We recently watched the intriguing but utterly inconclusive Series One of “The Fall” on Netflix (apparently Series Two is in production, and one can hope that it will provide the closure that was spectacularly absent in Series One. Not that it ended as a cliffhanger, precisely. But we were still a bit irked that it ended where it did), which is set in Belfast. I’ve also been reading Joyce’s Ulysses these past couple of weeks, when I have the time to do a spot of reading.
The combination got me thinking about Irish works I’ve encountered over the years and enjoyed.
Here are a couple of additional highlights:
I read these a few years back and really liked them. My favourite of hers is Faithful Place, followed by The Likeness and In the Woods, both of which I found really compelling, despite flaws. Broken Harbour was a somewhat distant fourth, from a narrative and character perspective (part of the issue was that I didn’t like any of the characters and I found the story arc ultimately unsatisfying), though it was certainly wonderfully atmospheric and creepy, and shifted between a wistful sadness and something far darker, all of which was wrought with a subtle complexity that makes the book worth checking out in itself, in spite of the fact that neither the characters nor the conclusion were much to my liking. A haunting work.
Neil Jordan’s films, and Ondine in particular
Though I love a number of Neil Jordan’s films, I can’t say I’m a fan of all of them. I really liked Ondine, though. It’s set near Cork, and is beautifully evocative and atmospheric, riffing on the idea of selkies, which are creatures of Irish folklore (The Secret of Roan Innish, is the only other film I know of that explores this corner of mythology)–creatures like the swan maidens of middle eastern and Russian lore. Selkies have the appearence of seals, but when they come to land, they remove their seal coats and become lovely maidens, and if one finds and hides the seal coat, then the maiden must stay on land until it is found again.
The film reminded me a little of Whale Rider, in that it is magical realism, and ultimately weaves the folklore into an underlying reality, without necessarily straying into the supernatural. It was also similar in feel, and in that it touched on cultural and societal dysfunctions–issues of substance abuse and discord–presenting a stark contrast between the magic and fancifulness of the folklore/mythology, and the contemporary realty of the society and the challenges the characters are dealing with. Also, I love Stephen Rea. He is one of my actor crushes.
W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw
There are so many of his poems that I love. Sailing to Byzantium, Leda and the Swan, The Second Coming… the list goes on. And of course GBS. My dad really liked Pygmalion. It was probably one of the first plays I read, as a child.
Progress check-in: Ulysses
I’m perhaps 130 pages into Ulysses so far and I’m enjoying it quite a lot–which wasn’t necessarily something I expected (I didn’t actually expect to get this far into it, to be honest). I’m a bit of a lightweight reader, and even with Ulysses, I’m enjoying the flow of it, rather than delving deeply into the meaning and allusions. I’ve actually been taking the easy route with it, by listening to an unabridged, dramatic reading of it, which helps considerably in parsing the language and maintaining the flow. I tend to switch between the two: if I’m out for a walk, I’ll listen to the recording as I go. If I sit, I’ll pull it up and read along with the recording, which animates the text. Or, if I don’t have headphones, and I have a few moments (like when I’m waiting at court to have my matter heard), I’ll just read the text. I don’t know if I’ll end up finishing the book (I often don’t finish books, I’m afraid), but however far I get, I’m glad to have joined up with Dedalus and Bloom, on their perambulations, for as long as I can manage it.
I expect there are many other Irish works that I’ve forgotten or missed–feel free to weigh in under the comments, to share your own faves–poems/plays/books/films you’ve found particularly memorable.