Tag Archives: James Joyce

Erin Go Bragh: Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Yay! It’s St. Patrick’s Weekend again. (It used to be just the one day, until the marketers, the Irish Tourism Board, and the drinks companies got their hands on it. Now it’s a five-day festival.) So it’s time to celebrate Ireland and the Irish. But please do it right, okay?

John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952)  has a lot to answer for; and the less said about Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) the better. Hollywood has always had a slightly different view on Ireland than the rest of us. I suppose marketing what the country is really like is difficult, and not as profitable for the movie studios. But this is a country that has given the world Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Brenda Fricker, Ruth Negga, and the Cusack family among others.

Wrong on so many levels

Wrong on so many levels

We have gifted the world the collective genius of Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle and Maeve Binchy. To the music world, no better luminaries than Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and, um, Westlife have graced concert stages and turntables.

(We do, however, offer our humblest apologies for James Joyce and Bono. Although I suppose it’s part payback for EL James and Justin Bieber. Ain’t nobody got time for these!)

Our sports stars regularly attend major events, such as the Olympic Games and soccer tournaments, and while we may sometimes over-achieve (except for Katie Taylor, who is made of pure awesomeness), we’re normally good value for money.

Van the Man

Van the Man

Yes, we do have our celebrated alcohol afficionados: George Best, Brendan Behan, Shane MacGowan to name but three. But overall, our contribution to the world of arts and entertainment should more than surpass whatever stereotype and cliched viewpoint there is of us. And while I agree that my country is awash with alcohol and drugs, and that far too many of our youth are following in the footsteps of their elders – thereby running headfirst into a health crisis – I sense a small level of change in our society. It is my hope that in, say, ten or twenty years time, we will have outgrown our addiction to alcohol and perhaps embraced our cultural heritage rather than our history of oppression.

While it’s always important to remember our past, it’s more important to learn from it so we don’t fall into the same traps our ancestors did. We’re better than that. Ireland is better than that. The world deserves and needs what we can offer.

 

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Write Here, Write Now: NaNoWriMo – Challenge Me.

For the third year in a row, I am going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you unfamiliar with this annual contest, the challenge is deceptively simple: you have the 30 days of November in which to write a novel of no less than 50,000 words. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong. My first attempt ended in failure. I shut up shop after ten days, much to my dismay. Last year was better, though; I completed the challenge with days to spare. The story itself was a bit iffy but it served as a template of sorts to my ongoing work in progress.

This year I want my friends and readers to challenge me. Last weekend I went to see the musical Wicked in London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre. As you may know, it’s based on a novel written by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Basically it’s a retelling of the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but paints Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the title) as a misunderstood character and one that readers ended up rooting for, or at the very least sympathising with.

The musical is stunning and seeing it is definitely a high point of my year so far. (I saw Les Miserables, too, but that’s a subject for another day.) But what really got me thinking was the sheer audacity of the author. Maguire took a well-loved classic and twisted it into something else, something distinctive, something with its own identity.

My challenge to you is to pick a classic for me. Find a book that is as popular as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then challenge me to do a Wicked on it. As long as it’s not as massive as War and Peace or as obscure as Ulysses, then I’ll consider it. Allow me at least a week to read it, if I haven’t done so already, then let me at it.

Am I being foolhardy? Am I setting myself up for a fall? Or do I have no original ideas of my own? The answers are possibly, very possibly, and yes, I do. But I fancy this.

Please give me your ideas, please. I would love to hear your feedback.

On This Day…28 August

It’s the weekend, people, and today, a friend and I are taking a boat trip along the River Liffey. May your day flow along as easy.

So what else went on today? On this day in…

1189 – Third Crusade: the Crusaders begin the Siege of Acre under Guy of Lusignan.

1619 – Ferdinand II is elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. (Rio Ferdinand signs for Manchester United for a record fee. Okay, this didn’t happen in 1619 – it only feels like it.)

Bring on the Empire. I'll show them what's what for stealing my shirt.

1913 – Queen Wilhelmina opens the Peace Palace in The Hague. The free bar lasts all month, but someone nicked all the sandwiches.

1961 – Motown releases what would be its first #1 hit, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes.

1981 – The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi’s sarcoma in gay men. These will soon be recognized as symptoms of an immune disorder, which will be called AIDS.

Born on this day were:

Shania Twain, Canadian singer, 45. Go on, ya good thing, Shania.

The American actor Jack Black is a cozy 41.

US medal-winning swimmer Janet Evans is 39. Janet is of special interest to Ireland; it was she who made the initial complaint when the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith swam to glory at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. While Smith was eventually discredited for doping offences later on, her gold medals were never revoked. Silly woman, Michelle.

Another luminary of Irish interest died today in 1987: the great director, John Huston. Huston settled in Ireland in the years before his death. His last movie was an adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead.