June 5, 2020

The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherford

A friend was moving to California and gifted me with three door-stopper sized books before his departure. All three tomes are by historical fiction author Edward Rutherford and depict centuries worth of Irish history. The shelter-at-home time has been the perfect opportunity to tackle the first 800-plus page volume, The Princes of Ireland.

Rutherford has the amazing talent of making history come alive by creating fictional story lines which are woven into mention of real people, places and recorded events.

From the early time of druids and human sacrifice, to the arrival of the Vikings, St. Patrick and the English to the Emerald Isle, we become invested in the personal stories of warriors, farmers, priests, wives and children. Romance runs through the chapters as characters find and then lose love or miss it altogether due to historical fate.

The other two large volumes Rutherford has written about Irish history are Dublin Foundation and The Rebels of Ireland. Even those with no Irish blood might find these historical fiction books edifying as well as entertaining.

I previously wrote a blog post on Edward Rutherford’s excellent book entitled Paris.
Here is the 2015 blog post link:

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/books-2/page/14/

Genius & Anxiety by Norman Lebrecht

This has certainly been a time for book-lovers to get immersed in history and large novels. While some book reviewers have suggested picking up War and Peace or One Hundred Years of Solitude, I chose books to learn more about Jewish and Irish history.

Norman Lebrecht has written a jam-packed history book entitled Genius & Anxiety – How Jews Changed the World, 1847 – 1947. Freud influenced how we view sex and psychology. Einstein pioneered concepts of time and physics. Marx mapped out the elements of communism versus capitalism. Kafka and Proust changed how we view literature. Sarah Bernhardt revolutionized acting and celebrity.

Less well-known people also contributed to our modern world. Karl Landsteiner helped make blood transfusions and major surgery a reality. Paul Ehrlich helped formulate chemotherapy. Rosalind Franklin paved the way for genetic science. Siegfried Marcus may have created the first motor car.

Lebrecht frequently writes about music so there is ample mention of seminal composers like Mendelssohn in the 19th century and Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein in the 20th. He highlights Korngold and Eisler on the West coast and Leonard Bernstein in the east. In truth, what would Hollywood or Broadway look and sound like without Jewish creativity? Name three famous American composers and one reels off George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Bernstein.

The book’s brilliance is particularly in Lebrecht’s description of what was happening in the world as he profiles these creative people. Industrialization, the World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the rise of the Nazis, the McCarthy era, the creation of the state of Israel, all figure into this expansive canvas. Lebrecht does not argue that Jews are genetically smarter and more talented than others but that they have a strong tradition of culture and education. Historically being outsiders may have also caused them to think “out of the box” and push new ideas in everything from science, politics, business and the arts.

Genius & Anxiety is the type of book you could either absorbingly read cover to cover, or skip around in, according to your tastes.

The Trespasser by author Tana French

The Trespasser by Tana French has been on several top ten 2016 literary lists, so I thought I should check out this novel. The genre is crime fiction with Dublin police detectives as the main characters, but this is not your easy-breezy detective paperback. The writing is dense with both vernacular cop talk and vivid descriptions.  I have to admit that I had to look up Irish slang words every few pages.

The main character is Antoinette Conway, a Murder squad detective who only has one work ally, her partner, Stephen Moran. We are introduced to her thoughts both calculating and paranoid as she digs into the murder of pretty blonde, Aislinn Murray.

If you can make the effort to finish this book, you will be rewarded with a tour-de-force ending. I actually turned the last page and thought, “now that was a satisfying read.” I hope you feel the same way.  Stephen King, no less, called the book “incandescent.”

Liz Carroll: Irish Music Fiddler and Composer

I really should be writing about Irish fiddler Liz Carroll around St. Patrick’s Day, but having just met her, I couldn’t wait until next March. She was recently honored by Lawyers for the Creative Arts and I was privileged to hear a couple of numbers demonstrating her musical prowess at a recent LCA luncheon. That woman can make the violin literally sing and dance.

Although based in Chicago, Carroll travels the world promoting Irish music through her impeccable performances and her lovely compositions.

She composed and recorded music for last spring’s Art Institute of Chicago exhibit, Ireland: Crossroad of Art and Design, 1690-1840. Check out the first recording on this link for a delightful sample of her musical work in that project.

https://soundcloud.com/liz-carroll/textiles-glassmusical-instruments-fancy-work-planxty-chas-bunworth-rose-kathleens-slip-jig

Whether playing solo or with instruments like the guitar, mandolin or harp, Liz Carroll immediately makes you think of the Irish music heard in pubs, in churches or in dance halls. I found it hard to stay in my seat at the Palmer House’s Empire Room as I tapped my toes to the infectious melodies and rhythms.

Here is another live performance of hers on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NReNvV5P0FA

Fellow creative professionals may want to check out her web site, it being one of the most comprehensive sites I have seen for covering the different aspects of one’s artistic business model.

http://www.lizcarroll.com

Don’t wait until next St. Paddy’s Day to check out her performance schedule or recordings.