Monday, March 9, 2009

Yes She Said Yes

I sometimes tell people I was an English major. It is a lie, but it simplifies explaining my employment history. Everybody understands and laughs at Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion repertoire joke that English majors never have any problem finding a job, as long as they can remember how to say, “Do you want fries with that?” Nonetheless, I was not an English major, because I loved reading good writers. One of the best I have discovered recently is an Irish writer named Anne Enright.

Anne Enright sure canwrite. She is extraordinarily original. Because she is Irish, James Joyce comes to mind. And W. B. Yeats. She deserves to be in their company. Enright is a former Dublin television producer and director. Her early books earned high praise but “extremely modest” sales, according to her publisher. Her novel, The Gathering was introduced as a paperback original, with a first printing of 8,000, to avoid the difficult life of a non-celebrity hardback. The story of suicide in an Irish family of 12 siblings, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and household visitors, the novel won the Booker Prize as Britain’s best. Sales have now reached 230,000.

Enright’s collected short stories, Yesterday’s Weather, include her special view of husbands, wives, children, college room-mates, lovers, infidelity, and numerology. In “Luck Be A Lady,” the gambling heroine with a knack for numbers bets, “With a little bit of luck, my luck will run out.” The opera house cleaning lady in a different story, “What You Want,” knows if an angel or the devil offers you three wishes, remember to use one to ask for three more. A gentleman walks by in his full opera rig:

‘You’re singing!’ And I said, ‘Am I? I didn’t even notice,’ and he says, ‘Ah, you’re Irish. Isn’t it marvelous the way the Irish sing while they work?’ And I said, ‘Yes, isn’t it.’ And you know, I have about sixteen things to say to him if he ever stopped by again. Like, ‘Oh, that’s not me, that’s just a tape of Maria Callas I’ve got stuck up my arse.’

Her three wishes?

All right. I’ll tell you what I want. I want a small win on the lottery, just a small one, just a few thousand, so I could feel, for once, LUCKY. I want my son to call me on the mobile phone he bought me for a present, that never, ever rings….More than anything, I want grandchildren. Because grandchildren are simple. You wish for them and you have them. And I don’t care if they are ashamed of me. I want my son who has everything to have something, for once. Something real. To have a heart that isn’t withering in his chest.

The author arranges Yesterday’s Weather in reverse chronological order. Notably this gives the impression for much of the book not of short stories exactly but some narrative form of her own invention, with the rich language, development, and arc of poems. That’s fine with me, because she does it so well. Then toward the end of the volume, as the work dates back a decade, the short stories are more traditionally conceived and executed, like the paintings of Picasso before cubism.

Here are her other titles: The Portable Virgin (1991), The Wig My Father Wore (1995), What Are You Like? (2000), The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002), Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood (2004), and Taking Pictures (2008).

Do yourself a big favor. Go to the library, and check out something she has written. Better yet, go to a bookstore or on-line and buy yourself a copy. You’ll want to have your own to enjoy again later.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

abagale said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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