Well, sort of. I married into a family of Irish descent. That counts, right? (We won’t worry about that divorce today. I mean, everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!)
Admittedly, the vast majority of my family tree comes straight from jolly ol’ England. We’ve found records of our forefathers who were ship builders in Southern England before immigrating to the colonies. There’s even a mention of a great uncle who chose poorly in the War of the Roses. The jury’s still out on his actual ties to the family. For 364 days of the year, I consider myself somewhat of an Anglophile, albeit not as deeply immersed as some.
But, today, like so many other American’s, I’m a bit Irish and I find myself trying to greet everyone with a pathetic imitation of an Irish accent and wearing a bit of green to celebrate the Emerald Isle.
I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen more in love with Ireland than I was in my youth. Not because I’ve been there, although that is on the bucket list, but because of the wonderful Irish writers that I’ve had the pleasure to read over the years. Through each work, I’ve been able to travel to Ireland without leaving the comfort of my home and venture down the streets of Dublin, going to university, and visiting the small country villages along the way.
And so, instead of dwelling on the insane amount of Genius that will be consumed today or commenting on the pounds of dye used to change the river in Chicago green, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the famous Irish authors and some of the works they’ve contributed to our literary fabric.
- Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Considered by many to be one of the most influential novelists and playwrights of the last century. Was elected Saoi of Aosdana in the Irish Association of Writers. Notable works include Molloy, First Love, and Waiting for Godot.
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Perhaps one of the most flamboyant of all Irish writers, Wilde is best known for his philosophy of aestheticism, or art for art’s sake. For much of his career, he believed and practiced a writing style that exemplified beauty of the word without searching for deeper meaning. Notable works include The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and An Ideal Husband.
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) A playwright whose influence can still be felt today, Shaw wrote over 60 plays, received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He specialized in combining contemporary satire with historical allegory. Notable works include Pygmalion, Saint Joan, and On the Rocks.
- Maeve Binchy (1939-2012) One of the most widely recognized Irish writers of modern times, Binchy wrote about human nature and small town Ireland like few others could do. With vivid and detailed character descriptions, Binchy captivated her audience. At the time of her death, her books had sold over 40 million copies and had been translated into 37 different languages. Notable works include Tara Road, The Glass Lake, and Circle of Friends.
- Frank Delaney (1942-2017) Noted novelist and journalist, Delaney was known for his epic works. His works Ireland and his non-fiction work Simple Courage: The Story of Peril on the Sea both earned him the distinction of New York Times Best Seller. Other notable works include James Joyce’s Odyssey and Tipperary.
- Bram Stoker (1847-1912) Best known for his dark romantic work Dracula, Stoker spent much of his adult career as the business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London. Although he authored other works, none would ever compete with the success of his most famous novel. Other works include The Snake’s Pass, The Mystery of the Sea, and Miss Betty.
- James Joyce (1882-1941) His masterpiece Ulysses is considered by many to be one of the finest pieces of literature of the 20th Century. As a novelist, poet, and short story writer, he was best known for his contributions to the modernist avant-garde movement. Other notable works include Finnegan’s Wake, Dubliners, and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
- Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Known as the foremost prose satirist of the English Language, Swift’s writing is often delivered in a deadpan, ironic manner and is still popular today. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels, A Modern Proposal, and Drapier’s Letters.
- Liam O’Flaherty (1896-1984) Credited as a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance, O’Flaherty was a known socialist and dabbled briefly in politics with his family. He became a founding member of the Communist party in Ireland and is to reported to have laid siege to the Ambassador Cinema in Dublin for four days. Notable works include The Informer, Return of the Brute, and Thy Neighbour’s Wife.
- W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) A symbolist poet, Yeats is often considered one of the pillars of modern poetry. He mastered traditional form rather than working with free verse. In addition to his literary career, Yeats was a noted Irish nationalist and served as an Irish senator for two terms. Notable works include The Heart of Spring, A Prayer for My Daughter, and When You Are Old.
Of course, this is in no way a complete list of noted Irish writers. There are far too many to include here. Yet, I hope that you will join me in visiting the Emerald Isle through the written word. As always,