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.