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On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien, 16 February 2017

... few​ significant American poets called as little attention to themselves in their lifetimes as Michael O’Brien, who died last November at the age of 77. Much as with Lorine Niedecker – whose ‘silences’, he wrote, ‘derive from an intellectual conviction that art, like science, demands total concentration on the object of attention’ – his ...

Cool Brains

Nicholas Guyatt: Demythologising the antebellum South, 2 June 2005

Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South 
by Michael O’Brien.
North Carolina, 1354 pp., £64.95, March 2004, 0 8078 2800 9
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... history of the antebellum South, much less become a historian of Southern intellectuals? Michael O’Brien has been working on an answer to these questions for fifteen years, and the result is a massive refutation of received wisdom. His first task is to persuade a sceptical audience of the mere existence of Southern intellectual life between ...

On Hiroaki Sato

August Kleinzahler: Hiroaki Sato, 21 January 2016

... that includes five poems by Hagiwara. Howling at the Moon was dedicated to the brilliant poet Michael O’Brien, a New Yorker, as Sato has now been for many years, whose own poetry reflects the influence of the Japanese sensibility, especially in its delicacy and attention to small detail. Sato sees himself as a translator, not a poet, even though ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 19 October 2017

... There are​ few contemporary poets as likeable as Michael Longley. That’s not because his poems are simply amiable, but because he looks at things hard and clearly and invites his readers to share his acts of seeing. In his new book, Angel Hill (Cape, £10), even a cataract operation is an opportunity to celebrate sharpness of vision: ‘My eyeball’s frozen ...

Saturday Night in Darlington

D.A.N. Jones, 1 April 1983

... their media-men (like most British media-men) lean towards the SDP and they point to the fact that Michael Foot’s huge overflow meeting attracted less press wonder and applause than Shirley Williams’s. But to a Londoner, these local papers seem pretty fair and accurate – stating but not overstating the obvious fact, recognised by the Telegraph papers in ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 8 June 1995

The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... Hawthorne. No circle in the South could match that intellectual array. Nevertheless, along with Michael O’Brien, Genovese has successfully revived interest in Southern antebellum thinkers whose obscurity, they claim, is unmerited. The Southern Tradition reaffirms his long-standing devotion to the pro-slavery thinkers but takes still greater delight ...

In the Line of Fire

George O’Brien: The Sniper, 28 November 2002

... According to one early theory, the reason some of the murder sites were close to branches of Michael’s, the craft-store chain, was that the shooter wished to be thought of as the Archangel Michael, expecting the cowed populace to recall the name’s meaning (‘who is like God’) and to realise the end was nigh. The ...

The Cruiser

Christopher Hitchens, 22 February 1996

On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy through an Age of Unreason 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Free Press, 168 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 02 874094 7
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... the backslidings. Hypocrisy waits at every intersection. But it remains the fact that Conor Cruise O’Brien has been one of the great stylists of our time, whether writing about France, Britain, Ireland or Africa. It further remains a fact that his has been a voice attuned to the discourse of reason, and that when he has been ‘mobbish’ (his own preferred ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The Killers', Criterion Collection, 24 September 2015

... mistake. The person who collects the narratives and puts together Lancaster’s career is Edmond O’Brien, an insurance agent investigating the death because of its implications for a policy Lancaster had. O’Brien’s interest, and ours, goes way beyond any professional insurance need, and it is intriguing that both ...

Yeats and Violence

Michael Wood: On ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’, 14 August 2008

... adds up to something less than our old imagined intimacy. We knew them better before we knew them. Michael Ragussis says this scene is ‘the exact opposite’ of an apocalypse. ‘The poet is not exalted through vision. He escapes nothing except falsehood.’ I agree there is no exaltation here, but there is surely some sort of apocalypse – a ...

Our Slaves Are Black

Nicholas Guyatt: Theories of Slavery, 4 October 2007

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World 
by David Brion Davis.
Oxford, 440 pp., £17.99, May 2006, 0 19 514073 7
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The Trader, the Owner, the Slave 
by James Walvin.
Cape, 297 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 0 224 06144 5
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The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 
by Colin Kidd.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £16.99, September 2006, 0 521 79324 6
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The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview 
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese.
Cambridge, 828 pp., £18.99, December 2005, 0 521 85065 7
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... slanted towards the book’s central preoccupation with explaining a slaveholding worldview. Like Michael O’Brien, in his Conjectures of Order (2004), the Genoveses are exasperated with the tendency of historians to dismiss Southerners as anti-intellectual, provincial or crassly materialistic. Unlike O’Brien, they ...

Watching Dragons Mate

Patricia Lockwood: Edna O’Brien’s ‘Girl’, 5 December 2019

by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 230 pp., £16.99, September 2019, 978 0 571 34116 0
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... Atypical​ Edna O’Brien story begins on a square of green. A stone farmhouse looms behind, with a slick spot on the flagstones where the same tin can is emptied every morning by the hired man. Pigs are somewhere in the mix, as are sheep and cows. Around and above and within the green floats another colour, that of deep velvet, the sacred heart, a dog’s tongue ...

At the Half

Andrew O’Hagan, 20 May 2021

... returned from a savage encounter with daylight. At London’s Duchess Theatre one night, Edna O’Brien and I climbed a million steps to the dressing rooms to congratulate Mark Rylance and his co-star on their performances in Beckett’s Endgame. It was a thankless journey. Rylance had no booze, and his co-star, still smarting from the review in the ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... leaves the historian with a number of quibbles – in particular, the leading role assigned to Michael Collins in all the events of 1919-22. Yet on fundamental interpretation Kee is less dogmatic and, above all, less Anglo-centric; greener here, indeed, than in his previous book, The Green Flag. It is not simply that he adds an Irish dimension to the ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... in the Eighties. He was definitively despatched by Gore Vidal some long while ago. Conor Cruise O’Brien then took his furious turn at the coconut shy. And here is Hitchens, lobbing adjectives like grenades in the same cause. It’s all too much. One can’t easily imagine anyone wasting so much ink and anger over, say, Bernard Levin – Britain’s answer ...

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