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Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney Hardcover – December 9, 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Starred Review. There is no shortage of writing by or about Nobel Prize–winning Irish poet Heaney. Yet this big book is a unique and useful addition to the Heaney canon: beginning in 2001, the Dublin-based poet, essayist and anthologist O'Driscoll entered into an extended correspondence with Heaney for the purpose of collaboratively constructing a kind of autobiography-in-interviews. The result is a collection of 16 discreet interviews, the first two of which discuss Heaney's childhood and poetic growth. Then there is one interview-chapter for each of Heaney's celebrated books (except the last two, which are grouped together), followed by a summing up. In conversation, Heaney comes across as extremely friendly, expansively intelligent and in possession of the groundedness in the details of his environment that readers of his poems will be familiar with. Here are boyhood recollections (Our travelling grocery van... was run first by a man called McCarney, but 'the egg man' was our name for him), memories of the famous Belfast Group and accounts of coming-of-age, and then coming to international prominence, against the backdrop of Ireland's troubled 20th-century politics. And, of course, Heaney traces the events—both political and personal—that led to many of his poems. For fans of Heaney, of 20th-century Irish literature or anyone eager to get deep into the mind of a major artist, this is an essential book. (Dec.)
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Praise for "Stepping Stones""" “This really is a remarkable book. There isn’t a dull, vapid or useless sentence in it; it’s about what it is to be human, as much as it is about what it is to be a poet.” ―Nicholas Lezard, "The Guardian"“["Stepping Stones"] is a Heaney word horde that will not be surpassed for some time . . . [It] will be seized on by students of the work as well as the common reader . . . [Heaney] is intensely present within these pages―still surprising, still defying ‘the merciless landscapes’ with generosity, courage and joy.” ―Bel Mooney, "The Times "(London)“[An] important book-length interview, designed to serve in lieu of a memoir . . . Dennis O’Driscoll [is] an excellent poet and critic, and a deeply informed and probing interviewer of his longtime friend.” ―Adam Kirsch, "The New Republic"“"Stepping Stones "succeeds on many levels, and O’Driscoll --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (December 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374269831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374269838
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,499,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Love Thy Enemy VINE VOICE on December 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We welcome the arrival of this thick (over five hundred pages) collection of interviews with Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney conducted over the past decade by Dublin civil servant, poet and essayist Dennis O'Driscoll, who describes his interviewing role thus: "My own role here is that of prompter rather than interrogator -the book was in no sense envisaged to be a 'tell all' account of Seamus Healey's life. ( . . .Yet)The only stipulation made at the outset by the poet was that he would not engage in detailed analytical discussion of individual poems. ( . . .)This book does not pretend to be an authorized 'reader's guide' to Seamus Healey's poems as reference points. It offers a biographical context for the poems and a poetry-based account of the life. It reviews the life by re-viewing it from the perspective of Heaney's late sixties: a life which has itself been monitored - sometimes almost as closely as his books have been reviewed - by critics and
journalists (Introduction, pp. xi, xii)."

With those caveats this massive work goes on to explore freely all of the above and more.

If you wish a profound, technical, thematic examination of the earlier works of Heaney (up to 1998 and The Spirit Level) you do very well to read carefully the much briefer (not 200 small pages) work of the great critic and professor Helen Vendler in Seamus Heaney.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I happened to be writing a paper on Seamus Heaney, the contemporary Irish poet, for my literary club. There is no official "biography" as such but this is better! It's a series of questions and answers put to Mr. Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll, a very talented writer in his own right. It is anything but dry, as so many biographies are. I really feel that I "know" Mr. Heaney now. Mr. O'Driscoll is a skilled interviewer and asks questions I never would have thought of. The book is fairly long and took several years to write but is so interesting that it's a fast read. I really really liked this book!
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Format: Hardcover
We welcome the arrival of this thick (over five hundred pages) collection of interviews with Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney conducted over the past decade by Dublin civil servant, poet and essayist Dennis O'Driscoll, who describes his interviewing role thus: "My own role here is that of prompter rather than interrogator -the book was in no sense envisaged to be a 'tell all' account of Seamus Healey's life. ( . . .Yet)The only stipulation made at the outset by the poet was that he would not engage in detailed analytical discussion of individual poems. ( . . .)This book does not pretend to be an authorized 'reader's guide' to Seamus Healey's poems as reference points. It offers a biographical context for the poems and a poetry-based account of the life. It reviews the life by re-viewing it from the perspective of Heaney's late sixties: a life which has itself been monitored - sometimes almost as closely as his books have been reviewed - by critics and journalists (Introduction, pp. xi, xii)."

With those caveats this massive work goes on to explore freely all of the above and more.

If you wish a profound, technical, thematic examination of the earlier works of Heaney (up to 1998 and The Spirit Level) you do very well to read carefully the much briefer (not 200 small pages) work of the great critic and professor Helen Vendler in Seamus Heaney.
Read more ›
Comment 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The world just lost one of its most thoughtful poets when Seamus Heaney died just a couple of weeks ago. I received this collection of his interviews with Dennis O'Driscoll about the same time, so reading it was especially poignant. I appreciated the depth of Heaney's answers to O'Driscoll's probing questions, all very literary and quite thorough. Because I am writing a paper on the poetry of the IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands, I wanted to compare his background and work to that of Ireland most famous literary son since W. B. Yeats. I found there was little to compare. Heaney's upbringing was largely protected and privileged, his path toward success directed early in his life via private schools and university education, meeting and befriending the intelligentsia of his day; his Nobel Laureate practically a shoe-in. Sands had no privileges, only obstacles, and though his poetry does not begin to measure up to Heaney's in form or depth, the conditions under which he was forced to write and the passion that fueled his cause made concrete through his pen puts anything Heaney did to shame. Heaney admits he could have taken up the cause for Ireland's freedom, as did Sands, but he preferred a life cloistered from chaos--and sacrifice. While Heaney's work will live on for its poetic perfection, perhaps, Sands dedication to freedom and peace in Northern Ireland will be the greater and more lasting contribution.
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