Gill and Mc Millan £19.99

David Marcus is one of the crucial figures in the development of 20th Century Irish literature. His autobiography, intriguingly called 'Oughtobiography', is a collection of insights and anecdotes into the two aspects of his character that have informed his life. The first is his experience growing up as an Irish Jew; the second is his writing, the love of which is evident from both the carefully crafted prose and his passion, which leaps off the pages.

Marcus' story of a boyhood in Cork is told with wit and insight, two tools which are becoming an increasing rarity in autobiographies. At one point he tells of his fear, after Kristallnacht, of German jackboots pounding the streets of Cork. Marcus manages to capture a child's sense of wonder at the world, while retaining the hindsight of an older, wiser man.

Marcus treats the reader to a view through the looking glass, at a life lived in the company of the great Irish writers of the 20th Century. Even when he clashes with them, as with George Bernard Shaw, the insight into both him and them is fascinating. Marcus' book could have turned into a simple but still entertaining account of meetings with these greats; the fact that it does not is a tribute to his focus and recognition that an autobiography is more than a series of anecdotes.

This is a truly great autobiography and puts to shame the celebrity driven, ghost written, drivel that is clogging up the shelves. Marcus' book reflects his life; it is at turns funny, sad, remarkable and mundane. 'Oughtobiography' is a shining example of how a well-lived life can be rendered into a well-written book.

John Raferty