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Archive by tag: Kevin PowerReturn
Jul 13, 2022

This grief-stricken yet very funny tale about the search for an endangered fish speaks to our age of mass extinctions

In a somewhat more nerdy and blokeish literary culture, Ned Beauman would probably be more famous. It’s easy to imagine the four precision-engineered, shaggy-dog thriller-comedies that he published between 2010 and 2017 going down a treat in, say, the 60s or 70s. But in the 2020s, the vast majority of literary fiction is, as we are frequently reminded, bought (and, increasingly, written) by women; and there is something fundamentally boyish about Beauman’s novels that puts him, I suspect, out of step with prevailing tastes.

By which I certainly don’t mean that his books espouse the cruder brands of toxic masculinity. Rather, they tend to skirt the dramatic intricacies of the human heart in favour of the sort of hobbyish enthusiasms we associate with a teenage boy who, let’s say, has a large collection of science fiction novels (don’t get me wrong: I was this teenage boy). We have come to valorise this kind of writer less and less; and with this re-evaluation has come both profit and loss.

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Apr 15, 2022

Set in 1975, this masterly novel about a young Catholic woman and a married older Protestant has a quality rare in fiction – a sense of utter conviction

It’s easy to imagine a conversation about Louise Kennedy’s debut novel, Trespasses, that goes something like this: “What’s it about?” “Well, it’s about a young Catholic woman in Belfast in the 70s, at the height of the Troubles.” “Punishment beatings, bomb scares, all of that?” “Yes, all of that.” “Does her dad die?” “Well, yes, actually. Her dad is dead when the book begins.” “Does she fall in love with a Protestant?” “Well, yes, she does fall in love with a Protestant, as it happens. In this case an attractive married lawyer who’s committed to civil rights for Catholics.” “Do things go tragically wrong for sectarian reasons?” “It is strongly intimated that this is what will happen, yes.”

Plotwise, then, we’re in traditional territory. The year is 1975. Cushla Lavery is 24 and works as a primary teacher in a school on the outskirts of Belfast. She also does the odd shift in the family pub, which is frequented by leering and aggressive British soldiers. Here she meets Michael Agnew: handsome, middle-aged, sophisticated, married. Michael is a Protestant barrister who defends young Catholic men who have been unjustly arrested. He invites Cushla to an “Irish language evening” with his bourgeois-bohemian friends, liberals who toy with pro-Republican politics. Thus commences an affair that Cushla must keep secret from everyone, on pain – literally – of death.

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Feb 24, 2022

Part piercing satire, part fable, this discomfiting novel sends an Englishman and a Frenchman to an Irish island on a fateful day in 1979

Audrey Magee’s debut novel, The Undertaking, was shortlisted for the Women’s prize in 2014. In this follow-up, an English painter named Mr Lloyd climbs with his luggage into a small, leaky currach and is rowed across the Irish Sea to an island off the west coast of Ireland. The island, “three miles long and half a mile wide”, is inhabited by fewer than 100 people. Most of these are native Irish speakers.

Lloyd has “come to paint the cliffs”. He certainly thinks like a painter. Lines set as verse make us privy to his imagistic cast of mind: “He looked then at the sea / rolling to shore / to rocks / to land / rolling from / white-fringed blue […] self-portrait: preparing for the sea crossing”. Lloyd wants to paint birds, seascapes, light; to “create them / as they already are” – a nice definition of what an artist does.

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Feb 03, 2021

An American millennial discovers her boyfriend is a conspiracy theorist in this brilliant debut about online and IRL experience

Speaking at an event in 2016, Sally Rooney said: “I don’t know how I could possibly make literary the time I waste on Facebook. It’s possible that a really good writer could actually make that very interesting. But for me, the endless scroll […] it’s really difficult to elevate that to something beautiful.” We have been waiting for the novel that makes literary the endless scroll. With Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, we may have found it. It’s a brilliant comic novel about the ways in which the internet muddles all of our interior rivers while at the same time polluting the seas of the outer world, and about how these processes might be one and the same thing. Arriving in the same month as Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This, it might just help to usher in the Age of Actually Good Novels About the Internet – and not a moment too soon.

The narrator of Fake Accounts is female, millennial, Brooklyn-based, admitting to an “embarrassment of privileges”, avowedly “teetering […] on the border between likeable and loathsome”. She is very aware of her status as the narrator of a novel. Sections are called things like “Beginning” or “Middle (Something Happens)”. There is an imagined audience of ex-boyfriends. I’m making it sound cutesily postmodern, or emptily parodic, but it’s neither.

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