When a meddling Philosopher helps his neighbour steal a crock of gold belonging to the leprechauns of Gort na Gloca Mora, they are not happy. But as he is married to a powerful member of the Shee, and the crock is buried under a thorn bush and therefore protected by all the fairies in Ireland, they have to be very careful as to how they get their revenge but suffice it to say it involves long journeys, strange meetings, ancient gods, young maidens, policemen and strangers aplenty.
Recently reissued by John Murray publishers as part of their newly issued Heritage Collection which revisits classics from their backlist, The Crock of Gold was written in 1912 by James Stephens, a contemporary of James Joyce. For me, the prose had some of the density of Joyce, but was much livelier, combining folklore, philosophy and a good dash of humour to create a good old Irish yarn.
I always love a novel which makes good use of folkloric motifs and storytelling conventions, but that aside, I loved James Stephens’ wry comments on the battle of the sexes and his characterisation generally. The dynamic between the Philosopher and his wife is especially interesting.
For all the novel talks a lot of nonsense, it talks a lot of sense. A great read if you like traditional storytelling.
Having an Irish mother, an Irish name and being entitled to hold an Irish passport I should really celebrate St Patricks Day, but I don’t really. I’ll leave that to the good people of America who seem to be going for it in a big way (really, turning the river green? How many pints of Guiness made that seem like a good idea).
I will however share my five favourite Irish writers with you. James Joyce will not feature, so don’t hold your breath.
1) Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin I believe, but is probably better known for his amazing contributions to English Literature. My favourites? The Importance of Being Earnest and The Selfish Giant. Earnest is my favourite play and I can quote most of it, which is much cooler than most people realise.
2) C.S. Lewis because, religion aside, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia.
3) Jonathan Swift and not so much for Gulliver’s Travels more for A Modest Proposal, a satire made all the more cutting when you realise that Swift was of Irish descent.
4) Eavan Boland- it would be patronising to call her a little know poet, because she’s very successful and yet she isn’t one of the ancient white males that are still so commonly associated with “good” poetry, whatever that is. I studied her as part of a modern poetry course at university, and hers is one of the few set texts I move around with me.
5) Cecelia Ahern because anyone who says that they didn’t cry buckets when reading P.S. I Love You needs a bloody good slap. My housemate and I had to meet for hugs in the kitchen to compose ourselves enough to carry on reading.
What are your favourite books/poems by Irish writers?