It’s St. Patrick’s Day in my home town of New York City and on-lookers crowd 5th Avenue in celebration. You don’t have to be of Irish extraction—the parade in honor of St. Patrick is enjoyed by all of us. Shamrock green berets, coats, sweaters and ties are worn and snacks of cupcakes decorated with green icing, scones, Irish Soda Bread, and green bagels are devoured. Dinner, of course, is corned beef and cabbage. (It’s also the day of my mother’s birth and its always been a special day in my family—I’m sure the Saint would not mind sharing.)
In honor of the day, I thought we might talk about all the authors Ireland has gifted to the world. St. Patrick, himself, led a life that reads like a tale of adventure. Born in Britain—ruled by Rome in the late 4th century A.D., he was seized by pirates as a fourteen-year old and brought to Ireland where he was enslaved and given the task of shepherding sheep. During the six years, he spent as a slave, he dedicated himself to spiritual development and, after hearing a voice telling him a ship was waiting, he fled and made his way to a port 200 miles away. After many quests, he returned to his home and family. He later went back to Ireland as a Christian missionary.
Legends claim St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity with the aid of a three-leafed plant—the shamrock—a symbol of his day. He is also said to have banished all the snakes of Ireland--banished when they attacked him during a 40-day fast and driven into the sea.
Many folk tales of ancient Ireland were written by the Irish author Lady Gregory in two books—her forward was by W.B. Yeats. Then there are James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and four men who won the Noble Prize for Literature. W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and George Bernard Shaw.
Today we have a cavalcade of fine authors. Romance—there’s Colm Toiben the author of Brooklyn. A book with people who stepped from the page bringing me hours of enjoyment. I was sorry when I reached the last page. The solution—read more of his work.
Small town life in Ireland with its romance, emotions, pleasures and troubles was introduced to me by Maeve Binchy. Think of Circle of Friends and Firefly Summit.
Into Gothic thrillers? Bram Stoker’s Dracula—scary and a must-read for generation after generation. In Gaelic, I learned, the phrase “Droch Ola” means bad blood.
Mysteries—Tana French who won the Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards for best first novel and gives us many hours of engrossing, psychological spell-binders. Then there’s William John Granville who wrote the literary book The Sea and, as Benjamin Black, the best-selling Christine Falls and The Silver Swan, and P.D. James who features the poet Adam Dalgliesh in her crime novels. No wonder our bookcases are crammed, our night tables over-flowing and our eBooks everywhere.
Which books by Irish authors fill your shelves?