Following the Irish release of The Guts, the new Roddy Doyle novel that brings back Jimmy Rabbitte from The Commitments, The Irish Times interviews Doyle, who remembers a time when his writing garnered him death threats. Sample quote: “I drove the guy in the next room demented as I replayed an old tape, repeating the same musical phrase, again and again.”
“Unable to replicate the success of his first novel [The Loom of Youth],” writes Philip Quarles, “[Alec Waugh] did create a lasting impact by being credited with inventing the cocktail party when he shocked guests by serving, instead of afternoon tea, rum swizzles.”
Though traditionally a cultural staple, Irish poetry's popularity has been on the decline for some time now. The best way to reignite public interest? A contest, of course, and Seamus Heaney just won. His sonnet "When all the others were away at Mass" was voted "Ireland’s best-loved poem written over the past 100 years."
New this week is Jonathan Evison's West of Here, Joyce Carol Oates' memoir A Widow's Story about the death of her husband (this was the source of her recent, quite moving essay in the New Yorker), and the expanded rerelease of Alexander Theroux's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Also new on shelves from NYRB Classics is Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, with an introduction by Phillip Lopate, who discussed Fontane in our Year in Reading in December.
Though the world may never know whether reading the greats makes you a better person, according to a recent study, those who take an active interest in the arts are more likely to be altruistic.
"We get the book adaptations we deserve... We need to re-tell these stories over and over because each generation sees them in a different way, needs different things from them. We tell these stories again and again, their survival over time proof of their intrinsic value. People are writing new Zeitgeist-y things all the time of course, but we return to classics because the stories have endured for a reason." Sky Friedlander on the "Literary Period Piece."