Some Irish Writers You Really Ought to Read…or… How I Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

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In spite of my heritage, I don’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Green beer is a bit much– they also dye the Liffey green, I know (my brothers and friends once dyed the milk of the school we grew up in, yup, green…). The funniest run-up to St. Paddy’s I ever experienced was flying back to the States from Ireland for my father’s 80th (I lived in Ireland that year); the plane to Boston was loaded, absolutely to the gills with bands heading to the U.S. because THAT’s where the St. Patrick’s Day action was, not in Ireland. Tin whistles, bodhrans, fiddles, button accordions were played up and down the aisles, and the Guinness vanished before we had left Irish airspace. It was, well, hmmmm, wild.

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My dad loved St. Patrick’s Day. So in his honor, I’m marking this day with a list of Irish fiction from the past ten years or so that people on this side of the Atlantic might not have read (but should). I am an avid student of Irish literature, film and music, and though it is challenging from so far away to keep up with emerging writers, I do what I can. I’m not including Edna O’Brien, John Banville, Julia O’Faolain, Patrick McCabe, Roddy Doyle, John McGahern, or the late Clare Boylan, not because I do not love their writing, but because I figure their books have made their way into many collections on this side of the Atlantic.
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In no particular order and certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, but some real treasures:

Seamus Deane Reading in the Dark
Anne Enright The Wig My Father Wore (you probably know her new, Man Booker Prize winning The Gathering–simply wonderful)
Colm Toibin The Blackwater Lightship
Clare Keegan Antarctica
Joseph O’Connor The Salesman
Colum McCann Everything in This Country Must
Robert McLiam Wilson Eureka Street
Eoin McNamee The Last of Deeds
Sean O’Reilly Curfew and Other Stories
Sebastien Barry A Long, Long Way
Dermot Healy A Goat’s Song
David Park Stone Kingdoms
Deirdre Madden The Birds of the Innocent Wood
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne The inland Ice

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That’s a start, and who first comes to mind this Oirishy morning.

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My daughter, Nora, playing the accordion with her school band, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in Westport, Ireland, 1998.

Oh right, and the poets. Listen to Seamus Heaney and Eavan Boland and okay, Yeats growling his way through his poems–and Joyce reading from Finnegan’s Wake–all stunning!

And for sheer fun, watch a snatch of The Commitments

Slainte!

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