My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked this up at the American Conference for Irish Studies, as the title already had me snorting with laughter. I love things that make me smile sardonically, and this was no exception.
This is a collection of Patterson’s various radio and print commentaries, roughly between 1994 and 2005. He was a bit hard on Canada at times, as his experience here in the 1970s decidedly involved Orange parades. Outside of small bits of Toronto and even smaller sections of Eastern Ontario or the Eastern Townships in Quebec, I don’t know how much luck you would have in stumbling across one of those today… or, to be more precise, in about three months from now. I had the same criticism of the documentary series, The Irish Empire (very intriguing title), as it made out Canada to be the most Orange and racist country on the face of the earth. Now, we were nasty for a long time, I don’t deny it, but things really have changed (somewhat) since that pesky little thing called the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Trust me. Honest!
Getting back to the actual book, my two favourite chapters/essays were Patterson’s comparison of Belfast in the early twenty-first century with Borges’ “The Lottery in Babylon” and his near-final piece on diasporic themes. (In fact, I might have future students read the latter… hmm…) My best friend gave me a book of Borges’ essays for Christmas this past year and now I feel torn as to what I should first read next: more Borges or more Patterson.
For those who know Belfast or who those need a primer on anything Northern Irish, this is a great bird’s-eye-view over several years of upheaval and change that combines insight with wit. Fat Lad and That Which Was are now definitely on my to-read list. Plus, laughter before going to sleep is always a good thing.
Midatlantic Musings by Jane G. V. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.