The Blog

Hanging out on Hydra with Leonard Cohen – Polly Samson’s ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’

By Bernard O'Keeffe

  I read ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’ in a couple of sittings, becoming so immersed in its sense of place and time that I almost forgot about the current state of the world. It may have helped that the novel is set in Hydra, a place to which I feel a strong emotional connection, and … Read more

Nick Hornby’s ‘State of The Union’ and The Guardian Crossword

By Bernard O'Keeffe

Having read Lucy Mangan’s five star review in The Guardian – https://bit.ly/2lDUV58  I went into my viewing of Nick Hornby’s State of the Union determined to follow her advice not to binge it all in one sitting. I failed. Ten ten-minute dramas. I wolfed the whole lot down. Short-form comedy, I’m sure, is not meant to … Read more

Q and A about ’10 Things To Do Before You Leave School’

By Bernard O'Keeffe

    Where did the idea for 10 Things To Do Before You Leave School come from? I’m fascinated by lists. We all make them – from shopping lists and mundane daily to-do lists to more ambitious ones to do with hopes and aspirations. One of the Lists people like to make is ‘The Bucket … Read more

London Made Us by Robert Elms

By Bernard O'Keeffe

        Like many others who listen to him each day on BBC Radio London (and those currently listening will appreciate what a fantastic job he’s doing), I feel I know Robert Elms well. In my case this sense of connection is strengthened  by the fact that we ‘re both the same age … Read more

What I don’t get about Sally Rooney’s Normal People

By Bernard O'Keeffe

On the second page of Sally Rooney’s universally acclaimed, Booker- longlisted novel is the following paragraph: ‘He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.’ What? I get the hand in the pockets bit, but … Read more

Review of Roddy Doyle’s Smile

By Bernard O'Keeffe

WARNING: contains spoilers As soon as you reach the end of Roddy Doyle’s extraordinary novel, ‘Smile’, you’re tempted to go back and read it straight through again to work out whether you should have anticipated the narrative trick  Doyle has just pulled and whether or not the whole thing actually works. I have done just … Read more

Frank’s Last Invigilation – a short story

By Bernard O'Keeffe

  Frank’s Last Invigilation    When anyone asked Frank whether he was counting the days to retirement he would answer not with a smile or a yes but with a number. No countdown had ever excited him more and each morning he gleefully crossed another day off the list he kept in his diary. It … Read more

Teaching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

By Bernard O'Keeffe

Given the revived interest in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (sales of the novel have increased dramatically since Trump’s election and a USA TV adaptation is to be screened by Channel 4 in the UK),  I found it interesting to look back at something I wrote in 1993 about  teaching it. An Approach To The … Read more

What I don’t get about Sex Education

By Bernard O'Keeffe

    The Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education is look-away explicit in its treatment of sex. In fact, before I acclimatised to its no-holds barred, let-it-all-hang-out approach  I spent many of the early episodes watching the screen through eye-shielding hands, tempted on occasions to hide behind the sofa as if I was a kid again hearing … Read more

Now I get it, Elena Ferrante

By Bernard O'Keeffe

Elena Ferrante, I apologise. Last summer I read the first of your Neapolitan Novels, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and I was underwhelmed. I wrote about it in a round-up of my summer reading. I am not usually worried by being out of sync with majority opinion but In your case something was nagging at me, so … Read more

Leonard Cohen. You Want It Darker.

By Bernard O'Keeffe

It is easy, and tempting, to see the eighty-two-year-old Leonard Cohen’s magnificent fourteenth album as a farewell. As is often the case with Cohen, though, it is not quite that simple. ‘You Want It Darker’ may seem to be the singer’s farewell to his life, his work, to us, but throughout the album the nature … Read more

‘A’ for Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell

By Bernard O'Keeffe

  Well, Ian, what can I say? You’ve done it again – out smarted your clever class-mates and dazzled your teacher with a real tour-de-force. Your classmates chose a more predictable approach. Many wrote as Gertrude (the closet scene being a particular favourite). Some opted for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, despite my warning that this had … Read more