PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Next Issue Vahni Capildeo The Boisterous Weeping of Margery Kempe Paul Muldoon The Fly Sinead Morrissey Put Off That Mask Jane Yeh Three Poems Sarah Rothenberg Poetry and Music: Exile and Return
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review Blog
Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS ETHAN PAQUIN, The Makeshift (Stride Publications) £7.95

The irony about irony is that in contemporary society it is now so endemic that its essence, the gap between what is said and what is meant, has disappeared. Because it is now instantly detectable - Hemingway had his bullshit detector, we all have our irony sonar - irony is no longer really a literary device (most contemporary novels and stories are as sentimental as ever) but has become the preferred tool of literary advancement. For instance, David Eggers's title, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is so obviously `ironic' that it actually becomes a blatant advertisement of Eggers's intentions in executing his fitfully affecting memoir. Used this way, irony becomes the last, narcissistic gasp of the artistic tradition of the cool which extends back at least to the nineteenth century flâneur. Hipsters with a difference, the modern flâneur doesn't really want to go for a walk.

So one approaches Ethan Paquin's new book warily since its title, The Makeshift, seems to be an Irony Alert. Obviously, a writer as self-consciously skilled as Paquin knows that his poems are not `makeshift'. But Paquin takes himself out of the ordinary run of post post-modernist ironists by poetically working through an exploration of the verbal and intellectual resources available to us in a world whose transitions may be greater than we think. While self-reflexive irony provides protective cover for most writers and critics, justifying their narcissism, what Paquin wants to do is to get back to the task of ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image