Happy St. Patrick's Day! When you raise a (green) beer to honor an Irish saint for his brave 5th-century snake-banishing (via Riverdance, perhaps?) take a moment to consider Ireland's rich literary legacy. Here are a few of our favorites from today's best Irish authors:
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
Black's atmopheric mysteries are as full of twists as they are elegantly written (Black is a pseudonym for prize-winning author John Banville). We love his take on 1950s Ireland and his savvy amateur detective Garret Quirke.
Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
This quiet story of the life of an everywoman in 1970s Ireland turns into a wider exploration of the country's past, present and future in the capable hands of Tóibín, one of today's most accomplished Irish writers.
Faithful Place by Tana French
No list of Irish writers would be complete without Tana French, whose textured mysteries have taken the suspense world by storm since she made her debut in 2007. In Faithful Place, she brings the Liberties—a housing project in Dublin—into the spotlight, uncovering the truth behind a decades-old disappearance.
An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray
Murray is best known for his excellent second novel, Skippy Dies, but his charming, Wodehous-ian debut, set in a crumbling Irish mansion, is a social satire for the ages.
At the Edge of Ireland by David Yeadon
In the tradition of classics like Under the Tuscan Sun, big-city reportor David Yeadon recounts his adventures and attempts to fit in with the locals after moving to the most isolated outpost in Ireland he could find—the Beara Peninsula.
My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain
This novel blends past and present in a time-tested formula. It's the story of modern-day Irishwoman Kathleen de Burca, who becomes obsessed with the story of an ancestor who escaped Ireland during the potato famine.
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle is best known for his novels for adults, but in this magical middle-grade novel has an Irish setting that shines, a tough heroine and, best of all, a ghost.
The fuss and bother about the Super Bowl is impossible to ignore, even for non-NFL fans and dedicated readers like myself. If you're looking for reading that is in the spirit of the event, or simply something you can read beween commercial breaks without too much shame (hey, it's about football!), might I recommend Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk? This hilarious first novel is set in 2004, at the height of the Iraq War, and finds a troop of war heroes teaming up with the Dallas Cowboys for one surreal 24-hour period.
As we say in our review:
Ben Fountain’s sly, raucous, occasionally bawdy first novel . . . recounts the wildly improbable Thanksgiving Day that eight members of Bravo squad, including Texas native Specialist Billy Lynn, spend as guests of the Dallas Cowboys. Fountain employs his ample satiric gifts to depict how flag-waving patriotism merges with our worship of professional football in a single manic event.
"I thought it was the nuttiest thing I’d ever seen, but maybe that was because I’d had a couple of martinis. Or maybe the martinis had peeled the scales from my eyes and I was seeing the show for what it was, this surreal blowup of pop music, softcore porn choreography, five or six marching bands, a hundred or so flag girls, a company’s worth of ROTCs, a U.S. Army drill team doing close-order drill—and flags, lots and lots and lots of American flags."
Want to read more? Check out the full interview with Ben Fountain here.
Handler was at ALA to promote his upcoming collaboration with artist Maira Kalman, Why We Broke Up (Little, Brown), which currently holds the title of my favorite book published in January 2012. I have never been so entertained watching an author sign books before: Handler took time to joke with everyone, interrogating the woman in front of me about the man whose heart she broke most recently and teasing me about the illegible handwriting on the Post-It that was supposed to show him how to spell my name. In short, he talks with the same freewheeling charm he displays in his books.
Later, Handler read from Why We Broke Up, interrupting himself with hilarious asides. Told through letters that teenaged Min writes to her ex-boyfriend, Ed, after their breakup, Why We Broke Up attempts to answer that unanswerable question by telling the stories behind objects Min has collected over the course of her relationship with Ed. Handler mentioned after the reading that he liked writing about teenagers because "everything's more interesting when it happens to a teenage girl." (He added that he meant that in the least inappropriate way possible.)
Handler is no stranger to writing about teenagers (his first novel, The Basic Eight) or love (the excellent novel-in-stories Adverbs). Here's a section of the first chapter of Why We Broke Up:
The thunk is the box, Ed. This is what I am leaving you. I found it down in the basement, just grabbed the box when all of our things were too much for my bed stand drawer. Plus I thought my mom would find some of the things, because she’s a snoop for my secrets. So it all went into the box and the box went into my closet with some shoes on top of it I never wear. Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb.
We're pretty sure the answer to this question is "no"—which is why we're sharing our very first invite to a twitter launch party with you.
Novak will be chatting about the book with fans using the hashtag #bnparty. Fans will have the chance to ask questions about Novak's work and win prizes—including an iPad.
Have you ever attended a twitter launch party? Will you drop by this one? Tell us in the comments!