The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland

R. F. Foster, Author Oxford University Press $28 (281p) ISBN 978-0-19-515902-8
This engaging collection of 12 essays challenges what the author calls the penchant of the Irish to use overly simplistic techniques, such as nostalgia and cliche, as a means of understanding their history. Skewering Ireland's writers, historians and its popular culture alike, Foster, a history professor at Oxford and a biographer of W.B. Yeats, takes aim at the ""popularization of history...which has more to do with packaging and marketing."" By emphasizing a romanticized mythology of Ireland, the writer maintains, storytellers sanitize the complexities of the Irish experience and accentuate ""victimhood and tyranny."" Frank McCourt and Gerry Adams are two memoirists whom Foster unflinchingly targets for their soggy and formulaic notions of Ireland. ""Both...turn Irish childhoods to very particular purposes and both exemplify narratives skewed through selective 'evidence' and a manoeuvred memory."" On the other hand, Foster is quick to praise writers such as Elizabeth Bowen and Hubert Butler for their idiosyncratic voices. Foster's writing, which is lively and unsparing, has already inspired much commentary in the UK and in Ireland, and his tome will likely make a modest splash in the U.S.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 281 pages - 978-0-19-516887-7
Open Ebook - 303 pages - 978-0-19-803607-4
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