…draw up a chair to the fire and lose yourself in a book. You don’t really want green beer and overcrowded pubs today, do you? Take a break from the festivities and enjoy some Irish culture. Even if you’re not Irish, in honour of St Patrick’s Day, why not explore Irish writing?
Already done that? You’ve had a go at Ulysses? You’ve read everything Edna O’Brien and John Banville have written? Well, why not try an Irish writer whose name may not be as familiar to you? To get you started I’ve posted the first paragraphs from several books by Irish authors that I’ve enjoyed reading.
Kerry Hardy’s The Bird Woman: The first time I ever saw Liam he was standing at the bar of Hartley’s in Belfast. I was married to Robbie then – I’d been married to Robbie for near on four years for all I was only twenty-three. I was married and that was that; I’d no more thought of going off with anyone else than of dandering down to the travel agents and booking myself a nice wee holiday on the moon.
Hugh Fitzgerald Ryan’s The Devil to Pay: Her father always walked with a staff, a long stick cut from the fork of a blackthorn. The stump of the thicker branch formed a knob, polished now by years of handling. The staff reached almost to his shoulder and when he stopped to deliver himself of some observation, he leaned his right forearm on the knob, bending slightly forward, with his left thumb hooked into his belt.
Heather Richardson’s Magdeburg: On the morning of her best friend Gertrude’s wedding Christa called Helga. She told herself to be calm, and not to let the woman’s sourness taint her joy. ‘Stay with Elsbeth, and be sure she has some dumplings at the usual hour or she’ll forget to eat.’
Bryan Gallagher’s Barefoot in Mullyneeny: The sacrament of Confirmation is for ever associated in my mind with the town of Ballyhooley in County Cork. Not that I’m from Ballyhooley. I’m not from anywhere else on the south coast either. But I just cannot think, Bishop, Confirmation, without seeing the bottom half of that old school map – Carrantuohill and Dingle, Cahirciveen, the Blaskets and Courtmacsherry.
Patricia O’Reilly’s A Type of Beauty: It was one of those golden June evenings when sunshine bathed the astonishing greenness of the parks, dappled shadows on the tree-lined streets and glimmered and glowed off tall buildings. It was a perfect evening for a party, and the Leicester Galleries in the heart of London was hosting an exclusive affair.
Lar Redmond’s A Walk in Alien Corn: At the gates of Santry Court I presented my ‘Indefinite Leave’ pass to Arse Face Brennan, the sergeant on duty, who grunted, opened the gate, and with a sigh of relief I walked out into Civvy Street and freedom. The big bastard who reluctantly opened the gate had hated me from the first day he laid eyes on me, though he had never succeeded in ‘nailing’ me on any charge.
Meanwhile I’m quite happy here by the fire. Maybe I’ll swap my tea for a hot port when the evening draws in – and I’ve got my book by an Irish author in my hands (not telling you which one it is though!). Happy St Patrick’s Day!