TBR: Ireland Vacation Edition

The Temple Bar section of Dublin

My wife and I  have wanted to visit Ireland for a long time, so finally, one year after our 25th wedding anniversary, we've pulled the trigger on an 11 day tour in October. The plan is to fly to Dublin, rent a car, spend four days in very nice hotel outside the city, on Dublin Bay. We will make day trips to the city of Dublin as well as to other attractions nearby; like Meath or Wicklow. Then we'll drive southwest to Cork City to stay for three days possibly day-tripping to Waterford, Kilkenny and The Ring of Kerry. From there we'll head northwest to Galway City where we'll spend the last four days, traveling to Connemara, possibly the Aran Islands, and finally heading to Maureen's maternal ancestral hometown of Ferbane in County Offaly. We will high tail it home from Shannon Airport.

So it begs the question, what to read to set the tone for such a momentous trip? When I think of literature and Dublin, I immediately think of James Joyce (The Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake). A Joyce refresher might be in order. Another of my favorite Irish novelists is Roddy Doyle, but since I've just read his latest, Smile, Ill have to reach back to an earlier title I may have skipped over. Then of course there are the obvious suspects: W.B. Yeats, Flann O'Brien, Edna O'Brien, Oscar Wilde, Frank McCourt. The rest of this special TBR list below is the result of some quick research with a focus on all things Hibernian.

McDonagh Plays: 1: The Beauty Queen of Leenane; A Skull in Connemara; The Lonesome West 
The Plays of Martin McDonagh seem like as good a place as any to dig in to the Irish experience. He is also well known for his screenplays like 3 Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. and In Bruges, which have nothing to do with Ireland, but since one of his plays is about Connemara, I was drawn in.

Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir by John Banville

I am a fan of Banville, having read The Sea and The Book of Evidence. This memoir promises to reveal a more personal side to the capitol city through  anecdotal history, which I'm sure will touch on its rich literary traditions.

Tipperary: A Novel of Ireland by Frank Delaney

I read the novel Ireland by Delaney, which was basically a collection of stories from each area of Ireland. Tipperary is my wife's paternal ancestral home. I think it would be worth a side trip while on our way to Galway. I'm told of wonderful castle there that must be visited.

Troubles by J.G. Farrell

I just figure, before traveling to another country one should brush up on the history of said country and what's more important regarding Ireland than the so-called Troubles. O.K. the potato famines are up their too (did you know there were two of them?), but the clash of native Irish Catholics and British-based Protestants in the north is just so much more interesting; and sad really. I do know to never speak of politics at the pubs, so my lips will be sealed, except for pint or three.

The Aran Islands (The Travelogue of Ireland's West Coast) - Annotated Mythology and Life by J. M. Synge 
From who better to learn about the Aran Islands than one of the most celebrated playwrights of the Emerald Isle himself. This is a memoir by Synge, the author of The Playboy of the Western World, in which he chronicles his visit to Arans: the islands of the west coast that are the core of native Hibernian life, more Irish than Ireland itself. At best, I hope to learn a little bit about the geography and a lot more about the modern world's confrontation with the timeworn ways of a venerable people.