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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Read Ireland - ‘Best’ Irish Fiction & Poetry of 2004

If you are stuck for Christmas Presents, here is a highly subjective and selective list of the best Irish poetry and fiction published this year. They can all be shipped immediately. A list of 'Best' Non-Fiction will follow tomorrow. I wish also to take this brief opportunity to thank you very much for your support in 2004 and I look forward to sending you more Irish interest books in 2005! Sincerely, Gregory Carr -------------------------------------------- Read Ireland Book News – ‘Best’ Irish Fiction and Poetry of 2004 -------------------------------------------- Ulysses: A New Reader’s Edition by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose (Trade Paperback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 24.00 UK; 768 pages) Even before its first publication in 1922, Ulysses dominated the literary landscape. It has generated diverse and animated responses from readers and critics alike, eliciting superlatives both positive and negative. Encompassing everything human – urination, defecation, masturbation, crepitation, menstruation, fornication, insemination, paturition and expiration – it entered the world as at once the most obscene and the most brilliant of novels wherein Joyce strove to answer the question that bedeviled him: Is life worth living? To this end Joyce immersed himself in the Dublin of 1904, in a ludic procession of minor characters, and in his cast of principal players – the artist (Stephen Dedalus), the man in the street (Leopold Bloom) and the woman who said yes (Molly Bloom) – fashioning a sustained, unparalleled tour-de-force of writerly genius. --------------------------------------- Collected Poems of Patrick Kavanagh (Hardback; 35.00 Euro / 42.00 USD / 27.00 UK; 336 pages) The centenary of Patrick Kavanagh's birth in 2004 provides the ideal opportunity to reappraise one of modern Ireland's greatest poets. Lucid, various, direct and engaging, Kavanagh's poems have a unique place in the canon. This new edition is the culmination of many years of work by Antoinette Quinn in creating authoritative texts for Kavanagh's work from his early works such as Inniskeen Road: July Evening' to such major pieces as The Great Hunger'. --------------------------------- The Master by Colm Toibin (Hardback; 25.00 Euro / 32.00 USD / 18.00 UK; 360 pages) In this brilliant and profoundly moving novel, the author tells the story of Henry James, an American-born genius of the modern novel who became a connoisseur of exile, living among artists and aristocrats in Paris, Rome, Venice and London. In January 1895 James anticipates the opening of his first play in London. He has never been so vulnerable, nor felt so deeply unsuited to the public gaze. When the production fails, he returns, chastened, to his writing desk. The result is a string of masterpieces, but they are produced at a high personal cost. The author captures the exquisite anguish of a man whose artistic gifts made his career a triumph but whose private life was haunted by loneliness and longing, and whose sexual identity remained unresolved. Henry James circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, he was lauded and admired, yet his attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. The Master is Colm Toibin's most accomplished and powerful novel to date. It is a portrait of a man who was elusive to both friends and family even as he remained astonishingly vibrant and alive in his art - a searching exploration of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart. ----------------------------------------- Something Beginning with P: New Poems from Irish Poets edited by Seamus Cashman and Illustrated by Corrina Askin and Alan Clarke (Hardback in Gift Slipcase; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 20.00 UK; 160 pages) This fabulous anthology, a carnival of poems, is filled with laughter, magic, excitement and energy from over 100 Irish poets, including Seamus Heaney, Rita Ann Higgins, Brendan Kennelly, Thomas Kinsella, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian, John Montague, Paul Muldoon, Julie O’Callagha, Cathal O Searcaigh, Moya Cannon, Dennis O’Driscoll, Mary O’Malley, Frank Ormsby, Michael Smith and Matthew Sweeney. --------------------------------------- A Bit on the Side by William Trevor (Hardback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 17.00 UK; 244 pages) ‘Then, for the forty minutes that were theirs, they spoke of love: as it had been for them, as it still was, of its confinements, necessarily so, its intensity too, its pain, the mockery it had so often felt like, how they had never wasted it by sitting in silence in the dark of a cinema or sleeping through the handful of nights they’d spent together in her flat. They had not wasted it is lovers’ quarrels, or lovers’ argument. The did not waste it now, in what they said … ‘ This is the author’s first collection of short stories since the award-winning ‘The Hill Bachelors’ was published in 2000. Tender, touching and beautifully humane, the dozen new stories contained here explore the subject of adultery, and tell of secret passions, domestic infidelities, office romances, and the broken and unbroken rules of love. ------------------------------------- The New Irish Poets edited by Selina Guinness (Trade Paperback; 18.00 Euro / 23.00 USD / 11.00 UK; 336 pages) Selina Guinness's lively selection covers over 30 poets of all ages from all parts of Ireland who have established themselves over the last ten years. It offers rare insights into how the freshest writing talents have responded to a period of profound social, cultural and political change in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. Dynamic and confident in their diverse voices - whether conversational, caustic or solemn in tone - these poets open up the world to unexpected horizons, unsuspected pleasures and surprising conclusions. The book supplies a new measure for Ireland in the coming times. The New Irish Poets features all of the prominent new poets who have received major awards and international critical recognition as well as giving a platform to less well known writers published by small presses. Illustrated with photographs and helpful editorial commentaries, the book includes a parallel-text selection of poems by three new Irish language poets. Nearly half the poets are women, and there's a broad mix of young and old, ranging from Fergus Allen, now in his 80s - to the youngest, Leanne O'Sullivan. With its wide-ranging, up-to-the-minute selections, The New Irish Poets bears witness to the flourishing of contemporary Irish poetry over the past decade. ---------------------------------------- Havoc, in its Third Year by Ronan Bennett (Trade Paperback; 17.50 Euro / 21.50 USD / 12.50 UK; 244 pages) England in the 1630s – an unsettled country in turbulent times. People are gripped by fear: fear of crime, or foreign invasion, of Catholic conspiracies, of the vagrant poor. In a town in northern England, a group of Puritan reformers tightens its hold on the lives of its inhabitants. John Brigge is the local coroner, a respected man who wants nothing more than to work his farm and be with his wife, now expecting their first child. But when he is called to investigate an infanticide, Brigge finds himself drawn unwillingly into a vicious power struggle. Katherine Shay, a fiery Irishwomen, stands accused of killing her baby. The Puritan faction demands her immediate execution. Brigge suspects their haste has little to do with justice. What are they hiding? Does he really want to know? Against a background of looming crisis, Brigge struggles between his desire to protect his family and the need to see justice done. And he is haunted by the mystery of Katherine Shay. Powerful, dramatic and utterly gripping, this is a superb novel, justly long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. Its canvas is large, its characters full-blooded, its atmosphere apocalyptic. Like the best historical novels, it vividly captures the period yet resonates with the present. (Also available in Hardback at 27 Euro) -------------------------------------- Drunken Sailor by John Montague (Trade Paperback; 12.50 Euro / 15.00 USD / 7.50 UK; 76 pages) At Seventy Five, John Montague, the doyen of Ulster poetry, is as vigorous and creative as ever. This collection opens at the mouth of Cork Harbour, then journeys across the country to West Cork before embracing matters of his Northern past. Mortality and the power of myth are among his subjects, and there is an underlying dialogue with Yeats, from the ruined towers at Roche’s Point, to the glimpse of Ben Bulben in the ambitious longer poem, ‘The Plain of Blood’, with which the book culminates. (Also available in hardback at 20 Euro) ------------------------------------- Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney (Hardback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 18.00 UK; 470 pages) One evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller, the last of a fabled breed, arrives unannounced and mysterious at a house in the Irish countryside. By the winter fireside he begins to tell the story of this extraordinary land: Ireland. One of his listeners, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the storytelling then, when the old man leaves, he devotes his life to finding him again. It is a search that uncovers both passions and mysteries, in his own life as well as the Storyteller’s, and their solving becomes the thrilling climax of this tale. But the life of this boy is more than just his story: it is also the telling of a people, the narrative of a nation, the history of Ireland in all its drama, intrigue and heroism. The novel travels through the centuries by way of story after story, from the savage grip of the Ice Age to the green and troubled land of tourist brochures and news headlines. Along the way, the reader meets foolish kings and innocent monks, god-heroes and great works of art, shrewd Norman raiders and strong tribal leaders, poets, politicians and lovers. Each illuminates the magic of Ireland and the eternal connections of its people to the land. A novel of huge ambition, beautifully told, the book is the unstoppably readable story of a remarkable nation. ----------------------------------- The Book of the Angel by Medbh McGuckian (Trade Paperback; 12.50 Euro / 15.00 USD / 7.50 UK; 86 pages) Taking its title from the Old Irish eighth-century Latin document, Liber Angeli, in which St. Patrick is granted the ecclesiastical see of Armagh through colloquy with an angel, and its inspiration from the reconciliation in Renaissance and medieval art, between the tenets of Christ’s Passion and the tensions of passion, between Agape and Eros, these poems use the millennial standpoint to contemplate the eternally unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation. The divine and the secular are held in solution by a series of vignettes of the Annunciation, followed by a visitation to the most this-worldly and carnal paradise of Hollywood, Los Angeles. Included are responses to the apocalyptic wars engendered by September 11, but ultimately the book’s focus is on personal triumph over the forces of dissolution and the possibility for human salvation through the advent into this life of extraordinary and exceptionally loveable individuals, who may or may not be akin to what we mean by ‘angels’. (Also available in hardback at 20 Euro) -------------------------------------- Shade by Neil Jordan (Hardback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 18.00 UK; 317 pages) Nina Hardy has been murdered. She died in the house where she grew up, killed by George, her childhood friend. But her body is never found, and she remains, a silent shade, watching the events of her own afterlife. She watches her half-brother Gregory as he arrives to bury her, after some thirty years away; and Janie as she attempts to elicit a confession from George, her brother. Through them Nina will relive their lives together, and somehow begin to make sense of the people they all became. This is a story of imaginary friends and hayrides, of plays and school dances, of a seemingly idyllic childhood by the mudflats of the River Boyne. But the outside world cannot be kept at bay, and the fragile balance of their friendship is soon interrupted. Ultimately they will be torn apart by the outbreak of war, brought together again only to find that each other has changed almost beyond recognition. This novel is at once an unforgettable portrait of childhood, a powerful story in its many forms, and a moving tragedy of lost innocence. Written with astonishing insight and perception, it confirms Neil Jordan as one of the most mesmerizing voices in contemporary Irish fiction. ----------------------------------- To order books from the Read Ireland Book Review you can send an email to the order department at: greg@readireland.ie Please be sure to include your mailing address and credit card details. You can of course also post your order to: Read Ireland, 392 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3,Ireland. Telephone and Facsimile number is: +353-1-830-2997. Read Ireland Web Site Home Page: http://www.readireland.com All Prices and Rates are in Euro (US Dollar and UK Sterling prices are guidelines based on current exchange rates.) Euro prices on books reviewed above are firm. Post + package is charged at cost. --------------------------------------------------------
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