Good Reading : May 2011
18 goodreading ı MAY 2011 The Irish do love telling stories,' Maeve Binchy once said. 'And we are suspicious of people who don't have long, complicated conversations.' Any conversation on the most famous works of Irish literature would likely be long, complicated and just a little contentious. Far from the easy clichés of rolling green hills, rowdy bars and leprechauns, the literary output of Ireland is dazzling in its diversity, spanning Gothic horror, avant- garde weirdness, dirty realism, fantasy and a few more genres besides. With icons like Wilde, Joyce, Murdoch and Swift clamouring to be included, deciding whom to leave out is a devilish task. One obvious inclusion in any list of the greatest Irish novels would be Bram Stoker's Dracula, which drew on a wealth of folklore to create the definitive vampire novel.Written at the end of the 19th century, this book uses multiple narrators and nar rative styles ( letters, diary entries, newspaper reports) in a way that somehow feels very contemporary. It has spawned many adaptations and inspired more than a few pale imitators, but its creepy mix of sexual repression and suspense remains unmatched. Another writer to draw on the Gothic tradition -- albeit with very different results -- was Stoker's contemporary (and an early suitor of Stoker's wife), Oscar Wilde. The story of his book The Picture of Dorian Gray is probably familiar even to those who have not read it -- the pluck of the irish categorical 1 Ireland – a country of fewer than 7 million people – has suffered more than its share of disasters and privations over the last couple of centuries. And as the recent Irish financial crisis has shown, the ordeals continue to this day. Despite these setbacks – or perhaps because of them – this plucky little country has been punching above its literary weight for more than a century, producing some of the most outstanding writers in the English language. DANIEL HERBORN checks out present and past Irish writers who have made such a big impact on readers.