Monday, November 9, 2009

Irish Stories & Tales, edited by Devin A. Garrity

The short story really is a beautiful art form. But I've already said so enough on this blog.

Almost each of these stories amazed me for being at the same time remarkably simple and notably complex. You get out of these stories what you bring to them -- and the more you understand the social situations in Ireland at the time of writing, the more import these stories carry.

I wonder, though. What would Mark Twain have written had he been Irish?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce

I wrote before that there was going to be a theme to the books I was reading. That theme should be pretty clear. (Ignore the Palahniuk book.) Well, the great big reason was that I had applied for the Mitchell scholarship to Ireland, and I decided I better be damn well prepared if I should get an interview.

I didn't.

And that's ok. It's always somewhat crushing to put so much effort into a single channel, only to have it come to naught. But the Mitchell people sent out the nicest form rejection letter I've ever read, and were very prompt about the whole process -- all of which, as an applicant, is incredibly well appreciated.

The thing is, I don't feel as though the whole application and preparation process came to nothing. I'm still considering one of the graduate programs I discovered. I've read more Irish literature, and more about Irish literature, in the last couple months than I ever had before, and there's some fascinating stuff. So at the very least I've discovered a love of a national literature that I had not yet explored.

Or, it might yet be that this process will change my life in more concrete ways.

It could be that I end up applying for, and being accepted to, this graduate program, and I up and move to Ireland. Or it could be that this literature affects my writing, and even that it affects my life.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the first James Joyce work of any length I've read. It certainly warrants future readings, as I'm certain there are layers only discoverable after the initial once-through. I can understand why Joyce is so often labeled the best or most significant writer in the English language in the twentieth century; but, what makes a writer so good in my book is that he speaks to me.

And Joyce does. I don't dog-ear pages. But I did one in this book. The page with the line: "The end he had been born to serve yet did not see [...] beckoned to him once more and a new adventure was about to be opened to him."

I don't know what I'm doing with my life. Where I'm going. What my purpose is. Nor do I think there is, or should be, only one answer. But maybe some new adventure is about to be opened to me. Or maybe I'm about to open it.

Maybe it will have something to do with Ireland, or with Irish literature. Maybe not. But either way, Portrait is the kind of book I will carry in my soul wherever or however I end up.