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The Art of Life

2 Ratings: 2.5
A book by Paul Durcan

Paul Durcan leads us around the Irish countryside in his "filthy, two-door, bottle-green Opel Astra," stopping off at Westport and Achill Island, where he declares himself to be "globally sad," but "locally glad." Next he travels east … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Paul Durcan
Publisher: Random House UK
1 review about The Art of Life

A holding pattern, neither advancing nor retreating

  • Mar 24, 2005
At 60, Durcan settles into his niche, and he knows it. This collection works better in its brevity than "Cries of an Irish Caveman" and its focus upon aging, continuing that previous work's title poem, narrows the thrust of this new collection to decent effect. Decent, because there's not much to draw you in to Durcan's appeal if you have not earlier been convinced of it. Despite the Vermeer cover painting and the title, no poems about paintings this time round. Wrapped in a paper ribbon with a blurb from "The Lovely Bones" author Alice Sebold, its presentation seems designed to heighten the author's profile with an endorsment by a currently middlebrow popular novelist, but I don't think Durcan needs such help. Although he deserves attention, which does not seem to come his way in terms of his recent work as much as before. I would recommend this as acceptable fresh material to those familiar with the poet, but newcomers should start with the anthology "A Snail in his Prime."

I fear that Durcan has not found much to replace his earlier diatribes against Catholic, provincial, and busybody Ireland of earlier decades. As his society suburbanises, there's less room for sharp imagery, parody, singsong, or sheer joy, it appears from these pages. Foreign trips again provide some counterpart, but the Irish native peoplescape seems less fascinating for the poet's eye, ear, and pen than in his 1970/80s versifiying heyday.

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