The Classics Club (Irish edition…)

For all the dark sides and murky corners of the Internet, there’s something intangibly fantastic about its interconnectivity. While Twitter and Facebook, with their social weight and smartphone buzz notifications, undoubtedly lead the way, I’ve learned through the two and a bit years of this blog that there’s a huge and supportive community on WordPress too.

The Classics Club Blog is dedicated to inspiring us to read the classics which stare at so many of us, spine out, from our shelves but which often remain unread. Middlemarch, for one, greets me every time I walk into my kitchen – it’s not, gladly, a taunt; more a recurring invitation which I’ve yet to take up. I’ve tried Ulysses at least three times now, and have never made it more than a quarter of the way through. Maybe one day…

To take part in the Classics Club Book Spin, bloggers are encouraged to post a list of 20 classic novels, number them 1-20 and check the original blog today (April 6th) to see which number has been randomly chosen. Then, the name of the game is to read and blog about the novel which corresponds to that number on your own blog before May 15th.

I’m putting a spin on the Book Spin it by listing Irish novels only. Most may not fit absolutely with the “Classic” moniker – they’re unlikely to be listed alongside Henry James and William Makepeace Thackeray in most bookshops. But this is a blog about Irish writing, so…

Several of the list below will be re-reads, but it’s a couple of years since I read any and I’m looking forward to seeing how much they – and I – have changed in the intervening years. Others, such as Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, I have yet to pick up.

My criteria in selecting the list below is that the books could not have been published in the last five years, which ruled out new “classics” such as Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway, Solace by Belinda McKeon, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – all of which deserve a read and a re-read.

Even with that 2010 cut-off point, it’s probably true that the list below has too “new” a feel. Please drop me a note in the comments with your favourite 19th and 20th century Irish “classics”. (Oh, and when the reading choice is revealed, please feel free to join in a shared reading experience from now until mid-May…)

Update: Number 2 it is. So I’ll be reading The Gathering by Anne Enright this month. Join me?

My Classics Club Book Spin List:

1. Dancer – Colum McCann
2. The Gathering – Anne Enright
3. Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth
4. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle
5. The Book of Evidence – John Banville
6. Borstal Boy – Brendan Behan
7. The Last September – Elizabeth Bowen
8. Dogs Enjoy The Morning – Benedict Kiely
9. The Ginger Man – J.P. Donleavy
10. Call My Brother Back – Michael McLaverty
11. The Butcher Boy – Patrick McCabe
12. Shade – Neil Jordan
13. The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien
14. Reading in the Dark – Seamus Deane
15. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
16. Molloy – Samuel Beckett
17. The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
18. The Sea, Sea – Iris Murdoch
19. Amongst Women – John McGahern
20. The Blackwater Lightship – Colm Tóibín

2 thoughts on “The Classics Club (Irish edition…)

  1. Shane:
    #1 and #4 are in my Top 10 as well.
    RE: “Ulysses” I started it between 5 and 10 times before I finished it. I skim read some of it It’s probably thie only book where skipping to the end made my swear to read it all. Molly’s soliloquy needs no comment from me to establish its place as one of the best bits of writing in the language.
    “Finnegan’s Wake”? Joyce’s idea of a joke on all of us. But the man’s love of language and laughter along with his perverse sense of humor puts it on HCE’s and ALP’s bookshelves.
    “Reading in the Dark” is on my Top 5.
    “Portrait” is my all-time fave. It was the spark that became the flame that never died for me to write a novel. I am not a one and done kind of guy so for my own edification I’m writing another. Readership be damned.

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