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The Written World

Essays & Reviews

By: Kevin Power

Publication Date: 12 May 2022

15.00

The Written World by Kevin Power

Art honours the world, and criticism honours art, even – perhaps especially – when the critic sets out to destroy. The bad review is hardly ever written out of mere spite. In most cases, the motivation is disappointed idealism. Critics are people who love art and who hate to see it traduced. Hence the critic’s sempiternal cry: You’re doing it wrong. What the critic wants is for you to do it better.

Since 2008, acclaimed novelist Kevin Power has reviewed almost three hundred and fifty books. Power declares, ‘Even now, cracking open a brand-new hardback with my pencil in my hand, I feel the same pleasure, and the same hope. That’s the great secret: every critic is an optimist at heart.’

Art that thinks and feels at the same time – ‘good art’ – requires explication. The writing of criticism in response to such art is an activity that has taken place since Aristotle first sat down to figure out what made tragedy work. It is in the pursuit of this question – what makes good art ‘good’ – that Kevin Power found his vocation. During a ten-year stint as a regular freelance reviewer for the Sunday Business Post, Power fell in love with the writing of criticism, and with the reading of it, too, particularly by talented novelists who review books on the side. His conclusion is that criticism is absolutely an art. But it is never more so than when practiced by an actual artist.

These pieces, ranging from reviews of Susan Sontag to the meaning of Greta Thunberg, apocalyptic politics, and literary theory, represent a decade’s worth of thinking about books; a record of the author’s attempts to honour art, and through art, the world. In The Written World, Power explains how he became a critic and what he thinks criticism is. It begins and ends with a long personal essays, ‘The Lost Decade’,  written especially for this collection, about his mental and writing block after publishing Bad Day in Blackrock and his decade-long journey to White City. The pieces gathered by Power are connected by a theme – this is a book about writing, seen from various positions, and about growth as an artist and a critic.

‘Power sets out to slay giants, and these incisive essays represent a ballsy foray into cultural politics. Provocative and engaging, The Written World provides a sharp, inventive assessment of what contemporary literary tastes reveal about us.’Dr Selina Guinness, Lecturer in Irish Literature, Department of Humanities, IADT, and author of The Crocodile by the Door

‘Utterly engrossing, The Written World is a masterful testament to an apprenticeship hard-won and served with great humour, insight and humanity. You will come away from it feeling brighter, wiser and – unbelievably – kinder towards the world and our strange imagined place in it.’ – Mia Gallagher, author of Shift, Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland, and HellFire

‘This was a pleasure to read. It put me in the presence of someone thinking interesting thoughts about interesting things and provoked me to do some thinking of my own. Power really explores ideas. These essays are basically the opposite of hot takes.’ – Patrick Freyne, Irish Times writer and author of OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea

‘The elegant and intelligent essays in The Written World will appeal to anyone with an interest in literary criticism.’ – Nicole Flattery, author of Show Them a Good Time

‘Thoughtful, incisive, fearless and witty, The Written World offers the casual reader Power’s clear-eyed reappraisal of some of the biggest and most untouchable literary reputations.’ – Ed O’Loughlin, author of The Last Good Funeral of the Year and This Eden

PRAISE FOR THE WRITTEN WORLD

‘Every essay here is a pleasure to read …  The light touch with which Power deploys his wide and deep reading is illustrated by his extensive quotation, from the Roman dramatist Terence to Hannibal Lecter. It is a masterclass in and of itself …  his book is metropolitan and cosmopolitan in word and spirit, enlightening and amusing, and across its pages art is happening too.’ Tom Hennigan, Dublin Review of Books

‘Kevin Power, best known for his acclaimed debut novel, Bad Day in Blackrock (2008), is not only an excellent fiction writer, but also a remarkably perceptive literary critic and essayist … The Written World is a testament to Power’s well-deserved status as one of Ireland’s most reliably engaging writers. Oh, and did I mention he’s often hilarious, too?’ Luke Warde, Totally Dublin

‘In this smart and funny collection of essays and reviews, Kevin Power doles out praise but isn’t afraid to put the boot in … It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read either of his novels to hear that Power the critic embodies all these qualities — intelligence, good taste, humour and common sense — and that The Written World is criticism worth reading, for enjoyment above any other consideration.’ Pat Carty, Irish Independent

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Irish writer and academic Kevin Power is a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. His writing appears regularly in The Sunday Business Post’s book review section. His novel Bad Day in Blackrock was published by The Lilliput Press in 2008, and was later adapted to a film by Lenny Abahamson, entitled What Richard Did (2012), which picked up five awards at the Irish Film and Television Awards. In 2009, Power received the highly coveted Hennessy XO Emerging Fiction Award and was also shortlisted for RTÉ’s Francis MacManus short story award in 2007. He was the winner of the 2009 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. In 2021, Power released White City, his much-anticipated second novel, to wide acclaim. Read more here.

Quantity

5 reviews for The Written World

  1. Lilliput Press

    The elegant and intelligent essays in The Written World will appeal to anyone with an interest in literary criticism.

    – Nicole Flattery, author of Show Them A Good Time

  2. Lilliput Press

    Thoughtful, incisive, fearless and witty, The Written World offers the casual reader Power’s clear-eyed reappraisal of some of the biggest and most untouchable literary reputations.

    – Ed O’Loughlin, author of The Last Good Funeral of the Year and This Eden

  3. Lilliput Press

    This was a pleasure to read. It put me in the presence of someone thinking interesting thoughts about interesting things and provoked me to do some thinking of my own. Power really explores ideas. These essays are basically the opposite of hot takes. 

    – Patrick Freyne, author of OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea

  4. Lilliput Press

    Power sets out to slay giants, and these incisive essays represent a ballsy foray into cultural politics. Provocative and engaging, The Written World provides a sharp, inventive assessment of what contemporary literary tastes reveal about us.

    – Dr Selina Guinness, Lecturer in Irish Literature, Department of Humanities, IADT. Author of The Crocodile by the Door.

  5. Lilliput Press

    Utterly engrossing, The Written World is a masterful testament to an apprenticeship hard-won and served with great humour, insight and humanity. You will come away from it feeling brighter, wiser and – unbelievably – kinder towards the world and our strange imagined place in it.

    – Mia Gallagher, author of Shift

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ISBN
9781843518327
Weight 0.24 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

12 May 2022

Format

Paperback with flaps, 256pp.

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