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This review is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Hefty Thumps and Heavy Falls peter mccarey, Find an Angel and Pick a Fight (Molecular Press, 2013) £20.00

Peter McCarey’s book of linked essays, Find an Angel and Pick a Fight, may not deserve an epithet as stuffy as ‘magisterial’ – but he clearly has authority and range in regard to his topics, and his judgements, often enough, appear conclusive.

The tone and approach are engaging and should draw readers in: especially if the central focus on poetry, philosophy and the mysteries and methods of translation proves attractive already. The title conveys more on how the book delivers than what it contains, though that is not a big disadvantage. ‘Aspects of meaning’ covers it okay and, since the field of combat is a bit esoteric, when the milling starts you want to be paying close attention. Even if no claret is spilled – as the old bare-knuckle sluggers would have it – that doesn’t mean the action isn’t fast and furious. Chapter by chapter some hefty thumps are landed and some heavy falls dished out.

In this, Hamish Henderson liked to say (quoting Joyce): ‘Great blows are delights to the mind’ and, it follows, the better the footwork and balance the better they will land. The bill includes MacDiarmid and Shestov, Dante and Blok, Hume and Bakhtin and closer contemporaries like Turnbull, Morgan, Leonard, Prynne, Hill and Middleton, along with pugilistic pontificators like Richard Dawkins, and an assortment of welterweight philosophers used as sparring partners. There is little over-loading for effect, and no shortage of interest; but some decisions may unsettle the crowd.

The introduction ...

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