Every so often, a writer comes along who cheers Ireland up, not because the books are cheerful – on the contrary, indeed – but because the writing enlarges a particular sense we have of ourselves. Claire Keegan is one such writer, John McGahern is perhaps the best known, and Donal Ryan is the latest addition to this distinguished line. He writes from the rural heartland in prose that always pushes for the truth of things. Ryan’s language is colloquial and easy, but the central emotion is, for lack of a better word, dignified. His characters are large-hearted people in a small-minded world and this timeless theme is played out, not in misty boggy nowhere-land, but in a contemporary Irish space, where people talk on their mobiles and the halal meat plant has been recently closed down.
At The Rumpus, Shawn Andrew Mitchell reviews Dark Lies the Island, the new short story collection by the Irish writer Kevin Barry. Mitchell quotes a number of the book’s more interesting idioms and perceives “an impolitic decadence to how Barry couples his words.” (Related: we interviewed Barry a few weeks ago.)
It’s common for descriptions of James Joyce’s Dubliners to label its stories portraits of Irish life. If you’d like to look at actual portraits of Irish life in 1904, however, you could do a lot worse than this series of old photos of Dublin, available online courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute.
St. Patrick’s Day is over but there’s always cause to celebrate Irish storytellers. (Plus March is Irish-American History Month!) In this video from Open Road Media, you can listen to Edna O’Brien, Joseph Caldwell, Ken Bruen and T.J. English discuss the components of Irish storytelling that make for such good craic. Also you can check out the Poetry Foundation’s collection of St. Patrick’s Day poems for additional (belated) Irish writing.
This is absolutely a New Directions book, and we think those of you who’ve fallen in love with Javier Marías or Roberto Bolaño or László Krasznahorkai as much as we did will agree. Wholeheartedly.