Another take on 'Long Time, No See'

 

Madam, – It is, or should be, a rule among writers, and their friends, not to respond publicly to book reviews, favourable or otherwise. While perhaps it should also be a rule that reviewers, or their friends, should not respond to responses, I feel compelled to protest at Eugene McCabe’s intemperate attack on Eileen Battersby (March 28th) for her review of Dermot Healy’s novel Long Time, No See (Weekend Review, March 26th). I have no opinion to offer on the novel, but I have read, and reread, Ms Battersby’s piece and consider it to be, in tone and content, a carefully pondered and judicious notice. Despite the reservations voiced by Ms Battersby, she pays the novelist the compliment of taking his work seriously, a rare thing, these days, as Mr McCabe, himself a novelist, must know very well.

A critic who has spent her working life insisting on the central importance of fiction for civilised values does not deserve such an ad hominem and scatological assault as Mr McCabe has mounted. – Yours, etc,

JOHN BANVILLE,

Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin 1.

Madam, – Eugene McCabe writes that he has used Eileen Battersby’s ghost story in a workshop as an example of how to avoid writing “Shite and onions” (March 29th).

As Ms Battersby recovers from the severe manbagging at the hands of Mr McCabe, she may take some comfort from the fact that the words “Shite and onions!” come from James Joyce’s wonderful and angry poem Gas From a Burner(1912). The poem contains the immortal lines: “ ‘Twas Irish humour, wet and dry, Flung quicklime into Parnell’s eye”. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK O’BYRNE,

Shandon Crescent,

Phibsborough, Dublin 7.