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Happy belated birthday to my (deeply flawed) hero, Nelson Algren, who was born on March 28, 1909. 

March 29, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Slight detour in my Irish March...

I ordered that Val Mulkerns book from interlibrary loan more than a week ago, but it hasn’t even been shipped yet. So I stopped off at Open Books on Friday afternoon and happened to find a used copy of The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan, whom I’ve never read. (I only first leaned about her from this series of tributes to Irish women writers in The Irish Times.)

Brennan was an Irish-American writer who wrote for more than twenty years for The New Yorker, where her editor was William Maxwell. He was a big fan of Brennan’s work, and since he always had excellent literary taste, his word is good enough for me. The book collects Dublin stories from throughout her career. I read the first two this morning, both of which were good - and based on Maxwell’s introduction, the stories should get even better later on. 

I’ll still read the Mulkerns book, whenever it finally arrives. 

March 25, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

“...all still and beautiful in the moonlight...”

Mary Costello, from Academy Street:

And then, when Tess is ten, there is a real wedding in the house. It is summer again, after a long winter when animals died in the fields and snow fell in May, and Oliver came home. There is something about each day now that she holds dear. Oliver's return for one thing, and something she noticed on those winter nights when she would kneel on her bed and melt a peephole on the frozen windowpane and view everything under snow - the lawn and the trees, the walls and barns and outhouses - all still and beautiful in the moonlight: the feeling that she has grown older and stronger, and safer, and the world has survived and become a little lovelier.

I love the idyllic image of Tess looking out into the winter night, even as I shudder in realization of frost being on the inside of the window, and how cold that house must have been. Her family isn't stricken with poverty - they seem to live a solid existence, as farmers in rural Ireland - so I guess the coldness must have been more emblematic of the different living standards of the 1940s, when this scene is set.

March 19, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Val Mulkerns

The Irish writer Val Mulkerns has passed away, at age 93. She seems to be little-known here, but much beloved in Ireland, if these tributes from the likes of Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín and others are any indication. She had a unique career: two early novels and a tenure at the esteemed literary review The Bell, then a twenty-plus-year hiatus to raise a family, and then a return to writing with several well-regarded story collections and two more novels.

I discovered Mulkerns during last year's Irish March, from her story "The World Outside" which appeared in the collection 44 Irish Short Stories. I haven't found any of her books in stores or my public library, but I did manage to order her final novel, Very Like A Whale, via interlibrary loan. I'm not sure how soon it will arrive - it wasn't even in my library's immediate library system, but from the WorldCat system, so who knows how far away it's coming from. I might have to extend Irish March a few weeks into April.

March 16, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


Virginia Woolf, on Ring Lardner

...Mr. Lardner has talents of a remarkable order. With extraordinary ease and aptitude, with the quickest strokes, the surest touch, the sharpest insight, he lets Jack Keefe the baseball player cut out his own outline, fill in his own depths, until the figure of the foolish, boastful, innocent athlete lives before us. As he babbles out his mind on paper there rise up friends, sweethearts, the scenery, town, and country—all surround him and make him up in his completeness...

I’m about due for another reading of You Know Me Al. Incidentally, I read The Real Dope (which included the story featured at the above link) a few years ago, and really didn’t care for it. The Jack Keefe baseball stories are great, the war stories not. 

March 7, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)