You Too (U2) Can Enjoy Irish Literature!

On June 28, I and perhaps 60,000 other people saw a great U2 concert in New Jersey. The world-famous rock band is of course from Ireland, so I naturally thought of writing a blog post about Irish or Irish-born authors.  🙂 That means if you ever said “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and what you were looking for was a piece about Irish literature, look no more.  🙂

Is there some underlying theme or “feel” to Irish literature? I’m not expert enough to say, so I thought I’d just discuss some of the fictional works I’ve read with an authorial connection to Ireland.

When one thinks of Irish literature, James Joyce is often the first writer who comes to mind. I haven’t read a lot of Joyce’s work; for instance, I’ve yet to tackle Ulysses or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But I did read the Dubliners collection that ends with the iconic short story “The Dead.” That haunting, almost-novella-length tale features a woman who hears a song that triggers a melancholy memory of her youth — and also triggers a sort of stunned reaction from her husband.

Another legendary Irish writer (some think of him as English) is Oscar Wilde — who’s known for short stories such as the hilarious “The Canterville Ghost” and the striking novel The Picture of Dorian Gray but is most remembered for his witty plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest.

Speaking of theater, other notable Irish or Irish-born playwrights have included George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, and Oliver Goldsmith.

Going back even further in the 18th-century than Goldsmith, we have Jonathan Swift — author of the amazing novel Gulliver’s Travels.

Speaking of amazing novelists, Dracula writer Bram Stoker was Irish. Which reminds me that the title of U2’s song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” omits six days of vampire feasting each week…

C.S. Lewis of The Chronicles of Narnia fame was born in Ireland, too. As was Brian O’Nolan (pen name: Flann O’Brien), who, in the James Joyce tradition, wrote extremely enigmatic novels such as The Third Policeman.

A more straightforward wordsmith is Colm Toibin, who has perfected a blend of literary and popular fiction with such novels as The Master (about Henry James) and Brooklyn (about a young Irish woman who comes to America — and which was turned into a 2015 major motion picture of the same name).

Then there’s John Banville, who, under the pen name Benjamin Black, has written absorbing crime novels starring Dublin pathologist Quirke. Some of that fiction has a very jaded view of the corruption and child abuse of which some Catholic Church leaders have been guilty.

Among other past and present Irish or Irish-born writers of note: Brendan Behan, Maeve Binchy, Elizabeth Bowen, Clare Boylan, Maeve Brennan, Frank Delaney, Roddy Doyle, Maria Edgeworth, Anne Enright, Molly Keane, Claire Keegan, Marian Keyes, Brian Moore, Iris Murdoch, Edna O’Brien, Frank O’Connor, and William Trevor.

I can’t end this blog post without noting that there have of course been great Irish or Irish-born poets (such as William Butler Yeats) and nonfiction writers (such as Frank McCourt of Angela’s Ashes fame). Also, the father of literary icons Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Bronte was born in Ireland as Patrick Brunty.

Who/what are your favorite Irish authors and fictional works?

Here’s a song performed at the U2 concert I attended. Nope, not “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” but “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

I’ll be away much of this week — with less time (and perhaps less WiFi access) to quickly reply to comments. But I’ll answer when I can!

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be bought here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece is here.

93 thoughts on “You Too (U2) Can Enjoy Irish Literature!

    • Thank you, Andrea!

      I also didn’t know Stoker was Irish until researching this blog post. 🙂

      “The Dead” and “Dracula” are definitely well worth reading! (I actually read “The Dead” online before reading Joyce’s “Dubliners” collection in print.)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Irish have contributed much to literature!

    I have James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ but I have never red them. Will try now.

    W. B. Yeats’ ‘Second Coming’ is one of my favourite English poems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, Zezi!

      I haven’t read “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” but did read “Dracula” and was impressed. Quite different than the subsequent movie versions.

      And that IS a great Yeats poem.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave my experience with Dublin, Ireland is the friendliest city in the World,
    Yes, there was Oscar Wilde we have discussed many times before, with his statue on a hill top in the prominent part of town.
    Then writer Bram Stoker author of Dracula was a well respected author in Ireland.
    The poet W. B. Yeats and his equally famous painter Brother John Yeats, Museum in Dublin id full of their family portraits and his beautiful paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My own experience with the literati of Ireland is somewhat limited– I have read dozens of Yeats poems, and some Joyce: “Dubliners’ and “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (most of it anyway), and I took a stab or three at “Ulysses”, without getting but so far. I also read some Swift– “Gulliver’s Travels” and the infamous “A Modest Proposal”, as well as the poem “A Description of a City Shower” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50578/a-description-of-a-city-shower), all of which I enjoyed. I’ve read Stoker– “Dracula” and “The Lair of the White Worm”– and “Waiting for Godot”, by Samuel Beckett, an Irishman who wrote in French, I think almost exclusively, after the Second World War. I have seen Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” performed, and read dozens of his witticisms, and a few poems, over my lifetime. Most recently, I’ve read Tana French, who writes detective thrillers set in Dublin.

    One Irish author, unmentioned in the week’s essay, and I think, as I skim through the threads below, by other commenters, is Sheridan Le Fanu, 19th century author of “Uncle Silas”, a truly insidious story of dissolution and murderous greed, and one of the greatest of all vampire tales, Carmilla, which predates Stoker by decades.

    from wikipedia: “In addition to M. R. James, several other writers have expressed strong admiration for Le Fanu’s fiction. E. F. Benson stated that Le Fanu’s stories “Green Tea”, “The Familiar”, and “Mr. Justice Harbottle” “are instinct with an awfulness which custom cannot stale, and this quality is due, as in The Turn of the Screw, to Le Fanu’s admirably artistic methods in setting and narration”. Benson added, “[Le Fanu’s] best work is of the first rank, while as a ‘flesh-creeper’ he is unrivalled. No one else has so sure a touch in mixing the mysterious atmosphere in which horror darkly breeds”.[32] Jack Sullivan has asserted that Le Fanu is “one of the most important and innovative figures in the development of the ghost story” and that Le Fanu’s work has had “an incredible influence on the genre; [he is] regarded by M. R. James, E. F. Bleiler, and others as the most skillful writer of supernatural fiction in English.”

    I would like to add that an adeptly frightening dramatization of Le Fanu’s “Uncle Silas” was made for television, starring a convincingly creepy Peter O’Toole some years ago, titled “The Dark Angel.” It is well worth seeking out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jhNY, your experience with Irish literature is not that limited!

      Your description of Sheridan Le Fanu’s work certainly caught my attention, and I now have him on my list. I’ve read many ghost-story experts — Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, etc. — and it sounds like he ranks up there.

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  4. Hi Dave … First of all, I always enjoy your puns. As I’ve said before, you’re very punny 🙂 Thank you for yet another very interesting and enlightening column. I was surprised at how many Irish authors’ works I’ve read after seeing their names listed, in your post and in the replies.

    Was it shallow to have initially given William Yeats the time of day only because I fell in love with his picture? Yeah, pretty much. Of course, I then fell in love with his words, so it all worked out. 🙂

    Hope you’re having a wonderful week, Dave. Catch you next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pat! I guess puns are okay in small doses, but I try (in my local column) to use other kinds of humor, too. 🙂 And very glad you liked the post! I’ve also learned a lot from the excellent replies.

      Some writers are indeed good-looking as well as talented with words. Fate’s apportionment of attributes isn’t always equal…

      Have a great week, too! I’m currently at my second family reunion since last Saturday, but decided to take a break from all the socializing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I remember reading in a biographical sketch of Yeats (possibly in Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era) that Yeats, as a young man, was seen by a contemporary admiring the flow of his own scarf in reflections of himself in shop windows as he passed, so you are not alone in in such attractions.

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        • I am happy to report that a rumor, around for many decades, concerning the poet of your dreams and monkey glands, is literally unfounded, though persistent, which should not, therefore, prevent you from further contemplative rapture.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’ll admit you’ve piqued my curiosity, jhNY. In spite of my sometimes obsessive need to know the “whole story”, I’m probably not going to pursue that in in this case. The weird thing about my romanticizing of Yeats is in the way it happened. That was the one and only time in my life that I can recall being smitten by a photograph. It was one of Yeats looking down and, of course, wearing those glasses. He was probably in his late 30’s. To this day I don’t know what it was about that picture that I found, yes, so rapturous, lol. 😉

            Oh, crap, who am I kidding? I’m almost surely going to look up the monkey glands thing.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Walter Macken (The Irish Trilogy; ‘Seek the Fair Land’ ‘The Silent People’ and ‘The Scorching Wind’). James Plunkett (novels ‘Strumpet City’ and ‘Farewell Companions’ and the short story collection ‘The Trusting and the Maimed’) These two Irish writers had a big influence on me, David. I’ve re-read some of their books at least three times over since first coming across them in my teens in school. I didn’t know C.S. Lewis was born in Ireland.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for those recommendations, Jean! Both Walter Macken and James Plunkett are now on my list. When one wants to reread fictional works, it doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

      And, yes, it also surprised me that a couple authors (including C.S. Lewis) I thought were English-born were Irish-born!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Dave, this is almost totally off-topic, but I just bought myself a piano yesterday. It still has to be delivered but I’m very excited. As you can tell from my many comments here, I love music as much as literature. I always regret that I didn’t pursue my piano studies when I was much younger. I was taught by a wonderful lady and after four years, she told me that I needed to go to another teacher, which was further from where I lived and I was so involved in other activities, the piano fell off my radar, although I would still play a few tunes after that on the piano my parents owned. My first piano recital was to play a piece that I can’t remember. But I do remember that it was the “one minute something.” To my embarrassment, I was nervous and skipped over the middle of the piece, so it ended up being the “thirty second something.” 🙂

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    • Great that you’re getting a piano, Kat Lib! Very exciting, and a nice decision to revisit a musical instrument you used to play. I hope you have many enjoyable minutes (rather than 30-second segments) on it!

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    • Howdy, Kat Lib!

      — My first piano recital was to play a piece that I can’t remember. But I do remember that it was the “one minute something.” —

      Was it this baby?

      J.J.

      P.S.: I like Frederic Chopin in general and the “Minute Waltz” in particular, but I believe history has given his Op. 64, No. 1 a misnomer of a title: The shortest version I have in my iTunes library has a running time of 1:49.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey J.J.! The title seems correct, but the ability to play what this young lady did was far from my ability to do so, unless there is a dumbed-down version strictly for beginners. My memories of taking lessons go back 50-60 years ago, so I just ordered some books on-line for beginners, so I hope to start from scratch and work my way back up again.

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        • — The title seems correct, but the ability to play what this young lady did was far from my ability to do so —

          I agree she has great ability, but I can’t actually figure out the nature of that ability. Is she great at playing the piano? Or is she great at playing a pianist? Based on the staging of this video, she could be either a terrific musician or a terrific actor. I can’t really tell which.

          Meanwhile, good luck with your new keyboard studies!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, J.J. There was one piece that it seemed every budding pianist had to learn and excel at was “Fur Elise,” which anyone close to them grew to hate, because they would play it over and over and over again. I still love it, but I can see why others would get so tired of listening to it on end and end and end…

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            • — There was one piece that it seemed every budding pianist had to learn and excel at was “Fur Elise,” which anyone close to them grew to hate, because they would play it over and over and over again. I still love it, but I can see why others would get so tired of listening to it on end and end and end… —

              It’s a great piece of music, even though Alex of Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” would claim — with reason — it’s not quite as memorable as Ludwig Van’s glorious Ninth.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I believe that, if memory serves me correctly, David Bowie had Ode to Joy playing before he came on stage for the last concert of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. When I saw his Sound and Vision concert tour in Philly, which was a “best of as voted on by fans,” he had Ode to Joy playing before he walked out on stage, I had tears flowing down my face. Incredibly moving to me who loves both Beethoven and Bowie.

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        • When electronic keyboards ruled the airwaves (80’s and 90’s) I too owned a couple, and employed them on many of my songs. I taught myself to play whatever I needed to play, without knowledge of or regard to technique, which mostly wasn’t a problem, as what I needed was nearly always stone-simple. I also worked at a studio supply retailer, and was called upon to demonstrate a keyboard there, by a West Indian customer. As I began to noodle along on the thing, he grinned and said: “Chicken foot style!” I asked him what he meant. He held up his hand with his thumb, index and middle finger up — “See? Chicken foot!” He was right, of course. Those were the only fingers I had used….

          Hope you have a lot of fun with your new piano!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow and wow Dave wonderful post !
    Personally were having issues, power failure last Friday for 7 hrs and then the fridge never bounced back. So weekend spend by calling different people, throwing food, moving them around of what could be saved. Such things happens on Friday evenings when all were closed.
    Anyways someone with good ratings from Angie`s list ( not a member), came yesterday morning and changed the inverter box which burned. Now slowly cooling. Good we did not need to buy a fridge which will be 8-10 thousands. I`ll write on topic later.

    Are these folks going to Ireland ?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, bebe! Glad you liked the post. 🙂

      But sorry about your loss of power and the refrigerator problems. What a huge hassle. Glad your fridge is “recuperating.”

      LOL — that cartoon! Not too far off the mark when it comes to people being packed into coach. And of course what United did a few months ago was absolutely disgusting.

      Like

  8. Powerful stuff. Very enjoyable. Thanks, Dave!!!

    Trivial, but I just love the Irish Names. I mean seriously, who comes up with a better or more interesting name than: Colm Toibin?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Dave,

    I am so glad to hear that you loved “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”! (I’m not sure why the poor Captain has been demoted in America, but I’ll stick with the title that I read 🙂 ) I also loved the Captain, and the Doctor, but it was the gay soldier who just emotionally destroyed me. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I read his story while sitting on the beach, and couldn’t help weeping like a baby. Beautifully told.

    I really enjoyed “Atonement”. I thought the three different points of view were meshed together really nicely. And I’m not at all surprised to see that you’re already written a blog about fictional writers. I’m always fascinated by fiction within fiction. I especially loved it in “The Shadow of the Wind” which introduced me to my favourite book shop ever! I’ve heard somebody else describe the book as manipulative though, as it uses fictional fiction to create a bond between the reader and character that is a bit forced. But I adored Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing as well as his characters, and his settings. And there was another gay character in a time and place that it wasn’t really ok to be gay. Maybe I have some Freudian issues that I should work on!

    As for this week’s topic, Oscar Wilde was the first author that I thought of. I recently-ish re-read “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” which wasn’t quite as remarkable as I’d remembered, but I also re-read “Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime” which gets better and better each time I read it.

    I think my favourite U2 album would be either “Rattle and Hum” or “Achtung Baby” and “So Cruel” is probably my favourite song. One of them anyway…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Sue!

      If I ever made a list of the top 100 of the thousands of novels I’ve read, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” would absolutely be on that list. Yes, a VERY moving book at many points. And the gay soldier was an incredible character; his emotional struggles were especially powerful given that he was living with being gay at a time and place before (somewhat) more tolerant attitudes for that (as you alluded to when mentioning “The Shadow of the Wind”). And I agree that the “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” title without the demotion — 🙂 — is better. Maybe the American publisher was trying to save the ink on seven letters…

      You named two great U2 albums and one great U2 song to end your great comment!

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  10. Hi Dave, I must admit to being somewhat stumped by this blog, surprising to me since I think of myself as half Irish (although by osmosis only). However, after reading your and others comments, I’ve read more Irish works than I at first thought. I did read Joyce’s “The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man,” as part of an English course; “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde; along with others named by J.J.; many works by George Bernard Shaw; those two works of Jonathan Swift; “Dracula” by Bram Stoker; the poetry by Yeats; quite a few non-fiction works by C.S. Lewis; and “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt.

    I’ve probably had more of an affinity with Irish songs and dance throughout the last 20 years or so. I love Riverdance, Celtic Woman, Phil Coulter, James Galway, the Chieftains, and yes, Lorena McKennitt and even Enya.. I really liked U2, at least through “The Joshua Tree” and then lost interest after “Rattle and Hum.” My favorite song is “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” although I could be persuaded otherwise if I listened to their entire music catalogue again.

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    • Kat Lib, there are certainly more renowned Irish authors than we might initially realize. You’ve read quite a few!

      And thanks for naming all those Irish musicians and groups. I need to check them out; I’ve only listened to two or three of them.

      The 1980s were indeed a GREAT decade for U2, but they’ve done lots of excellent stuff since then. Here are two of their 21st-century songs I particularly like:

      “Every Breaking Wave” (2014):

      “Walk On” (2000):

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those were both very nice, Dave! I think we talked before about a live performance by U2 at the 25th Anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in which Bono brought out Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith (the co-writers) of “Because the Night,” to join him with this song, which was great!

        I was also going to mention the song “Ashokan Farewell,” which I’d always thought was an Irish piece of music. But as I learn so many things on your blog, I discovered that it’s actually written by an American, and Ashokan means “place of fish” in Iroquois. The Ashokan Reservoir is located in the Catskills, and it supplies water to NYC. The music became famous because it was featured often in “The Civil War,” documentary by Ken Burns. I’m not sure why I thought it was Irish, other than it has the very plaintive melody of much other Irish music I know. My favorite version is that which was found on the “Legends” CD of Phil Coulter (piano) and James Galway (flute). I often listen while driving to a classical station, and on Wednesdays they have a “listeners’ request” period of a few hours. I was driving home one day, and a subscriber had requested “Ashokan Farewell” in honor of those killed in Sandy Hook not long after it happened, and I remember weeping, especially while driving by an elementary school near my home.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I remember us talking about that, Kat Lib! A trio of mega talent!

          And a very interesting paragraph by you about that Irish-sounding music that wasn’t Irish — and it being played in honor of the Sandy Hook victims. Still depressing and stunning that that abominable massacre of schoolchildren didn’t lead to more gun control — “thanks” to the despicable NRA and despicable Republican right-wingers.

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        • Another surprise of sorts: the words to “Danny Boy” were written by Frederick Weatherly, an Englishman. The tune of course is the Irish “Londonderry Air”.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Howdy, Dave!

    — Who/what are your favorite Irish authors and fictional works? —

    Way to kill a Monday Bloody Monday! Thanks, Dave!

    Among the usual suspects in the Irish category are the following, in alphabetical order:
    • Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame,” “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Waiting for Godot,”
    • Brendan Behan’s “The Quare Fellow.”
    • Neil Jordan’s “The Crying Game.”
    • James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “Dubliners” and “Ulysses.” (However, his “Finnegans Wake” stands almost alone in the category of unfavorite novels I started but did not finish, joined only by Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”).
    • Larry Kirwan’s “Black 47,” “Funky Ceili (Bridie’s Song)” “James Connolly,” “Livin’ in America,” “Maria’s Wedding,” “Rockin’ the Bronx” and “40 Shades of Blue” (all on Black 47’s “Fire of Freedom” album).
    • Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock,” “The Plough and the Stars” and “The Shadow of a Gunman.”
    • George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man,” “Man and Superman” and “The Devil’s Disciple.”
    • Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
    • Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and “Gulliver’s Travels.” (Mr. Swift is a big favorite here in Hell’s Kitchen not only because his aforementioned essay inspired my own “Babies for Lunch” but also because of his association with the place whence my Kilkenny Cat of a father migrated about a century ago.)
    • Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” “A Woman of No Importance,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “The Canterville Ghost,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “The Model Millionaire” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
    • William Butler Yeats’ “Selected Poems and Two Plays of William Butler Yeats.” (Who else?)

    The usual suspects in the Irish-American category include the following, also in alphabetical order:
    • John Berryman’s “The Dream Songs.”
    • Chris Byrne’s (Seanchai’s) “Time to Go” (on Black 47’s “Home of the Brave” album).
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” “Tender Is the Night,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “The Great Gatsby” and “This Side of Paradise.”
    • Tess Gallagher’s “Instructions to the Double.”
    • Mary Gordon’s “Final Payments.”
    • William Kennedy’s “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” “Ironweed” and “The Ink Truck.”
    • Galway Kinnell’s “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World: Poems 1946-64.”
    • Thomas McGrath’s “Selected Poems: 1938-1988” (N.B.: Mr. McGrath and I apparently are not family, but, due to the intercession of a mutual friend, The Great Eric Blau, I did attend a celebration of the poet’s life after his death more than a quarter of a century ago. Alas, Eric himself was neither Irish nor Irish-American, so I cannot mention in this context his own “Dori: The Life and Times of Thedore Herzl,” “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” “The Beggar’s Cup,” “The Hero of the Slocum Disaster” or “The Keys to Billy Tillio.” Pity.)
    • Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People” and “Wise Blood.”
    • John O’Hara’s “Appointment in Samarra” and “Pal Joey.”
    • Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” “Strange Interlude” and “The Iceman Cometh.”
    • John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces.”
    • Mickey Spillane’s “I, the Jury.”

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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    • Wow — what an expert, impressive list. Thank you, J.J.!

      I wonder if “A Modest Proposal” is the most famous satirical essay ever written. I can’t think of one that’s more renowned. Thankfully, there wasn’t Facebook back then to post photos of THOSE “meals.” 🙂

      I may read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and/or “Ulysses” one of these days, but “Finnegans Wake”…ain’t gonna happen.

      And, yes, many great Irish-American authors, too. Would have been worthy of an entire separate blog post!

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      • — Wow — what an expert, impressive list. —

        Hardly expert, but an impressive passel of works.

        — I wonder if “A Modest Proposal” is the most famous satirical essay ever written. I can’t think of one that’s more renowned. —

        I believe you may be correct. If essayists were fencers, then the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Orwell and Henry David Thoreau all would be heavily swinging sabers while Jonathan Swift would be lightly wielding a foil.

        — I may read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and/or “Ulysses” one of these days, but “Finnegans Wake”…ain’t gonna happen. —

        One of these days, I am going to go all faux-Hebrew on that thing and try reading it from back to front, from bottom to top and from right to left!

        — [M]any great Irish-American authors, too. Would have been worthy of an entire separate blog post! —

        And, someday, it might be . . .

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        • Love your essayists/fencers analogy, J.J.!

          And VERY funny paragraph about reading “Finnegans Wake” in a different way. Maybe I could even try perusing every third word…

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        • I included in my comment (toward the top of the comments thread here) a link to a favorite Swift poem “A Description of a City Shower”, which I hope, if you don’t know it, you might want to read.

          But as we both dwell in La Gran Manzana, I thought I’d also alert you to my favorite bar away from my own neighborhood, its name a tribute to the Dean of Dublin: Swift Hibernian Lounge http://www.swiftnycbar.com/.

          The bar features much tap beer and there’s whiskey (which I haven’t sampled) but best of all– NO TEEVEE any place!!! You can, till the place fills up, talk to your friends without shouting, and without distractions beyond what’s in your glass.

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          • Will give “A Description of a City Shower” a read as soon as I can!

            No TV in a bar? Sounds great to me! Definitely unusual. I don’t drink myself, but I did enjoy visiting another Irish pub — An Beal Bocht in The Bronx — this past spring when an Irish-American friend of mine had an exhibit of her paintings and cartoons there.

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          • Howdy, jhNY!

            — I included in my comment (toward the top of the comments thread here) a link to a favorite Swift poem “A Description of a City Shower”, which I hope, if you don’t know it, you might want to read. —

            You can take the Cat out of Kilkenny, but you can’t take Kilkenny out of the Cat! “A Description of a City Shower” is a new one on me. Thanks for the link!

            — [A]s we both dwell in La Gran Manzana, I thought I’d also alert you to my favorite bar away from my own neighborhood, its name a tribute to the Dean of Dublin: Swift Hibernian Lounge —

            I am a wee bit acquainted with this fine establishment, having first encountered about 15 years ago, during a period when Dave and I both were employed as ink-stained wretches at a certain magazine just a few blocks away (in proximity to Astor Place). And I concur with your appreciative assessment of it.

            J.J.

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      • Howdy, PatD!

        — Wow, what a great list! —

        Thanks for the kind words! (Of course, I mostly see all the lamentable omissions in it.)

        — I’ve read a lot more Irish authors than I realized, especially In the Irish-American category. —

        The diaspora phenomenon appears to make them pretty unavoidable, which also seems to be the case with African-American and Jewish-American writers. I have frequently wondered whether our cross-media ubiquity is a kind of defense mechanism, a sort of positive response to the negative stimuli of the likes of Black 47 — not the band but the Great Famine — centuries of the slave trade and millennia of pogroms.

        Slainte!

        J.J.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi J.J. — I understand what you’re saying about the diaspora phenomenon, and I agree. I would be very interested if you would expand on your statement, “I have frequently wondered whether our cross-media ubiquity is a kind of defense mechanism, a sort of positive response to the negative stimuli of the likes of Black 47 — not the band but the Great Famine — centuries of the slave trade and millennia of pogroms”. Thanks — Pat

          Liked by 1 person

          • — I understand what you’re saying about the diaspora phenomenon, and I agree. I would be very interested if you would expand on your statement, “I have frequently wondered whether our cross-media ubiquity is a kind of defense mechanism, a sort of positive response to the negative stimuli of the likes of Black 47 — not the band but the Great Famine — centuries of the slave trade and millennia of pogroms”. —

            Because my wonderment is based not only on objective fact but also on subjective opinion, I could expand on this statement as long as the Sun shines, the grass grows and the water flows. But, being human, neither of us has that kind of time. Still, I may be able to cover a few of the many highlights by repurposing bits and pieces of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

            Accepting the proposition that all people are created equal, I believe African-American, Irish-American and Jewish-American writers are all members of groups that historically have had long periods when they were poised on the very brink between life and death — not figuratively but literally — simply due to their continent of recent origin, nationality or religion. Considering the act of writing an affirmation at all times and in places, I think these survivors might have disproportionately chosen to honor the nonsurvivors (whether consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously) through the written word in multiple forms of media such as fiction, musical lyrics, nonfiction and poetry so that their memory shall not perish from the earth: We may not be here tomorrow, but we were here yesterday, and we are still here today.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Please note the copy-edited version of my final sentence above:

              “Considering the act of writing an affirmation at all times and in all places, I think these survivors might have disproportionately chosen to honor the nonsurvivors (whether consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously) through the written word in multiple forms of media such as fiction, musical lyrics, nonfiction and poetry so that their memory shall not perish from the Earth: We may not be here tomorrow, but we were here yesterday, and we are still here today.”

              (N.B.: This last sentiment does not necessarily apply to certain copy editors.)

              Liked by 2 people

  12. Glad you mentioned Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, I read that while walking through Connemara in ’78.

    Tip, stay out of local pubs on sheep auction days. They tend to be a bit rowdy…but maybe that was just another place and time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Almost Iowa!

      “The Third Policeman” is absolutely strange and surreal — and well worth reading, as you know.

      I tend to avoid pubs on all days, but — ha! — I’ll especially steer clear on sheep-auction days if I ever visit there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s impressive, elenapedigo, how long U2 has been around (their first album came out in 1980), that they’ve had the same lineup that whole time, and that they still sound so good! And while I didn’t get into it in the post, Bono’s lyrics often have a rather literary bent. 🙂

      Also, thank you for mentioning Roddy Doyle and Seamus Heaney!

      Like

      • I credit U2 with introducing me to the concept of poetry! Their lyrics are incredible. Listening to them right now 🙂

        There are also a number of other great bands and artists that have come out of Ireland (North & South) in recent years, like Lisa Hannigan, Damien Rice, Bry, and of course, Snow Patrol, whose lyrics are also real poetry. And there’s just so much great literature from such a tiny island. Just from the itsy-bitsy North I have to mention Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast, a gritty thriller, and Jo Zebedee’s Inish Carraig, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story. Hmmm…need to go read more Irish literature…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, elenapedigo, for naming those other musicians, bands, books, and authors! I put those two novels on my list, and will check out some songs on YouTube.

          Yes, U2’s lyrics are excellent — about love, faith, war, and many other topics without sounding cliched.

          Great follow-up comment!

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I didn’t know C.S. Lewis was born in Ireland, and reading your list there are other Irish born surprises, like the Brontes. Angela’s Ashes immediately came to mind as I started reading this piece, Dave, and I’m glad you included Frank McCourt’s excellent non-fiction work in your essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections!

      I was also surprised about the Irish origins of C.S. Lewis (and a couple of other authors I mentioned).

      “Angela’s Ashes” was definitely a riveting memoir. I later read the two sequels, which were good but not as good the first. It’s interesting when people write multiple memoirs — as Maya Angelou did, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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