Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A toast to Irish authors

St. Pat’s Day is a great time to remember the many wonderful Irish writers. Too many to list at once, but here are a few of the more famous:

Abraham “Bram” Stoker’s Dracula was trashed by critics as fantastic nonsense. I just read Dracula last year for the first time to know what started the vamp trend. Written in multiple POV, the story builds suspense in an unusual way. I admit the ending disappointed me a bit, but only because these days, the more fantastic the story, the more celebrated it is.
Notably, the original 541-page Dracula manuscript was believed to have been lost for many years. During the early 1980s, it was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania and included many corrections and the handwritten title THE UN-DEAD. It makes me want to go out and search other barns in the Commonwealth.

Frank McCourt grew up in poverty in Ireland, but turned ashes into gold with Angela’s Ashes, his memoir. It earned him a Pulitzer as well.
James Joyce is a model of persistence for authors. After 22 rejections, Dubliners finally published, but in its first year, sold fewer than 400 copies, 120 of those to himself (sound familiar? lol) Joyce never gave up. He went on to not only define the Modernist novel, but in the early 20th century, he helped define his native Dublin, where his characters and stories found life.

After Dubliners came A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Praised as a Modernist masterpiece, Ulysses uses a stream of conscoiusness technique to follow Leopold Bloom through an ordinary Dublin day. He layered his prose with puns, parodies, allusions and humor. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
So next time you’re tempted to give up, remember James Joyce.

Jonathan Swift first aspired to be a poet, but found little success. He later became a master satirist. Though considered a children’s story, Gulliver's Travels combines humor and philosophy, and has never been out of print since first published in 1726. Quite a feat!

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was as well known for his biting wit as for his writing. After writing in different genres throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, plays and the tragedy of his imprisonment, followed by his early death at age 46, destitute in prison.

William Butler Yeats is one of my favorite poets. Yeats’ works incorporate Irish mythology, history, mysticism and spiritualism. Writing in traditional form when most poets had turned Modernist, Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and a founding member of the Abbey Theatre. In 1923, Yeats was the first Irishman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature for "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."

There are plenty more Irish authors to celebrate. So when you’re raising a toast with your green beer this St. Pat’s Day, send up a cheer for them all.


Emma Lai said...

Great post about amazing authors, Cate!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Susan! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed researching it. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for the short literary history lesson. I guess writers have always started out poor and many end that way too. I'm glad to know I'm following the historical path of some greats.