St. Patrick’s day celebrations don’t have to be all about the green beer. We Irish are also famous for our way with words. Historically occupied by Britain and beaten down by religious oppression, the Irish were not great uprisers, but they sure could spin a fine tale out of all that suffering.
Some great works by the Irish and their kin:
Frank O’Connor’s short stories, especially A Story by Maupassant.
W.B. Yeats, the poetry and collections of Irish myths and stories.
Yeats was at the heart of a renaissance of Irish culture in the late 1800s. Imagine hanging out in a Dublin coffee house with him and other poets, writers, journalists and revolutionaries. Lots of great writing, and angst. Check out The Second Coming, possibly the most quoted and referenced poem in modern pop culture.
(The Stand, Joss Whedon and the Buffyverse, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road…)
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Brendan Behan’s play The Hostage.
Plus his quote that he was “a drinker with a writing problem.”
Lament for Brendan Behan, sung by The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem.
Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, one of the best-written books I’ve ever read and hilarious if you were raised Irish Catholic. Or even if you weren’t.
All Souls: A Family Story From Southie by Irish American writer Michael Patrick MacDonald.
The Artemis Fowl books by former Irish schoolteacher Eoin Colfer. Full of fairies and whimsy, plus really badass, heavily armed elves.
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. Twists like The Sixth Sense.
The Pogues (A Pair of Brown Eyes video)
U2: See how well head writer Bono spins a lyric:
The city walls are all pulled down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance
From A Sort of Homecoming
More: The New York Daily News recommends Irish writers.
And oh yeah, Eire go bragh!