St. Patrick’s Day, which is on March 17, is celebrated differently in the United States and Ireland. Irish-Americans initially celebrated the holiday as a show of solidarity and strength of the Irish in a foreign land. Today, the celebrations include parades, shamrocks, green outfits, green beer, and corned beef and cabbage. In Ireland, it’s a religious holiday that celebrates St. Patrick bringing Catholicism to the Irish Pagans. Periodically, sales of alcohol were banned on this holiday, but today there are celebrations aplenty.
In honor of this holiday, we’ve compiled a list of four talented authors from the Emerald Isle.
1 James Joyce (1882–1941)
Joyce wrote Ulysses (1922), which is hailed as one of the most groundbreaking novels of the twentieth century. The book made Joyce famous for its stream-of-consciousness style and explicit content. Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1882, and moved to Paris before settling in Italy. He died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1941. Joyce’s other published works include Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegan’s Wake (1939), which was recognized by poet Ezra Pound when he put the book into a magazine serial. An excerpt from Ulysses reads:
“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
2 Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
Also a Dubliner, Wilde is known for writing The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Wilde was educated at Oxford and toured the US and the UK giving lectures. He was married and had two children when he was arrested for having an affair with a young man. He was imprisoned for two years and, after being released, died from cerebral meningitis at forty-six years old. His two best-known works are among the greatest accomplishments of the late Victorian period. The following excerpt from The Picture of Dorian Gray, is about a man whose image in a portrait ages while he himself remains forever youthful so he can commit to a life of sin:
“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
3 Leland Bardwell (1928–2016)
Bardwell, a poet, dramatist, short-story writer, and novelist, was born in India, but moved to Ireland at the age of two. Her novels The House (1984) and There We Have Been (1989) cover the topics of Protestantism, history, and relationships. Bardwell’s writing captures life in a small Irish town in Mother to a Stranger (2002). In the novel, the town’s inhabitants convene at the pub for community news:
“Not many sick this weather?” Matt queried. “Francie McCarthy’s mother has the shingles.” “That’s a terrible dose.” “She must be a quare age.” “Eighty-three.” “Is she gone into the general?” “Is Francie upset?” Nan asked. “Ah, you know Francie.”
4 Emma Donoghue (1969– )
Donoghue, the third on our list to have been born in Dublin, is famous for Frog Music (2014) and Room (2010), which was made into a movie Donoghue earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge and has earned a living as a writer since she was twenty-three, stating, “[I] have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since I was sacked after a single summer month as a chambermaid.” She currently lives in Canada. Here is an excerpt from Room, narrated by five-year-old Jack, who lives in captivity with his mother:
“In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time…I don’t know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well…I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.”
Get ready for this St. Patrick’s Day by familiarizing yourself with these great Irish authors and others, such as Anne Enright, Bram Stoker, and Frank McCourt. However you’re celebrating this year, have a happy St. Patrick’s Day!