Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Book Review: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

AuthorColum McCann
TitleTransAtlantic
Publication Info: New York: Random House, 2013
ISBN: 9781400069590
Previously Read by Same Author: Let the Great World Spin
Summary/Review:

I’m privileged to review an advanced reader’s copy of this forthcoming novel courtesy of the Library Thing Early Reviewer‘s program.

This is a novel of contrasts.  It’s an epic story covering three centuries and as the title implies crossing back and forth the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada and the United States.  And yet it is a very personal book with detailed character studies of four men and four women.  The men are well-known historical figures: American abolitionist Frederick Douglass on a speaking tour of Ireland, Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown making the first nonstop transatlantic flight, and US Senator George Mitchell brokering the Good Friday Agreement.  The women are four generations of the same family whose lives briefly intersect with the historical figures: an Irish housemaid Lily Duggan inspired to go to America by Douglass, the journalist Emily Ehrlich who settles in Newfoundland, the photographer Lottie who marries an RAF airman from Northern Ireland, and Hannah Carson whose loses her son in The Troubles and as we read her story in her own voice in the present time is on the verge of losing all of her family history to the bank.

Just as in Let the Great World Spin, McCann does not interweave the stories, yet characters from other stories appear later on.  The stories are also connected by an unopened letter which acts as kind of a McGuffin and is one of the less effective aspects of the novel to me.  Other than though, the writing in brilliant and McCann has a special gift for capturing the human experience in words.  The fictional figures seem as real as the historical figures and the historical figures are so detailed as to appear as fully-realized literary characters.  This is another great novel by McCann and I highly recommend it.
Favorite Passages:

“What they need are the signatures.  After that, they will negotiate the peace.  Years of wrangling still to come, he knows.  No magic wand.  All he wants is to get the metal nibs striking hard against the page.  But really what he would like now, more than anything, is to walk out from the press conference into the sunlight, a morning and evening jammed together, so that there is rise and fall at the same time, east and west, and it strikes him at moments like this the he is a man of crossword puzzles, pajamas, slippers, and all that he needs is to get on a plane, land, enter the lobby of the apartment on Sixty-Seventh Street, step into his own second chance, the proper silence of fatherhood.” – p. 120

Recommended books: A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan  and Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Rating: ****

The 42nd Annual Christmas Revels

It would not be Christmas without the Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.  This year my wife, son and I joined by our friends Abby, Kim, & Sid took in the Winter Solstice performance on the evening of December 21st.  The show was delightful as always with the subject being near and dear to my heart, the music of Irish emigrants as they sail the new world.

The show was a more restrained and simple performance than a typical Revels keeping to the theme of the cast being impoverished immigrants aboard a ship and not having much to celebrate with.  After the opening number, lines and gangways were removed from the sides of the stage and notably no cast members went down the steps into “the ocean” except during a storytelling sequence.  These restraints did nothing to detract from the beauty of the song, dance, and stories performed.

Highlights of the show for me included:

  • Bill Meleady’s colorful telling of The Soul Cages, the exception to the restraint on the performance where the visuals of the story come to life in vivid detail.  I enjoyed the dancing crustaceans especially as well as Steve Barkhimer’s portrayal of the merrow Coomara.
  • “The Wexford Lullaby” gorgeously performed by Mary Casey along with Jamie Jaffe as a duet and later as a quartet.
  • The dramatic “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” swelling as the audience joins the chorus.
  • “The Lord of the Dance” is always a highlight and was cleverly worked into the show as being the English ship crews’ contribution to the shipboard celebration.
  • The show had several sets of traditional Irish music by The Rattling Brogues and step dance by O’Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance that livened up the proceedings greatly.
  • If there was one minor disappointment is that the show ends with the immigrants seeing The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  The show is set aboard the Cunard steamship RMS Carpathia and since Cunard had a western terminus in Boston (there’s still an office building marked “CUNARD” on State Street) it would have been a nice local connection to have the ship dock here instead of New York.

A traditional element of the Revels – “The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance” – was not included in the program but as this was the Winter Solstice, the audience was treated to a special rendition of Abbots Bromley after the curtain call.  I’d actually guessed that Abbots Bromley was the surprise we’d been promised before the show, but it was still a thrill when the first haunting notes of the recorder came out and the audience reacted with joy.

This was another great Revels and I believe all the shows were sold out.  If you missed this year’s Revels, make sure to get your tickets early for next year’s show which I promise will be just as great.

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Soccer Spectating Report 16 May-6 June

With the Champions League final, the European season comes to the end. I watched a lot of teams and lot of games and determined that the clubs I like best are Everton of the English Premier League and Ajax of the Dutch Eredivisie. Next year I’m thinking I’ll try to watch as many games featuring those clubs as possible as well as pick out one other “game of the week” featuring European sides. I’ll also continue following Ireland in their Euro 2012 campaign. Of course I plan to continue supporting my home teams the New England Revolution and the Boston Breakers and maybe check out some games from Mexico, South America, Australia and Japan. But I do plan to lower the intensity and I don’t intend to continue writing about it.

I figured this would be my last soccer spectating report, but with the USMNT competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the USWNT hoping to regain the Women’s World Cup, I think I will make two more soccer spectating reports before I quit.

United States 2:0 Japan (18 May)

Another Women’s World Cup warm-up for the USWNT and it felt like it.  It was not an exciting win and Japan seemed overmatched while both sides were more focused on testing things out.  But a win’s a win.

Everton 1:0 Chelsea (22 May)

An exciting final game for Everton who defeated Chelsea on a late-game goal by Jermaine Beckford after they’d been reduced to 10 men.  Everton’s  late season form helps them finish in 7th place which is about as good as one can expect right now with the Big 6 dominating the top 6 spots.

Sporting KC 5:0 New England Revolution (25 May)

Egads, the Revs crushed all the hopes built up by their good performance in their game against DC United in this truly awful US Open Cup qualifier in a torrential downpour in Kansas City.  Well, let’s hope they can make something of the league season at least.

Barcelona 3:1 Manchester United (28 May)

United started off strong, and the goal by Wayne Rooney was impressive, but otherwise were totally overmatched by Barcelona in this UEFA Champions League final.  Barça showed that they are truly great teams of all time by dominating the English league champions.

New England Revolution 0:1 Los Angeles Galaxy (28 May)

The Revs showed some signs of life in the second life, but not enough to avoid yet another shutout.  One kind of hopes that they’ll finally pull things together and start playing more competitively for all 90 minutes, but the season is slipping away.

United States 0:4 Spain (4 June)

I had tickets to this game but did not see it live because after being stuck in horrendous traffic was faced with paying $40 for parking at Gillette Stadium who would not accept credit cars.  So rather than find a bank and pay extortionate rates for half a  game I gave up.  It’s really a shame that the Krafts built their temple of greed in the middle of nowhere rather than in the urban core near public transportation.  We watched the replay on ESPN3 and it was disappointing as well.  Spain started their best players and dominated.  Bob Bradley tinkered with his lineup – perhaps a little understandable with the the Gold Cup coming up – but disappointing to people who paid a lot of money to see (or not be able to see) their team compete.

Macedonia 0:2 Ireland (4 June)

Ireland kept themselves in a good position for Euro 2012 qualifying with captain Robbie Keane scoring both the goals.

Boston Breakers 2:1 magicJack (5 June)

Boston picks up another 3 points against the worst-named team in WPS with Meghan Klingenberg scoring her first goal for the team.

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Soccer Spectating Report 21-30 March

Ireland 2:1 FYROM (26 Mar)

Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign resumed with this succesful home match.  The Irish capitalized on errors by Macedonian keeper Edin Nuredinovski for goals by Aiden McGready and Robbie Keane.  Ireland were obviously the better side although they rested on their laurels enough to allow Ivan Trickovski to cut the lead just before the half.  Still, Ireland hung on through second half to preserve the win and an important 3 points.

New England Revolution 2:1 DC United (26 Mar)

The Revolution want you to know that you shouldn’t tune in late for their games as for the second time these season they scored an early goal.  Eight minutes in the game, Shalrie Joseph set up Zack Schilawski (both of whom had an excellent game) for the opening goal.  In the 17th minute, Joseph doubled the score on a penalty kick.  Matt Reis had an excellent game in the net keeping DC scoreless until a penalty kick by Charlie Davies in the 91st minute.  There was some officiating weirdness in this game (benefiting the home side) but overall it was a positive result and a continuation of a great start to the season.

USA 1:1 Argentina (26 Mar)

Although ESPN acted as if it were “The Lionel Messi Show” this was in fact a home game friendly for the United States Men’s National Team.  The US was clearly outplayed in the first half with an Argentine goal inevitable.  They held out into the 42nd minute when Messi dribbled pass the defense passing to Angel DiMaria whose rebounded shot was sunk in the net by Esteban Cambiasso.  Tim Howard – deservedly the man of the match – was rightfully angry with his defenders for failing to help clear the ball.  The US made some positive changes during the half, most importantly adding Juan Agudelo to the attack and Agudelo would equalize for the US in the 59th minute.  The US played a much more positive game in the second half and together the two teams played a fun and exciting game before a massive crowd in New Jersey.

USA 0:1 Paraguay (29 Mar)

Coming after the high of the Argentina game, this was a bit of a disappointment as Paraguay scored early and the US failed to respond.  The home team did play well in the second half putting a lot of pressure on the opposing goal but did not capitalize.  It’s worth noting that it’s a friendly and with Bob Bradley trying out a new lineup it will hopefully be a learning opportunity to help improve the team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon

In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

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International Draws

The past week has been dominated by international team games, including Euro 2012 qualifying and both the US men’s and women’s teams hosting friendlies in Philadelphia.

USA 1:1 China (6 Oct 2010) – The second of two games versus the People’s Republic as the US women tune up for the World Cup 2011 qualifiers (the USA won the first game in Georgia 2:1).  The team looked to be outplayed by a young Chinese side, falling behind on a gorgeous goal by Ma Jun at 37′.  The substitution of 21-year-old Alex Morgan in the second half gave the US a much needed spark (or “fresh young legs” as Julie Foudy kept saying) and Morgan scored her first ever international goal in the waning minutes of the match.  Obviously the lackluster performance of the team overall must take into account players returning from injury as well as formations being tested out in this friendly match. Match report.

Slovakia 1:1 Ireland (12 Oct 2010) – When last we saw Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying efforts they had opened with convincing wins against Armenia and Andorra.  This week they lost at home to Russia (in a game I didn’t watch) and drew with Slovakia in a game of wasted opportunities.  Ireland took the early lead but then all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane missed a golden opportunity from the field and more stunningly had a penalty shot blocked.  Ireland had to accept the tie and hold onto second place in Group B with the next match in March. Match report.

USA 0:0 Colombia (12 Oct 2010) – In the most sluggish and disappointing match of all I watched this week, the USA and Colombia slogged about with poor passing and poor finishing being the keys of the game.   The USA didn’t get a shot on a goal until nearly an hour into the game.  Again friendlies are a time to try out new players and strategies, so this isn’t the end of the world, but still, how can you go through a friendly without figuring out some way to score?  Match report.

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Slow Soccer Week

I didn’t have many games to watch this week as the European clubs took time off to allow their players to play in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.  I wonder what USA players on European teams do when all their teammates are off playing on their national teams?  I also tried to watch a Boston Breakers’ game but alas there was no one broadcasting it online.

New England Revolution 3:1 Seattle Sounders (4 Sep 2010) – It didn’t look promising for the Revolution on a four-game losing streak to face one of the MLS’ top teams in the midst of a win streak.  Something had to give and it was pleasantly surprising.  The Revolution scored three goals and hung on to a slim chance at the playoffs.  Even if nothing comes of it this season it was a fun game to watch and offers some promise of the Revolution’s future.  Interestingly enough, for all the times you see a scorching shot go just wide or straight at the goalkeeper, the Revolution’s first two goals by Tierney and Perovic just dribbled slowly over the goal line.  It goes to show that sometimes good passing and positioning succeeds where firepower fails.  Match report.

Ireland 3:1 Andorra (6 Sep 2010) – Ireland’s second Euro 2012 match was at home versus Andorra (they are apparently working their way through Europe alphabetically).  Ireland clearly outmatched Andorra and probably could have score more goals as well as not letting their guard down near the end of the first half when Andorra scored their lone goal.  Still it was nice to see Ireland get a win and take a lead in Group B.  Hopefully this will be akin to “batting practice” allowing the Irish side to build their confidence before facing tougher group opponents.  Match report.

I’ve got a full weekend of matches coming up. Woo-hoo!

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Soccer Week

1. FC Kaiserslautern 2:0  FC Bayern Munich (27 Aug 2010) – This game was hosted by the oddly named team (is that  like First National Bank?) in the same stadium where the 2006 World Cup debacle between USA & Italy took place.  Defending German and DFB-Pokal champions and Champions League runners up took on 1. FC Kaiserlautern who were also champions.  Of the second Bundesliga.  One would think that Bayern would romp over the recently promoted 1FCK.  One would be wrong.  Bayern played reminiscent of the US MNT getting many chances but unable to finish.  Meanwhile, 1FCK scored two quick goals near the end of the the first half which was all they need.  I tend to favor underdogs, especially plucky underdogs who defeat the champions in their first Bundesliga game in four years, so I think I’m adopting 1FCK as my new German team to follow.  Match report.

New England Revolution 1:2 Philadelphia Union (28 Aug 2010)

I was only able to watch the second half of this game so I had the misfortune of seeing the Revolution playing a man down attempting to defend a 1:0 lead.  They did well for a while but ultimately ran out of steam and lost the win in the 82nd minute and the tie in stoppage time.  For the second time in a row I’ve watched the Revolution throw away a winnable game in what is increasingly becoming a lost season (in between this game and the previous one I watched, the Revolution also lost 4-1 to Kansas City).  At least the Revolution can still win the Superliga cup on Wednesday.  Match report.

By the way, I’ve discovered The Midnight Ride, a fan-produced podcast with good coverage of the Revolution.

Boston Breakers 2:1 Philadelphia Independence (29 Aug 2010)

The Revolution’s female counterparts are faring much better in the WPS.  I only caught the last 20 minutes of the Breakers’ win which brought them closer to second place and shored up an almost certain spot in the postseason.  Watching the game I was a bit depressed to see the Independence playing in a small American football stadium with few fans, something of culture shock after watching so many European games.  At least I’ve learned that the Independence and Union will be moving into a soccer-specific stadium soon, although it is not in Philadelphia proper.  Actually, I figured out that the Boston Breakers are the only team in the WPS that actually play within the city limits of the city they’re named for.  Way to represent Breakers!  Match report.

Internazionale 0:0 Bologna (30 Aug 2010)

I’ve shied away from Serie A because of a perhaps unfair bias that Italian soccer is where all the stereotypes of soccer come to life:  defensive play, diving, not to mention match-fixing.  This match up of the 5-in-a-row defending champions Inter versus the cellar dweller Bologna should’ve been Chelsea-Wigan style smackdown.  It was not.  There was a lot of defense, diving, and who knows maybe even match-fixing.  Dull, dull, dull.  Match report.

New England Revolution 1:2 Monarcas Morelia (1 Sep 2010)

The Revs last chance for hardware in 2010 ended disappointingly in this hotly contested Superliga final.   Morelia pretty much dominated play although Revolution errors contributed to the loss, particularly the first goal which came on a penalty kick after a dumb foul.  Miguel Sabah won the game for Morelia with a gorgeous volley in the 75th minute.  The Revs showed some life with a nice goal of their own by Kevin Allston (his first with the Revs) in the 79th minute.  The Revs had some chances right up to the last second, but alas they will only be Superliga runners-up.  Still this was a fun, fast-paced game.  I enjoyed the passion that was evident on the field and in the stands even if I didn’t like the poor sportsmanship (such as Morelia’s time wasters or Revolution fans throwing things on the field).  Match report.

Armenia 0:1 Ireland (3 Sep 2010)

The Euro 2012 qualifying campaign kicks of this weekend and I’ve adopted my ancestral home squad of Ireland to follow.  At least until they are eliminated.   The opening match in Yerevan, Armenia was not exceptionally well-played but both sides had some action in front of the nets.  Armenia had one particularly breathtaking spell with several opportunities in a row before the Irish defense cleared the ball and Ireland’s skipper Robbie Keane so a can’t-miss-opportunity deflected by the post.  Finally, Ireland broke-through with a 76th minute goal by Keith Fahey, his first for the national team.  A good start to what I hope will be a strong Euro campaign by Ireland.

Other notes:

  • Following my train of thought regarding WPS teams named after cities I looked to see if there were any teams in London that have London in their name.  There are thirteen clubs in the Premier League and Football Leagues and many more in the lower divisions based in London and none of them have London in their name.  I suppose that the club would have to be based in the City of London to earn that name but I doubt there’s room for a stadium there.
  • This week the world of football lost a living link to the first World Cup when Franciso Varallo died.  Varallo played for Argentina the team that were runners up in the 1930 World Cup

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Book Reviews: The Dead Republic by Roddy Doyle

Author: Roddy Doyle
Title: The Dead Republic
Publication Info: New York : Viking, c2010.
ISBN: 9780670021772

By the same author:

  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
  • A Star Called Henry
  • The Woman Who Walked into Doors
  • The Commitments
  • The Snapper
  • The Van
  • Oh, Play That Thing
  • Paula Spencer
  • The Deportees: and Other Stories

Summary/Review: Doyle completes The Last Roundup trilogy, a story of Ireland and the Irish in the 20th century through the lens of one everyman – Henry Smart.    The first book in this series A Star Called Henry is one of my favorite novels of all time.  The sequel which follows Henry to America in the Roaring Twenties – Oh, Play That Thing -  starts of brilliantly but then collapses due to some poor narrative choices.  The final installment brings Henry back to Ireland and is a return to form albeit still failing to approach the brilliance of the first novel.

Henry accompanies John Ford to make a film based on his own life which Ford turns into The Quiet Man.  Escaping Ford’s green-tinted lens view of Ireland, Henry settles into working as a janitor at a school in a modern Dublin suburb where he may or may not be reacquainted with his long-lost wife.  Henry gets caught in the 17 May 1974 terrorist bombings in Dublin (coincidentally the second book this month I’ve read where these bombings play a crucial role after Let the Great World Spin) and his true identity is revealed.  He’s hailed as a hero of the rebellion and called back into action by the modern IRA.  Yet, Henry soon comes to realize that the IRA’s vision of Ireland is as false and idealistic as Fords.

Overall, Doyle does a great job in this series at taking on modern Irish history – warts and all – through the lens of this fascinating (if not always likable) character.  I highly recommend reading all three books even if you have to slog through the second half of Oh, Play That Thing.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Gathering by Anne Enright

Author: Anne Enright
Title: The Gathering
Publication Info: RecordedBooks (2007), Audio CD
ISBN: 1436102650

Summary/Review:

Dreary, overwrought, cliche-ridden, mawkish, pretentious, self-absorbed … these are just a few adjectives to describe this novel selected by my book club. Veronica Hegarty is the first-person narrator of this story who uses the suicide of her brother Liam as a jumping-off point for asynchronous reflections on her miserable upper-class marriage, her miserable childhood in a stereotypically large and confrontational Irish family and most bizarrely long passages on the sex life of her grandparents.  Enright has a thing for detailed and gratuitous descriptions of human body parts – whether they’re having sex or decomposing it doesn’t matter.  It’s affectations like this that scream “I’m trying to be a GREAT writer here!”  but just put me off.  Mind you, professional critics have given this book some positive reviews and it did win the Booker Prize. so don’t take my word for it.  Like or not though, this book is full of grief and rage and will not be easy to read.  The audiobook narrator is a bit over-the-top too, although that may be a chicken or the egg type of thing.

Recommended books: More Bread or I’ll Appear by Emer Martin, The Deposition of Father McGreevy by Brian O’Doherty, Charming Billy by Alice McDermott, and Every Inch of Her by Peter Sheridan.
Rating: *1/2

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