Jul 9, 2013

A Little Light Reading


I would say that Summer is in full swing in New York City but that sounds way too energetic. Summer is in slow, heavy swing. It's hot. Hazy. Sweaty. Lazy. Your skirt sticks to your arse when you stand up. The stink of early morning garbage trucks sticks to the pavement all day. There's little grace in this month named for Julius Caesar. Maybe, it should have been named for Brutus.

With all my gallivanting, I'm a little behind on my summer reading this year. So far, I've only managed Colum McCann's TransAtlantic, which I would say I enjoyed more than I loved (but would still recommend), but I plan to up the reading ante by seeking shade under a pile of new Irish reads for the rest of this month ...

The Fields by Kevin Maher
I just started Kevin Maher's debut novel, The Fields, and much as I hate when a reviewer says exactly what I'm thinking (but better, and before I think it), I agree with the Guardian's review that "This must be the most enjoyable Irish novel since Skippy Dies." It's sharp, funny, smart, and filled with Mid-80s references (Bronski Beat!) that speak to my childhood. I'm a couple of chapters in and I can already tell that this one will outlast any other summer flings. Excited to discover a new favorite Irish writer.
Bonus read: check out British GQ's interview with Maher where he talks similarities between himself and protagonist Jim Finnegan.
Buy: The Fields: A Novel

The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce
Another debut novel and—by all accounts—another Irish writer to get excited about. Niamh Boyce's The Herbalist is set in 1930s Ireland and centers around the lives of a group of Irish women and the arrival of an exotic stranger—the Herbalist—who sets up a stall in their small Irish town. The Irish Times describes it as "a hugely impressive and wonderfully assured first novel" and "the most entertaining yet substantial historical novel I've read since Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea."
Buy: The Herbalist is not yet available on this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, they have machines now that fly in the sky over the Atlantic (as documented in   Colum McCann's TransAtlantic) to take a book from Amazon.uk to Brooklyn.

Town and Country: New Irish Short Stories
The short story is enjoying a long moment in the spotlight right now and, coincidentally, right now—Summer—is the perfect time to  dip into a collection of new short stories. If you want to get a feel for the movers and shakers on today's Irish writing scene, check out Town and Country's fourth collection of Irish short stories, edited by Kevin Barry and featuring contributions from Irish writers like Paul Murray, Nuala Ní Chonchúir,  Pat McCabe, Mary Costello, Colin Barrett, and Lisa McInerney.
Buy: Another TransAtlantic courier required: Amazon.co.uk

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
Speaking of Kevin Barry, I have yet to read City of Bohane – winner of the 2013 Impac Award. "Forty or so years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the North Rises, and the eerie bogs of the Big Nothin’ that the city really lives. For years it has all been under the control of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say Hartnett’s old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight."
Buy: City of Bohane: A Novel

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