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Thirsty Ghosts; Super-Infinite; The Late Night Writers Club

An intergenerational epic concerning two Irish families; a voyage around John Donne; and a debut graphic novel

Thirsty Ghosts by Emer Martin (Lilliput Press, €18)

In Martin’s intergenerational, polyvocal epic, stories are shared, not told. For the O Conaills and the Lyons, two Irish families whose lives weave like a Celtic knot, stories are a panacea to their discordant world of industrial schools, religious oppression and stolen liberties. They are shared as an explanation of the named and unnamed entities that haunt the characters from one generation to the next. Stories remind us not to forget. In this novel, Martin is revisiting characters and themes from her previous novel, The Cruelty Man, but both books can be read independently. This is a compelling novel, stark and shocking in language and form, steeped in folklore. Moments of tenderness are so rare, they land with a pang. And still, Martin’s wry humour and exquisite prose, attenuate the darker moments. ― Brigid O’Dea

Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell (Faber, £10.99)

At one time a religious outsider and social disaster, then a celebrity preacher and establishment darling, John Donne constantly reimagined and reinvented himself: “poet, lover, essayist, lawyer, pirate, recusant, preacher, satirist, politician, courtier, chaplain to the king, dean of the finest cathedral in London”. But there was a constant that ran through his life and work: his belief that humans “are at once a catastrophe and a miracle”. He’s most famous for his love poetry and erotic verse but was an extraordinarily versatile writer. Katherine Rundell captures this multifacetedness superbly in this eloquently written, insightful and imaginatively analytical biography. She considers Donne “the greatest writer of desire in the English language” and believes that in his writing he created something new: a “completed meshing of body and imagination”. ― Brian Maye

The Late Night Writers Club by Annie West (New Island Books, €22.95)

Illustrator Annie West’s debut graphic novel is rowdy and irreverent. Ironic, perhaps for a novel set in The National Library of Ireland’s Reading Room. In a literary “Night At The Museum”, a creatively-stumped author finds himself in the National Library after hours, when an array of deceased Irish literary greats return to life. What may seem like an ideal situation for a struggling aspiring author, becomes a dizzying mix of wisecracks, bluster, and vertiginous hubris. It turns out, writers may need to work on their listening skills. In a rich parody, replete with wordplay and intertextual reference, West may sometimes expect a little too much of her readers’ knowledge of the social histories of these prominent literary figures. Kudos, however, to the exceptional detail of her hand-drawn illustrations. ― Brigid O’Dea