Saturday, January 6, 2024

Welcome to Desert Island Books, a weekly series in which I discuss with writers, writers and journalists the eight books that would take you to a desert island and why.

This week my guest is Seán Hewitt, a book critic at The Irish Times and teaches modern British and Irish literature at Trinity College Dublin. In 2020, he was selected by the Sunday Times as one of their “30 Under 30” artists in Ireland, and his first poetry collection Tongues of Fire won the Laurel Prize in 2021, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Award, the John Pollard Foundation International poetry Prize and a Dalkey Literary Award.

If you would like to purchase Sean’s collection of poems or his memoir All Down Darkness Wide, please consider doing so Bookshop.org -an online bookstore platform specially designed for independent bookstores. You can follow Seán on Instagram here.

Kate O’Brien’s Anteroom

Kate O’Brien is one of Ireland’s massively underrated writers-a queer woman from Limerick who has written impassioned and beautifully crafted novels. This, my favorite novel by her, takes place over three nights in a house where the Matriarch Pass away. During these nights, a nurse falls in love with a brother suffering from Syphilis, a sister falls in love with her sister’s husband, and the limits of who can love and what society allows lovers are explored with brilliant and intense Empathy.

The Golden Branch of James Frazer

In this monumental work, Frazer brings together the different mythologies and folk cultures of the world and tries to understand them. It’s compact and confusing. A book full of problems (disturbing meta-narratives about race, the “primitive”, “civilized” West), but also full of fascinating beliefs, including tree worship, fire festivals, Animism and the various gods of world religion.

Collected Poems by W. B. Yeats

It is difficult to choose a modern poet, but for the range of his voice, the movement of folk ballads and songs with intensely edited modernist lyrics, Yeats is (for me) unprecedented. I find it awesome and captivating. Try “sailing to Byzantium” or “the song of Aengus Wandering.”

The god of small things by Arundhati Roy
Probably the first modern Novel I fell in love with – I had no idea that a Novel could break my heart OR be written in such a unique, original and insightful way. Poetic, experimental and, at its core, The story of a family and a forbidden love. From the first page, you know that you are in the hands of a master.

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