Langrishe, Go down by Aidan Higgins

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I don’t read enough Irish lit over the years of this blog I have want to read a little as it is where I was born and my family have a history tied back to the 1600’s in Ireland. So when I saw the sad news of Aidan Higgins passing a few weeks ago, I decide it was time to read his debut novel which was considered his best book (I often feel this is a hard cross to carry as a writer when that first book is so praised and lauded it is always hard to hit a second home run. Higgins had written many books and after this I will be trying him again. Sorry it took his death for me to finally try him .

Cattle-Jobber; the man in the gap. A life given to bullocks ad heifers, stringers. Bone and gristle. Stewing fat, Helen Langrishe looked away. The heavy wheel ran on. She cleared the glass once more with the heel of her glove and stared out through the port-hole at the countryside now coming into sight on the left hand.

The conductor, worn leather satchel hanging down, was talking to another passenger, his hand outstretched for a fare. she regretted not answering him. The way it was at Springfield, they had got out of the way of exchanging common civilities.

Helen the sister on the bus back from Town at the start of the book with how bleak their lives are .

Langrische, Go down is the story that is very common in Irish history in the 20th century and that is the fall of a landed family. This is captured the family in what may be its last generation The three  langrische sister live in the decay ruin of the once proud home.We see after the opening chapter and the plight of the family when Helen returns and passes on the dire straits of the sisters lives. The main part of the story focus on the youngest sister Imogen and the one chance she gets to maybe carry on the family but also escape the world. This comes when the sister open their lives  to a German Student who is staying in one of the estates cottages.  The young sister falls for this Man with his views on the purity of Irish women. This is the story of two worlds meeting the dying British empire of old Anglo-Irish families like this one , the rise of Facism in Europe through Otto. Otto is a man who uses Imogen really for me I was reminded of some of Maugham’s characters in Otto the way he treated Imogen. He is a darker character than he first seems.

-Irishwomen, said Otto with fervour, they are so pure and clean.

-So cold?

-So pure, Otto said, and that’s not to be found any more in Germany– that great purity. But here you have it. And also that look in the face, the eyes, and one knows that such women are not corrupted. One knows it(thumping himself on the breast) Here

-Ireland is still rearing them still, Imogen said widening her eyes at him.

-A man might sometimes have filthy thoughts about girls. That’s natural enough. But when I meet Irish girls and can recognise at once their essential purity, then I am touched, incapable of a base thought.

Otto with Imogen she is still a virgin at 39 when she meets Otto is he the one?

This is one of those books where a lot doesn’t happen the beauty is in the way the prose draw you into the world of the sisters the decaying house what Higgins captures is the world that world of de Valera Ireland, which in some ways is the final nail in the sisters coffin so to speak the change of the world around them and them not able to catch up to the world. This isn’t a book for those who want a story. This is the story of broken grandeur the whole world of  Langrische sisters is dusty, ill or just about to fall apart. These are like characters in Paul Scott’s novel staying on or the spinster sisters in Agatha Christie’s  Nemesis The Bradbury-scott’s both of whom like the Langrishe have fallen out of step with the world around them.A richly written book by a writer that maybe should be better known. Have you read him ?

Irish Literature

Source – Library book

The history of the man in black by Oliver goldsmith

I going try to go through a few irish short stories for Mel of reading lives irish short story month .I was born in Ireland myself co down in the north and my family has a history on my father’s side going back over 300 years in Ireland ,so irish literature is something I read when young with frequent visits to family and friends meant I want to learn more about Ireland .But in the last ten years I ve read less and less so I chosen a few short stories and may try a few novels later this year after my IFFP reading .

so to the story it is told by a son his father was a poor member of a well to do family he had joined the church as a youngest son in Ireland at the time this was normal in middle class families the first son would inherit the second join the army and the third the clergy ,well his son wants some money as he dislikes his families poverty we see how he goes about it in this very short story of four pages ,it does capture a part of Ireland that was in existence for many years .All so shows how quick one could fall from well to do to poor in Ireland in the 1700’s

My father ,the younger son of a good family  was possessed a small living in the church .His education was above his fortune and his generosity greater than his education .

Opening of this short story .

Oliver Goldsmith was a Anglo irish writer alive from the 1720 to the 1770 .he grew up in Ireland went to trinity college in Dublin then went to london after college where he became a member of the club,the exclusive dining club run by Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds ,they meet every two weeks and discussed art and writing .

This story is in my 10 volume collection the worlds thousand best short stories .

Cheating at canasta by William Trevor

Source – personnel copy

William Trevor without doubt in my humble opinion is the greatest living short story writer .he has won numerous awards and has been nominated for the booker prize on five occasions without winning a shocking oversight .He lives in Devon ,since the 60’s .His stories often touch on the outcasts and edges of society .

This collection of short stories was published in 2007 .if there is a theme to this book it is maybe loosely cheating ,a man in an italian cafe cheats at canasta ,a mechanic cheats some Spanish  tourists out of money for a repair  and in another a man returns to his home village from England as he felt cheat out of his inheritance ,but also a huge dark secret that he needs to see the priest about !Trevor wonderfully spins the human condition with all its foibles .We also touch on the very darkest people in society a paedophile on the lookout for a victim is a very harrowing story ,we also meet street gangs .These stories show that even thou he was nearly eighty when he wrote this collection ,he still has the finger on the pulse of  everyday life .

He was a shabbily dressed man ,almost everything he wore would having been abandoned by someone else .He had acquired the garments over a period ,knowing he intend to make this journey -the trousers of what had been a suit ,brown pin-striped ,worn shiny in the seat and at the knees ,a jacket that had been navy-blue and was nondescript now ,the khaki shirt he  wore an item once of military attire .

a bit from men of Ireland as Prunty returns to Ireland

As the quote shows Trevor has a great eye for detail .Like the other books by him I ve read I love his stories he always surprises me ,which is a real talent .all the stories in the collection are strong enough to stand alone which is good oft in collections by other writers there are a couple of what might be called in music terms filler tracks .this is like Bob  Dylan’s blood on tracks or Neil young harvest 100% wonderful from start to finish but also a collection that be great to visit again .I read this few weeks ago but held it for Mel of the reading life Irish short story week

Have you read Trevor ?

Who is your favourite short story writer ?


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