Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, the saying goes. I love this sentiment and its idea of open-heartedly sharing each other’s celebrations. Since parades aren’t really my thing, I do believe my bookish self will mark the holiday by reading Irish (and Irish-born) authors … and I might just help myself to some bangers and mash.
If you’re of a mind to honor the day in a similar fashion (perhaps with a group of like minded readers?), here are seven Irish-born authors from whom to choose. And for nourishing the body as you nourish the mind, St. Patrick’s Day style, enjoy a link to a yummy bangers and mash recipe.
Born in Ireland, McCann features his native country prominently in his novel TransAtlantic. It tells three distinct stories, each based in historical fact. An Atlantic crossing and a visit to Ireland figure into all three. In the first, circa 1919, British airmen Alcock and Brown seek to fly from Canada to Ireland in a converted World War I bomber. The second follows Frederick Douglas’ 1845 visit to Ireland just as the Great Famine is taking hold. Senator George Mitchell’s attempt to broker the 1998 Good Friday agreement provides the foundation of the third.
McCann writes mesmerizing prose that reveals characters’ emotional landscapes while simultaneously dancing around them. Reading this novel, I felt very aware of each character’s position in space, emphasized through narrative details and perspective.
Born in Wexler, Ireland, Colfer is the author of the eight-novel Artemis Fowl series (among others). The books follow criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl as he battles pixies, goblins, and other heavies and undergoes quite a transformation as the series progresses. I have not read the books personally, but my son tore through them. When he completed the last novel in the series, he mourned arriving at the end even more than he did when he finished the final Harry Potter.
Joyce, born in a Dublin suburb, is probably best known for Ulysses, a modern, stream of consciousness take on The Odyssey set in Dublin circa 1904. The story takes place on a single day (with sentences that go on for days) and, if my graduate school experience may be taken as representative, has possibly caused much rending of garments and wails of, “Whyyyyy?”
For a more, shall we say, gentle introduction into Joyce’s themes and literary stylings, I like Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce’s autobiographical coming-of-age novel.
I’m thinking his best known works are the gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the wickedly funny, biting, and utterly timeless play “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
So how many of you knew Stoker was born in Dublin? I did not! In 1897, Stoker penned the classic horror novel Dracula. After talking about reading it for years, I finally enjoyed reading it last October.
William Butler Yeats
Dublin-born poet Yeats was the son of Irish painter John Butler Yeats, a supporter of Irish nationalism (despite being a member of the Anglo-Irish minority), and a Nobel Prize-winner (1923). I would guess his most widely anthologized poem is “Leda and the Swan”?
Anglo-Irish novelist and Anglican clergyman Laurence Sterne was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary in 1713. His probably best-known work, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, was published in five volumes between 1759 and 1767. It is quite hilarious, filled with bawdy humor, and (my favorite part) pokes fun at the very solemn and long-winded among us.
And now for the bangers and mash: Click here for Ina Garten’s recipe on the Food Network website.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day reading and eating!