I don’t remember consciously choosing Irish stories until Mel started to host the Irish Short Story event in 2011, but since I was nine, there have been Irish authors on my shelves.
Nonetheless, for the past ten years on the 17th of March, I’ve had Bubble and Squeak on my plate and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” socks on my feet. Sometimes soda bread. Sometimes a pint.
This year, the Irish reading is a little light, but I’m finishing some other reading projects this year, so the shamrock-laden tomes have had to get in line.
Below is a sampling of the Irish authors I’m reading this March.
We’re only halfway through March, and it’s not even St. Patty’s Day yet, so if you’re interested in participating, the event is outlined here.
I had planned originally to read a few classics but then I heard an interview on the BBC which landed one boook on my stack.
Then, Liz’s Murdoch-a-long brought a reread onto the stack for this month.
And I was looking to share in Mel’s love of Irish short stories too.
And there’s another too – one I’ve longed to read for ages.
Curious how far behind I am with my podcast listening?
This episode of BBC’s “Open Book” from 2014 got me interested in Niall Williams.
This book sounded delightfully bookish and I can’t resist a bookish book: can you?
From the cover and the blurbs, I’m not sure whether he is more like Maeve Binchy or American author Anne Tyler (this cover particularly brings Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant to mind).
Doesn’t matter: I’ve enjoyed both over the years, so I am willing to try.
“I do not know what words to write. There have been so many words written already. So many endings and beginnings. I have lost my faith.”
I first read The Severed Head in 2001 for a small women’s bookclub.
At the time I was a Murdoch newbie, and had only contemplated reading The Sea, The Sea previously.
That was because I loved A.S. Byatt’s Possession and it won the Booker Prize, so the fact that The Sea, The Sea had also won that prize recommended it to me. (That’s why I read Ben Okri’s The Famished Road too; I had not yet properly understood how much prize juries can vary from year to year!)
But I didn’t have a copy of The Sea, The Sea. However, I did have a copy of literary essays by A.S. Byatt and Ignès Sodre which considered the works of six women writers and one of those was Iris Murdoch’s An Unofficial Rose.
But I didn’t have a copy of An Unofficial Rose either. I had a copy of The Severed Head. And that is sometimes how it goes.
“‘You’re sure she doesn’t know?’ said Georgie.
‘Antonia? About us? Certain.'”
For a long time, I collected any William Trevor book that I found in a second-hand shop. At some point, I realised that I had multiple copies of the same book, because they have been reissued with different titles in North America. It didn’t seem excessive: Trevor is worth reading in multiples.
Nonetheless, when it came to reading his stories this month, I wanted to get serious and requested the Collected volume from the library.
Mr. BIP accompanied me to the library that day. There is always good-natured teasing about the number of books I bring home. That day there was additional, still good-natured, teasing about the size of that one.
I was not deterred. Only disappointed that the collected-ness of it only extends to 1992. But – imagine how much bigger the volume would be to include the stories he wrote afterwards.
“‘I am Mrs da Tanka,’ siad Mrs da Tanka. ‘Are you Mr Mileson?’
The man nodded, and they walked together the length of the platform, seeking a compartment that might offer them a welcome, or failing that, and they knew the more likely, simple privacy.”
How I loved Edna O’Brien’s short stories. They are stunning.
And, so, I have been itching to read The Country Girls for years.
I’ve collected parts of it and there, too, (as with the Trevor volumes) been foiled by reissues (the second volume bearing more than one title); the other time I seriously began, I soon realised that my “collection” was incomplete, two copies of one part, no copies of another.
And, so, now a library loan has resolved the matter and I have properly begun.
“I wakened quickly and sat up in bed abruptly. It is only when I am anxious that I waken easily and for a minute I did not know why my heart was beating faster than usual. Then I remembered. The old reason. He had not come home.”