I’ve always held a slight fascination for writers’ reviews of other writers – the thoughts of a critic might be easily (or perhaps more accurately, more easily) dismissed but those of a fellow writer, especially one you might admire, must be almost impossible to ignore.
This, I imagine, is especially true if you’re not yet on an established footing. The John Banville excoriation of Ian McEwan a few years back, when he described McEwan’s Saturday as “a dismayingly bad book”, springs to mind, but the fact of the matter was that Banville and McEwan – one a Booker Prize winner, the other on his way to the same award a few months after writing that review – were already on solid ground as novelists of renown. While a different hue of light may have shone on them as a result, their reputations were unlikely to suffer catastrophically.
It’s a different story when you’re waiting for the big breakthrough, when a positive or a negative review from a respected contemporary might have make-or-break possibilities for an entire career.
Corbett, then, could be forgiven if he heaved a sigh of relief this morning; Barry’s review of the book – about a Traveller called Anthony Sonaghan told in first person idiosyncratic local dialect – is, on the whole, a positive one.
A sly and lovely humour dominates … The streets of contemporary Dublin, somehow both drab and gaudy, are sketched with great relish and skill … This is memorable work from a gifted writer whose next moves we should await with very keen interest
This Is The Way is published by 4th Estate