Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Irish authors are a bunch of dirty bastards (and I love it)

So we're officially less than 24 hours out from being on a plane and making our way to Ireland. I've learned a few things as I prep for this trip:

1. Everyone has already been to Ireland.
2. They love to talk about it.
3. Everyone's enthusiasm has been awesome.

And I'm geeking out, because that's what I do. So this is a pretty standard representation of my bedside table for the past two months:

Because I love you, I would like to share some of what I've learned.

Irish authors appear to come in two flavors: saccharine and unfuckingbelievably crude. I won't even bore you with the former. You can try to choke down some Maeve Binchy and Patrick Taylor on your own. So let's just focus on the latter.
Ms. Maeve. This lady was no dirty bird.
And totally dullsville after reading Doyle and Enright.

First, there's James Joyce. I was scared of him initially, thinking he'd be too smart/dry/whatever for me. But I really like him. So, so smart. And his work is kinda like dipping a little toe into a big pool of honesty--it's rich but spare, like Hemingway. It is subtle and leaves you thinking, "Did he just imply that a priest might..." Yup, he did. And his writing is beautiful.

Exhibit A:

...my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires. (Dubliners, 23)

I noticed how clumsily her skirt was hooked at the back and how the heels of her cloth boots were trodden down all to one side. The fancy came to me that the old priest was smiling as he lay there in his coffin. (6)

Stop yawning. I know, I'm not getting to the dirty stuff fast enough. But just respect a master for a moment when he writes about his "dear, dirty Dublin" (70).

Then we hit a more modern writer: Anne Enright. This bitch is cray cray.

Exhibit B:

There is a terrible heat, a looseness in my innards that makes me want to dig my fists between my thighs. It is a confusing feeling--somewhere between diarrhoea and sex--this grief that is almost genital. (The Gathering, 7)

That's some pretty serious fucking grief, am I right? I have yet to punch my crotch in sadness. 

...her pubis like the breast of an underfed chicken under his large hand (67) [This is the main character imagining her grandparents. Ahem.]

...a fat little ten-year-old with a few pubic hairs like an old woman's chin (172)

What, you're not enjoying this?

I was talking about the meaty flower of my cunt, under his hand. (93)

You know who else likes that word? Roddy Doyle. I think his favorite word is cunt. Don't get me wrong, it's totally in my top five. But I only take it out on special occasions.

Exhibit C:

The Woman who Walked into Doors is initially confusing, and then goes on to become an incredibly sad story about abuse and loss and the knowledge that at a certain point in life, that's all there is--what you are at that point. But it's good. And when I read a paragraph about a girl jerking a boy off in a classroom, I reread it three times, totally impressed because that shit would not have flown in my high school.

I'd go to bed with a priest if I fancied him enough; I think I would. But then again, I've never really seen a good-looking priest...I'm as well off with my hand and my imagination. Mind you, when you've seen what my hand does all day--wiping, scouring, cleaning other people's bins and toilets--my imagination has its work cut out. (91)

I ate chips out of your knickers, he said. You'll remember that for the rest of your life. (131) [I'll remember that scene for the rest of my life too.]

I was put beside Derek O'Leary...He farted all day. Lifted his arse for noise, the dirty bastard. Buck teeth. A smell of sardines out of his mouth. He kept trying to feel me till I punched him in the face and told him to fuck off. (27)
- - -

I'm digging all three authors, although I take issue with some of Enright's characters. They're just so cold and removed from any feeling. Makes it hard to give a damn when something bad happens to them. I guess I'm just really appreciating the bluntness from this small island that many try to paint as quaint and prudish. There are some terminally heavy thoughts going on, and I intend to learn more. Though I don't think anyone will be eating chips out of my knickers (god, I hope not).

Nighty night


  1. So freaking awesome! (You know what f-word I mean, but shyly refrain from using...)
    "Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves". James Joyce - Ulysses
    May your journey be full of many days!

    1. Thanks, Karen! He's fantastic. I think I'm going to tackle Ulysses this summer. I'm going to need lots of encouragement!