The Alexandria Quartet: Reflections In Broken Mirrors

by Thomas O’Dwyer The Nobel Prize season is almost upon us and writers who cover the events are poised as usual to see if the awards ride in on any juicy scandals. In particular, we’re watching you, Peace and Literature. This pandemic year’s winners will have no glitter to adorn their prizes, no lavish dinners,…

Death The Leveller

by Thomas O’Dwyer A book subtitled A Novel of the Plague might appear opportunistic at this time. But in Maggie O’Farrell’s new and much-praised Hamnet, the only opportunity the author seems to be taking advantage of is our ignorance of the life of William Shakespeare. “Miraculous,” The Guardian wrote, “a beautiful imagination of the short…

Reality Has Left The Building

by Thomas O’Dwyer Our world (made of atoms) is crammed with paradoxes. Particles act like waves, waves like particles And your cat can be dead and alive at the same time. Just step through your looking glass and welcome to the quantum world. “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you haven’t understood quantum mechanics,” the…

Coffee At Eleven

by Thomas O’Dwyer After suffering the injury of pandemic isolation for most of the year, the pride of Dublin city had insult added in May when a national treasure, Bewley’s Café, announced that its doors would be closed not just for the lockdown, but forever. Public outrage rippled out of the city and across the…

Dystopians In High Castles

by Thomas O’Dwyer It could have been that simple — the Nazis nuke Washington D.C. and it’s all over. Capitulation follows, resistance is futile. There are plenty of right-wingers in high places — political, military, even cultural, who see this not as a conquest but an opportunity. French Marshal Philippe Pétain and Norway’s Vidkun Quisling…

‘Joyce Usurped My Splendid Name Of Bloom’

by Thomas O’Dwyer The outpouring of words after the passing of literary critic Harold Bloom on October 14th was astonishing. Who knew that an 89-year-old American academic who still muttered about things like great literary canons and dead white male Victorian-era poets could cause such a ripple in self-absorbed 21st-century space-time? However, the eulogies, obituaries,…

Not so fast, Johnny Bravo

by Thomas O’Dwyer Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro fired the head of the agency which monitors Amazon deforestation. “Fired” is an unfortunate word here – flames sweep across the country and down into Bolivia. Scientists and environmentalists have been alarmed by how quickly their predictions, that Bolsonaro’s aggressive anti-conservation agenda would boost deforestation, have come to…

We Have To Talk

by Thomas O’Dwyer Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not so much a book of fantastic adventures as a book of conversations (and pictures). It’s right there, in the first paragraph: “What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?” Lewis Carroll and his illustrator John Tenniel delivered just that, a magical…

The Siren Call Of The Castaway

by Thomas O’Dwyer The enigma of the castaway existed long before Robinson Crusoe was published 300 years ago in April 1719, but nothing had ever enthralled the growing reading public of his time like Daniel Defoe’s now classic novel. And, thanks to Defoe, the curse of the desert-island cartoon remains with us – a circular…