On the plane to Ireland I had to admit I didn’t much like James Joyce to my Irish seat-mate. She exclaimed, “Oh my dear, no one ever actually reads Joyce, they just like to quote from his books!”
Best Way to Deal with the Problem of James Joyce.
James Joyce’s Ulysses, according to a friend, is “a bit of a slog, maybe you should try and read it before you go; it’s not really something you can read on the road!”
So I borrowed a James Joyce from the library and found it more than a bit of a slog.
So the best way to deal with Joyce is a literary pub tour, where the literature comes in palatable doses and could be washed down with a pint of beer…
From the pub tour I immediately recognized this Joyce quote on a wall in Dublin…
I said yes
I will yes.”
Books I Took With Me to Ireland.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is a book more of to be experienced than read – wonderful and sad. McCourt tells of his young life in Ireland with a complete openness that I now associate with several Irish writers.
The Journey Home by Dermont Bolger. Quite good but for me the only part that related specifically to Ireland was when the couple were hiding from the police in a ditch and the ditch was full of stinging nettles. Yes, one of my experiences in Ireland was about stinging nettles (although there were even more of them in Wales where we went the following year).
Books I wish I’d read when I was in Ireland.
Another quick mention of my seat-mate on the flight to Ireland. She asked me if I liked a good murder and of course I did so she recommended mystery novels by Benjamin Black. I’ve since taken a few of his out of the library and they certainly outshine Joyce, at least for me.
I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty is a mystery novel set in Belfast during the Troubles. I loved this book, especially the way that checking for bombs under your car was part of the regular morning routine for a policeman. Again I was amazed at that openness that I now associate with Irish writers. This is Part II of ‘The Troubles Trilogy’.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, a story about a bunch of low-lifes and minor criminals, Catholics all, in Dublin after the millennium. My favourite character is the old lady who accidentally murders an intruder with a religious icon and then gets her criminal son to clean up the mess. She’s hilarious.
The Cliffs of Moher & the Burren:
A Fatal Inheritance by Cora Harrison is one of a series of mysteries set in 16th Century Burren, a region that now encompasses almost all of County Clare and part of Galway, including the Cliffs of Moher (on the cover), the Aran Islands, Doolin, the Burren and Galway. This is a different style of writing than the others I have recommended, very much historical fiction, but full of atmosphere and Irish tidbits. One in a series of mystery/history novels set in the region. More on our 2015 trip to Ireland.