Irish Lit & Times discussion

Favorite Irish Work

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message 1: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Michael (michael_harmon) | 13 comments Mod
An idea to spice up the lack of posting, I thought I would give a topic. Here, you can list and debate your favorite book by Irish or Irish-American.

Opinions? :)

message 2: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 6 comments Sure, I will jump in with three nominations, and a thesis for discussion.

1. The Collected Short Stories of Frank O' Connor.
2. The Heat of the Sun : short stories by Sean O' Faolain.
3. Ireland : short stories by William Trevor.

Thesis - the short story form brings out the best in Irish writers.

In support of my thesis, there is Joyce's "Dubliners". On the other hand, I found Colm Toibin's recent collection "Mothers and Sons" to be generally below the (excellent) level of his other work. Then there is Flann O' Brien, clearly one of the best writers ever to come out of Ireland, who never wrote a short story, that I am aware of.

I don't know whether it's possible to link to books from within a comment, but I have written a little more about why I like each of the three books listed above in their respective reviews in "My books".

message 3: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Ann M | 3 comments For memoirs, Nuala O'Faolain and Frank McCourt. Also, O'Faolain's novel, My Dream of You. And The Horse's Mouth, by Joyce Cary. The author is male, btw.

message 4: by Kay (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Kay The Old Boys by William Trevor is a wonderful book - sometimes I find his work too dry but this novel was like death by a thousand papercuts, and yet there is humour in it too.

message 5: by Anna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Anna | 2 comments Poetry: that's easy - Yeats. Anything. His mythologically /folklore inspired poems when you want to dream away. Love poems: nobody expresses it like Yeats.
My Perfect Man reads Yeats' mythological poems to me before I go to sleep, and his love poems to me just whenever. :)

Short story: I have to agree Joyce´s "Dubliners" is pretty fantastic!

My knowledge of Irish novelists pretty limited. I so look forward to my "to-read" list growing!

message 6: by G.c. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

G.c. | 2 comments I liked How The Irish Saved Civilization (don't remember the author). Pader O'Donnell's The Islanders was interesting.

message 7: by Anna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Anna | 2 comments I completely forgot!
Favorite satirist (is that even a word?): Jonathan Swift: "A Modest Proposal". It simultaneously makes me gag and laugh my head off.

message 8: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new)

Rosemary I just finished listening to Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization (unabridged CD) on my long commutes--it was marvelous. Then just after, I read Jack Holland's Misogyny: the World's Oldest Prejudice, which covers some of the same ancient ground in the early chapters, with the focus on the lot of women.

Anna, you are right about gagging and laughing over "A Modest Proposal". And I share your love of Yeats. "The Cap and Bells"--nobody does it better.

message 9: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) Nuala O'Faolain's 'Are You Somebody?'

It's a fascinating memoir.

Jonathan Swift is a perennial favorite, along with any other malcontent.

I also like Seamus Heaney.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

The motherf***ing O'Brien classic _The Poor Mouth_.Takes the piss out of Irish stereotypes and takes the piss out of the Irish.

message 11: by Peter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Peter | 8 comments I love to read "The Wanderings of Oisin" to my wife. It usually takes about two weeks to complete (she falls asleep quickly).

message 12: by Peter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Peter | 8 comments Random comments to all of the above: yes, nobody writes short stories like the Irish.

McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" is art at its best; his two sequels are astonishingly disappointing. I read Angela's Ashes to my father over and over again in the years before he died. It brings tears to my eyes even to look at it on my shelf.

Cahill's "How the Irish..." is really kind of light stuff, and not all that accurate, historically. My own book is somewhat sturdier and far more accurate, although the themes are merely related and not identical.

How about Behan? "Borstal Boy" is a classic, simulataneously heart-breaking and riotously funny.

Becket, I think, was the greatest writer to come out of Ireland in the twentieth century (excepting the poetry of Yeats).

And has ANYONE actually finished "Finnegans Wake?" I've started it over seventeen times in the last thirty years...

Heaney's "Beowulf" is incredible. I never knew Beowulf was Irish...

message 13: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:02PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 6 comments I have an instinctive dislike of books with titles like "How the Irish saved Civilization" - the very nature of the title indicates a filter so strong that it precludes any kind of serious scholarship. There is another execrable addition to the genre, published just recently, called "How the Irish Invented Slang", in which the author engages in gross over-interpretation of what are essentially random coincidences to reach completely unsupportable conclusions.

I have to disagree with Peter about the merits of "Angela's Ashes", but since I've voiced my objections to that book elsewhere on goodreads I won't trot them out again here.

Nuala o' Faolain's memoir, in contrast, rings true, as does that of Edna O' Brien. I am also reminded of a book by Rosemary Mahoney, "Whoredom in Kimmage", which was published in the early to mid 1990's, and was a readable and insightful account of a year that she spent in Ireland.

As Brendan said, Flann O' Brien's "The Poor Mouth" is hilarious, as is "The Third Policeman".

Contemporary Irish authors I like include Colm Toibin and Roddy Doyle. William Trevor is still going strong. I also recently came across a writer/poet called Ciaran Carson - based on his translation of "The Inferno", I am curious to read more of his work.

And I have to confess to a residual soft spot for Maeve Binchy, whose regular Irish Times columns were a mainstay while I was in college.

Finally, there is Oscar. Richard Ellmann's biography of Wilde is excellent, are as all of his writings on Joyce that I've read.

Peter: I no longer even try - Finnegans Wake is unreadable.

message 14: by Katrinka (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Katrinka | 5 comments I finished Finnegans Wake a few years ago-- and the kicker is that the key to everything lies in the last three pages. After over 600 pp. or so of what felt like a big drug-induced trip it all came together in one of the most struggled-for "a-ha!"'s I know of.

message 15: by Katrinka (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Katrinka | 5 comments Also-- John McGahern's "The Dark" is sheer brilliance, and I do love "Ulysses."

message 16: by Peter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Peter | 8 comments Katrinka--

Would you mind explaining it to me?

message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 30, 2007 02:31PM) (new)

There is no a-ha moment of _Finnegan's Wake_. It's rumored that Joyce wrote a slightly more straight-forward work then substituted words that sounded alike to make the whole thing more opaque.

It's the bliss of a dream sequence, of epic power mixed in with gritty dirt and blood of everyday life.

It's monumentally unreadable and wonderfully readable. And when it ends, oh, the cycle, the circle. I cried.

message 18: by Katrinka (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Katrinka | 5 comments But you must admit-- just before it all ends, the sudden clarity is striking.

message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 30, 2007 02:48PM) (new)

Yes, I definitely had a sense of closure, uneasiness, lines of dialogue and narrative and nonsense winding together only to be yanked apart as the book turns over.

I retract my anti-"aha" statement.

message 20: by Peter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Peter | 8 comments (~~sigh~~)

Well, I guess I'll have to go back to it's definitely on my "things to do before I die" list...

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I would have NEVER read it without a graduate class of brilliant, creative, and Irish-loving students around me.

message 22: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) I've not attempted Finnegan's Wake, but maybe I will someday. Ulysses was enough Joyce for me, for a while. :)

Oh yeah, and I am checking the Flann O'Brien books mentioned below by David out of the library.

message 23: by Joseph (new)

Joseph I agree, Katrinka -- "The Dark" was amazing. I had read "By The Lake" before that, and found it just as good. (Although not as disturbing.) I have "The Pornographer" and "The Barracks" on deck, and I'm looking forward to them.

message 24: by Katrinka (new)

Katrinka | 5 comments I'll have to try those; I didn't enjoy "Amongst Women" nearly as much as "The Dark," but the latter was so good, I'm still eager to read other McGahern works.

message 25: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I think any answer that is a work by James Joyce is a cop out answer here. They tower above and cast a shadow over every other Irish writer. That's likely why there haven't been many that famous since him.

I mean, that said, I'm still going to pick the other giant and say Yeats' poetry. I've read some collections of Irish short stories that were good overall, but no author really stood out for me singally.

message 26: by Joseph (new)

Joseph (Judging by the rest of the paragraph, I think you meant to say "...any answer that is NOT a work by James Joyce..."?)
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘cop out’ (as in, deep down, we all know Joyce is the king but we just felt like posting contrarian thoughts?) but it’s not right to disparage other people’s tastes and opinions.
You mentioned Joyce’s fame, and I can’t help but wonder if you were predisposed to already liking a book that probably had the word ‘classic’ somewhere on its cover. One of my favorite news stories of the last year is a guy who sent the text of some of Jane Austen’s works to publishers, re-titled and re-credited as his own manuscript.
Only one editor called him on the malarkey. The rest sent him the standard form of, “Sorry, this isn’t quite what we’re looking for…”
For my tastes, I'd like to consider myself right in the middle of the bestseller reading populists and the Greenwich Village lit snobs. (Sorry, but you seem like the latter.) If all one reads is Rowling and Patterson, then he probably needs to challenge himself a little more. But any time one person connects with another with just printed words on a page, it’s a great thing. Or at least better than watching television.

message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 24, 2008 07:17PM) (new)

Jane Austen is outdated. What modern publisher wouldn't turn her down? Who writes like Austen anymore?

What a silly argument.

And don't knock TV. The best TV of the history of TV has come along in the past 10 years.

message 28: by Korie (new)

Korie Brown (drbrown) | 2 comments We're talking about Joyce and no one mentions Ulysses? A monumental work, which completely bowled me over in college. I think my final paper on Ulysses was the reason I graduated with honors, and it's totally due to the book: for a month, I ate, drank, and slept Ulysses. Yes... oh yes....

While I love every name up here, there are a few that are missing. What about Synge and O'Casey? Or Lady Gregory and the rest of the Abbey Theatre crowd? And what about Oscar Wilde (I would gladly read his checkbook if that was all that was available!)? and Becket? A complete and utter genius.

When last in Ireland, I was able to see a production of A Cry from Heaven by Vincent Woods. Completely captivating. If you get a chance to see it, do. But leave your children at home -- not "traditional family values"...

message 29: by Emma (new)

Emma (emghor) | 2 comments I am new to this group and new to Irish Literature. I feel my 'read' list definately lacks the Irish influence. I would really appreciate any advice on where to start. Thanks.

message 30: by TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (last edited Jun 10, 2010 08:11AM) (new)

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3 comments Absolutely William Trevor. He lived in England, but he's "Irish to the core." Was born in Ireland and grew up there. Try Two Lives, The Hill Bachelors, After Rain, Felicia's Journey. With William Trevor, one can never make a wrong choice. He's never written a bad sentence.

Joyce's Ulysses is my "desert island" book, I think. Either that or Dante's Divine Comedy, but that's a different country.

message 31: by Emma (new)

Emma (emghor) | 2 comments I will definately try these. Thanks very much. If there are any others that spring to mind, don't hesitate to message me.

message 32: by Bill Keefe (new)

Bill Keefe | 2 comments Don't die without reading, "May They Face the Rising Sun," by John McGahern. I have not read a better book...Irish or otherwise.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3 comments I always think about reading that, but then don't. I'll have to give in to the impulse the next time.

message 34: by Bill Keefe (new)

Bill Keefe | 2 comments I held the book for eight years, eight years! I mean the author came and went before I read the book. But when I finally got past page 35, I didn't stop and want to go back to the place - the world - he made for me (us) over and over again.

McGahern never won a Nobel for literature but if there had been a Nobel for "human transport" he would have won it on the strength of this work alone.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3 comments Bill wrote: "I held the book for eight years, eight years! I mean the author came and went before I read the book. But when I finally got past page 35, I didn't stop and want to go back to the place - the world..."

I'm really glad to hear that. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

message 36: by Mike (new)

Mike | 4 comments Katrinka wrote: "Also-- John McGahern's "The Dark" is sheer brilliance, and I do love "Ulysses.""

"Ulysses" is a great book, although, of course, it does take a lot of work to wrap your head around the style. It explores so many complex ideas, though, that you can always find something interesting in it.

message 37: by Mike (new)

Mike | 4 comments I don't know if I can call it personal favorite (there are some I haven't read yet that I might like better), but one I've really enjoyed reading is Robert McLiam-Wilson's "Eureka Street". It covers the entire spectrum of cynical to optimistic and it is absolutely hilarious.

message 38: by Denis (new)

Denis Hearn | 14 comments Writing with a difficult subject.Claddagh Pool

message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael (micky74007) I really enjoyed her Irish century series
Morgan Llywelyn
1916, 1921, 1919, 1972 and 1999

message 40: by Kate (new)

Kate Cudahy (katecudahy) | 1 comments I always have this feeling that Maria Edgeworth is an all too overlooked writer - witty, erudite and perceptive, she had a profound influence on Walter Scott, and later on the Brontes. She was also I believe one of the most popular female novelists of her times before Jane Austen came along - and Austen cited her among her favourite writers. Edgeworth's use of an external narrator in Castle Rackrent was later picked up by Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights. Edgeworth also co-wrote with her father "An essay on Irish bulls" which is an attempt to explode the stereotype of the 'stage Irishman.' I really think it's a shame that she's now very much in the shadow of her contemporaries.

message 41: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey McAfee (saintkelseythegreat) | 1 comments The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats! Love it immensely!

message 42: by Rashers (new)

Rashers Tierney | 5 comments Maeve Brennan's novella "The Visitor"s skillfully captures the dark side of Irish nature--stubbornness and refusal to give in, even if you're the one who suffers most...

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