Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

”Talk about books” again

On Wednesday I posted the twentieth issue of my Substack newsletter, Talk about books. Since it goes out every two weeks, that means the newsletter has now been running for 38 weeks. It certainly doesn’t feel to me like that long. I look back at certain issues and ask myself can it really be three or four (or six!) months since I wrote that? I think I’ve covered a reasonably wide range of topics, from drama of the early seventeenth and late sixteenth centuries, and William Empson’s criticism, to twenty-first century crime fiction and “the most important English language novel of the second half of the twentieth century”.

Below you’ll find links to the most recent seven issues. (I’ve previously posted similar lists of the first six and next seven.)

Your favourite author's ambivalence about justice
Most people, including your favourite author, are ambivalent about justice. The ambivalence results from the interaction of their reason, observation and experience of the world on the one hand and their instinctive “sense of justice” (an evolutionary adaptation) on the other.

Felicia C Sullivan, Follow Me into the Dark
Felicia C Sullivan’s 2017 novel, Follow Me into the Dark, is mainly about the damaging relationships between mothers and daughters. It features three generations of actually or potentially homicidal women in one family. But there are also abusive fathers and a serial killer.

Uncovering the hidden side of Margot
When Kristen Roupenian’s short story attracted an unprecedented amount of attention, the author was taken aback to find that so many people assumed it was autobiographical and not entirely fictional. Nearly four years later, a personal essay appeared, the author of which claimed that the story was indeed based on fact, but on the facts of her life, not Roupenian’s.

Middleton and Rowley, A Fair Quarrel
A collaboration between Thomas Middleton and William Rowley combining two (some would say three) comic plots. One concerns pregnancy following a secret betrothal (as in Measure for Measure); the other the curious, esoteric “morality” governing duelling.

Judicial misconduct
Scott Turow is one of the authors whose writing first alerted me to what I describe in the most recent issue (above) as an almost universal ambivalence about justice.

Globalization noir
Alan Glynn’s trilogy begins in Dublin, where a secretive property developer has a future taoiseach in his pocket, then opens out to reveal the international context for such corruption.

"To overreach the devil": William Empson partly rewrites Marlowe's Faustus
The third, and probably last, of my discussions of “Empson’s insightful errors”.

In the next few months, I intend to write about Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, Lisa Lutz’s and Laura Lippman’s fugitive women, some more Irish short stories, spy fiction (probably not including either Le Carré or Herron), Peter Abrahams’s damaged or circumscribed protagonists, and another look at either Ian McEwan or Tana French.

If these sound like the kinds of thing that might interest you, please think about subscribing. If you don’t want to receive the letter by email, RSS is available as an alternative. Happy reading.