Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton. His writings on Brexit have won both the European Press Prize and the Orwell Prize for journalism. (September 2017)

Follow Fintan O’Toole on Twitter: @fotoole.

IN THE REVIEW

Brexit’s Irish Question

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a summit of the EU, Brussels, June 2017
The Irish Question rises yet again, looming on the road to Brexit like the Sphinx on the road to Thebes. It threatens to devour those who cannot solve its great riddle: How do you impose an EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the complex compromises that have ended a thirty-year conflict? The “people” part of the preliminary Brexit negotiations concerns the mutual recognition of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa. The “money” part concerns Britain’s outstanding obligations to the EU budget and the calculation of the final divorce bill. Both are awkward and politically divisive issues, but it should be perfectly possible to reach a settlement.

The Male Impersonator

Ernest Hemingway on his first safari in Africa, 1933–1934

Ernest Hemingway: A Biography

by Mary V. Dearborn

Ernest Hemingway: A New Life

by James M. Hutchisson
Hemingway had imaginative access to two things he hid behind his outlandish public image—a complex sexuality and a deep trauma. Since the publication in 1986 of the unfinished novel The Garden of Eden, which he had worked on fitfully from 1945 until 1961, it has been obvious that he was drawn to the excitement of crossing sexual boundaries. The he-man was at least in part imaginatively a she-man. It was already clear that Hemingway was drawn to the erotic potential of androgyny.

Our Worst Great Playwright

Eugene O’Neill and Carlotta Monterey, his third wife, before they married, at Cap d’Ail, France, 1929

By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O’Neill

by Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb
Of all the great playwrights, Eugene O’Neill is undoubtedly the worst. At times, even late in his career, he produced work so gauche that without his name on the playbill, one might ascribe it to an overwrought adolescent. In 1936, O’Neill won the Nobel Prize. Just two years earlier, he …

Robert B. Silvers (1929–2017)

Robert B. Silvers in his office at The New York Review of Books, early 1980s
From its first issue in 1963, Robert Silvers was either co-editor with Barbara Epstein or, after her death in 2006, editor of The New York Review. Bob worked almost to the very end of his life, which would be no surprise to those who knew him well, including those who have written these brief memoirs.

A World More Glowing Than We Will Ever Know

Anne-Louis Girodet: Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes, circa 1800

Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth

by Mark Williams
In 1811, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was commissioned to paint an image for the ceiling of Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom at the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome. The former papal palace was being prepared for the French emperor’s visit to the city to assume the title King of Rome and make himself the …

Glenda Jackson’s Great Lear

Glenda Jackson as Lear and Morfydd Clark as Cordelia in the Old Vic’s production of King Lear

King Lear

by William Shakespeare, directed by Deborah Warner
In 1980, when the actress Glenda Jackson was at the height of her fame, the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar published his story “We Love Glenda So Much.” It is narrated by a member of a cult devoted to the adoration of Glenda Jackson. At first, they meet in cafés after …

Beckett Plays Beckett

Samuel Beckett, Paris, 1964; photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. IV: 1966–1989

edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck
What did the elderly Samuel Beckett think about in the dark of night when he could not sleep? The hollowness of human existence? The inevitable failure of all expression? In fact, he played in his mind the first five holes of Carrickmines golf course overlooking Dublin Bay and facing the …

NYR DAILY

Britain: The End of a Fantasy

British Prime Minister Theresa May on her way to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen's permission to form a minority government, London, June 9, 2017

Brexit is an elite project dressed up in rough attire. Because Theresa May doesn’t actually believe in Brexit, she’s improvising a way forward very roughly sketched out by other people. In Britain’s recent election, May’s phony populism came up against the Labour party’s more genuine brand of anti-establishment radicalism that convinced the young and the marginalized that they had something to come out and vote for.

NYR CALENDAR