakes. But even people who were themselves at the cutting edge of new artistic forms could feel almost physically sick in the presence of work that described the ordinary realities of the human body. Ibsen’s translator William Archer compiled a lexicon of terms used to describe it in the mainstream English press, among them “abominable, disgusting, bestial, fetid, loathsome, putrid, crapulous, offensive, scandalous, repulsive, revolting, blasphemous, abhorrent, degrading, unwholesome, sordid, foul, filthy, malodorous, noisome.” Virginia Woolf couldn’t bring herself to finish Ulysses, so we don’t know how she would have coped when it gets really filthy, with Molly Bloom’s soliloquy It’s easy, in retrospect, to laugh at these reactions and to write them off as mere reactionary idiocy. The …

Top of the Pops: A poem by Ciaran Berry

We were either sitting by the rivers of Babylon or we were walking on the moon when Sister Pius adjusted the rabbit ears, and the countdown continued from ten to one. Top of the Pops There was either a message in a bottle or a brown girl in the ring when I squeezed my way between Sister Áine and Sister Catherine in the convent TV room. His most recent collection is The Dead Zoo (The Gallery Press, 2013) We didn’t know then what might be read into our favourite exponent of the wobble board tying his kangaroo down, or what the glitter man might really have meant when he asked “D’you wanna be in my gang?” As far as those Sisters of Mercy were concerned, I was one of their own, even if my father’s whereabouts were unknown Sunday mornings, even if I would pass up the chance to carry in the myrrh and frankincense. Video may well have killed the radio star, but love was still in the air, for so sang John Paul Young. Ciaran Berry grew up in Connemara and Donegal and currently lives in Hartford, Connecticut. “I’ll Be Satisfied” was up to number nineteen the same week “I Don’t Wanna Dance” leapt from thirty to eleven. Taking a few pointers from The Pointer Sisters or a guy down the chip shop, we watched as the second would-be Welsh Elvis went weak at the knees.