Monday, May 19, 2008

Terry Eagleton: The Truth About the Irish

The other day my husband texted me: "Does your bag feel heavier than normal?" Well yes, it was a little heavy, but mostly because I'd found The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon at the library in hardback, and I'm not used to lugging hardback novels around - and I didn't think that was what he meant. So I texted back "What? What?", thinking that maybe Minimus had put his wallet in my bag or something, thus ruining all shopping plans for that day, and he texted back "look properly" - so I did, and in one of the front pockets I found this little volume. Wasn't that sweet? Impromptu present! God it's embarrassing, I never do this for him. I'm hereby making a note to change.

The book is a little encyclopedia of Irishness written (clearly) for Americans. The kind of yanks who turn up on the Emerald Isle dressed in Aran jumpers expecting thatched cottages and plain-spoken peasants. You look up words like begorrah and craic, but also jews, children, RTE and Easter 1916. It's very funny in an understated way. The articles can digress wildly from their starting point, as the entry Phoenix Park shows us - it starts off by describing where Phoenix Park is, and then moves on to the Duke of Wellington, Irish people trying to be English, Irish-British relations, Americans' shaky knowledge of geography and why the British are parochial. It ends with
None of this has anything to do with Phoenix Park, but Irish thinking is famously digressive.
I like that a lot.

My fave bit I can't find at the moment, so I'll just have to lend you the book if you're interested. Worth it!

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