Oconee Regional Library

Classic Irish Stories

Book Review Twenty-Four

March 17, 2009

During the month of March when everything is Irish in Dublin, you might want to drop by the Laurens County Library and browse the display of books that relate to Ireland and its people. Among them you will find: 101 Things You Didn't Know About Irish History, The Irish American Chronicle, and A Pint of Plain, and the Fate of the Irish Pub. There are also a number of books on Irish wit and humor as well as books that will assist you if you are planning a trip to the old country.

My favorite Irish book this year is Classic Irish Stories edited by Michael P. Quinn. This short volume provides an excellent sampling of short stories, legends, and ancient folktales by a variety of authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, George Moore, Katharine Tynan, and William Butler Yeats.

It opens with a tender story about a recently married couple and their first spring sowing by Liam O'Flaherty. The ultimate, unending, unanswerable question lies before the young husband: "Would he be able to prove himself a man worthy of being the head of a family by doing his spring sowing well?" O'Flaherty's words make you feel like you can almost touch the soil and smell the sweat of their labor. At the story's closing, they had indeed "done it together - had planted seeds in the earth."

Donald and His Neighbours tells the story of two brothers, Hudden and Dudden, who try to out do their sly neighbor, Donald O'Neary. At every turn, it seems Donald is just one step ahead of the brothers as they imitate his prosperous ways although with calamitous results. When Hudden and Dudden capture Donald in a sack and is left alone, Donald calls out to a passerby who asks why he is in his confined condition. Donald replies that "Oh, I am going to heaven and in a short time will be free from trouble". Like many of us, the stranger wishes to be free from his worries and is foolish enough to pay Donald so that he can take his place. In contrast to the fictional tales, George Birmingham's The Irishman Abroad describes the dilution of Irish culture when people leave Ireland for America and other countries. Birmingham writes that emigration has led to a lessening of Irish nationality which has been replaced instead with the idea of international democracy. He makes a compelling argument that no one can write a valid history of Ireland because unlike other countries, Irish men and women leave, never to return permanently. Over the centuries, the people of Ireland have fought and given their lives to help make other nations free and gain worldwide acclaim while Ireland itself declines and continues to struggle.

Classic Irish Stories is an excellent, entertaining volume which can add to your enjoyment of our Irish celebration.

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