“There’s a powerful sense of place and shared history binding Ryan’s many voices, their inner and outer selves, distilling a linguistic richness comparable to Under Milk Wood,” writes Justine Jordan in The Guardian (November 30th) of Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart, which has just won that newspaper’s prestigious First Book Award.
This judgment seems persuasive: “What Ryan catches so well is the internal response to external disaster: there’s a queasy, fatalistic lack of surprise among the villagers that the bubble of good fortune has burst, twisted up with ‘the whole, mad Irish country thing’ of fearing being taken for a fool, and the bitter pleasure of being proved right by disaster”.
It’s a good number of years ago now but I doubt if I am the only Irish person who remembers participating before 2008 in conversations in which the collapse of the Celtic Tiger was spoken of as a consummation devoutly to be wished. There was the vulgarity of course (always particularly upsetting to left-wing intellectuals), all the guff in the papers about “pampering” and Gucci and Jimmy Choo and Christmas shopping in New York and putting your name down for “that bag” at Brown Thomas.
But what I remember most vividly is people’s resentments of the young, which in many cases meant their own kids. Where did they get this sense of entitlement from? Did they think that money grew on trees? Did they think that it had always been like this? Had they absolutely no conception of history, or of economic cycles? Did they even have any ideas? Apparently not, but they were to learn. And then their parents began to wish that the lesson didn’t have to have to be quite so hard – just a little bit of a shock, a knock to their complacency, was all we wanted; it didn’t have to go on for ever and ever. So their kids stopped being demanding and became sorry for themselves – Generation Emigration – “What did we do? We did nothing. Our parents’ generation messed it all up but it’s us that have to carry the can.” Not quite true, but at least now everyone is equally miserable.
If, as sentiment seems to suggest (but I wouldn’t entirely trust sentiment) a corner is being slowly turned now towards the end of 2013 how will we cope with the upturn, slow and stuttering (and of course reversible) as it may be? I don’t know. But I can tell you one thing for sure: the intellectuals won’t be happy.