No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

More than Guinness

It's St. Paddy's Day!

For those of us not so inclined to the Guinness and even less inclined to green beer (sacrilege, in Ireland, by the way), here are some Irish-y diversions to make your day a little greener.

Irish Books by Irish Authors

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Poverty, death and drink haunt this memoir, which recounts McCourt's days growing up in Limerick. What could be just bleak and depressing is elevated by McCourt's sustaining humour and eloquent style. Early on, he describes Limerick in a passage so evocative you can smell the tweed and desperation.

A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man by James Joyce
Yes, Ulysses is the masterpiece by for Joyce neophytes, start out with Portrait. His dense, complex language is still present and accounted for, but this much shorter novel has a more discernible plot and more reasonable length. Joyce takes work, and he's well worth it, but why not ease in?

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
This might not feel like an 'Irish' story at first (though Swift was born in Dublin, he spent much of his life in London), but have another look at the story of the Lilliputians; it's the Catholics and Protestants writ small.

A Little Theatre

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
See a bad production of this minimalist play and you'll want to kill yourself rather than wait another fucking second. But a great production, or even a quite read, can bring out the pathos, the absurdest humour and the commentary on the human condition.

While you're in a theatrical mood, throw in a little Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw - Irishmen both.


For me, it's all about Yeats. In honour of the day, here's a touch of Irish nationalism, courtesy of W.B.:

EASTER, 1916

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.


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