Hold the green beer, and pass the good writing
Maybe it’s because I see so much tackiness masquerading as art in books. But I love the honest, exuberant tackiness of St. Patrick’s Day parades – the green moustaches, the wash-off shamrock tattoos and the toddlers in leprechaun suits perched on their parents’ shoulders. So don’t expect me to lift a digital shillelagh today and cudgel all those books that sentimentalize Ireland (which — let’s face it — at times seem to outnumber the world population of step-dancers).
But if you think the parades are so much blarney, the Irish novelist Anne Enright offers an antidote in The Gathering (Grove Atlantic, 261 pp., $14, paperback). You won’t find a whiff of green beer coming from this novel, which rightly defeated On Chesil Beach and Mister Pip for the most recent Man Booker Prize www.themanbookerprize.com. But you will find a strong, dark, well-crafted tale of eight siblings who gather in Dublin for the funeral of a brother who committed suicide. As their story unfolds, it appears that Liam’s death may have its roots in an incident in his grandparents’ era, the 1920s, when lay Catholics tried to save the city’s prostitutes by shutting down brothels.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.