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As a committed Hibernophile, I turn usually,on St Patrick's Day, to reading or rereading Irish literature.

Since Bloomsday (mark June 16 on your calendars) is devoted to  Ulysses, I get my Joyce fix today by reading a story or two from The Dubliners, most often The Dead. One of the great stories in the language (emotionally, psychologically, politically, linguistically), it also features one of the great final sentences in all literature: "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

The music of that "falling faintly" and 'faintly falling": horripilating.

Or I turn to W.B. Yeats, especially to Among School Children, a gorgeous evocation of youth and promise from "a sixty-year-old smiling public man," or A Prayer for My Daughter:

How but in custom and in ceremony Are innocence and beauty born? Ceremony's a name for the rich horn, And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

This year, I've asked some friends and acquaintances of Globe Books for their choice of a particular favourite among Irish literary works. Their responses:

Rex Murphy (who needs no introduction, so he gets none here):

Not the greatest - but insufficiently celebrated: Seumas O'Kelly's The Weaver's Grave . Though it is different in form and tone, it stands as an equal to The Dead.  It is a masterful display of  character(s), beautifully phrased throughout, has moments of astonishment, humour and something near horror.  Love, death and rivalry in Cloon na Morav, the Meadow of the Dead.                            The Weaver's Grave is brilliant, bitter and beautiful.

John Brady, author of the Dublin-set Matt Minogue mystery novels:

Poem: There is no better opening verse than Yeats's Sailing to Byzantium:
That is no country for old men. The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees - Those dying generations - at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect.
 
Prose: I  am leaving out the "greats" and "great books" on purpose:
 a) Memoir: John McGahern's Memoir ;  b) Short story (very underrated and forgotten talent on the island): Guests of the Nation, by Frank O' Connor.

Donald Harman Akenson, author of An Irish History of Civilization, among many other brilliant books:

I've always leaned towards Speeches from the Dock, edited by A.M. Sullivan (1866) and many subsequent editions. It's a real cliff-hanger.

Aislinn Hunter, Vancouver-based poet and novelist, asks "does the Irish Loop count?" (The Irish Loop is part of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula - and it does count.)

Poetry by Patrick Warner (b. Ireland, resident St. John's), fiction by Joel Thomas Hynes (whose Irish Loop book Down to the Dirt was just made into a gut-wrenchingly wonderful film), and the recent poetry books by St. John's poets George Murray ( The Rush to Here) and Agnes Walsh ( Going Around with Bachelors).

Anakana Schofield, Vancouver-based writer and critic.

Peter Woods's Hard Shoulder , a novel few will have heard of, or read, a novel about work, about exile, concerns the Irish builders (or labourers) in London, Colm Toibin called it "the missing piece in the jigsaw of Irish narrative" and we know he's right about everything.
 
My nine-year-old would contend the only book worth reading about Ireland is Roddy Doyle's   Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, but that's because there's no other work of literature with such excellent swearing and rhymes like "Terence Long, Terence Long has a mickey 6 foot long."

 

 

 

 

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