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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007
BEST OF BOOKS
Need something to read in the new year?
OUR SHARED JAPAN: An Anthology of Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Irene De Angelis & Joseph Woods (Dedalus Press)
Tokyo Tower turned green on St. Patrick's Day in March to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland, and this anthology was specially arranged to celebrate that too. It is a remarkably varied gathering of responses by Irish poets (including a mention of myself among the 85 contributors) to the idea of Japan, or else the experience of it. Dialogues between the poems may be discovered by the more knowledgeable reader, but anyone coming to the collection will finds things to enjoy.
THE THIRD PARTY by Glenn Patterson (Blackstaff Press)
The greatest sign of global Irishness today is the ubiquitous Irish pub. There is one in Glenn Patterson's new novel, stumbled into by the leading character near the boozy end of a long day in Hiroshima. The drinking party of the title is one piece of the fun in the story, and sardonic repartee between two men from Northern Ireland is another. But serious matters are involved, because of where the visitors come from, and where they are.
THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS: Histories of Burma, by Thant Myint-U (Faber & Faber)
The fall of Burma, when its king was dislodged in a Victorian British assault aimed at "regime change," had important consequences that echo down to the present day. The attack was led by a "not particularly imaginative Irishman" who added the name of the royal court he had vanquished to his own title, to become Lord Dufferin of Ava. This book, by the grandson of U Thant, is a good-humored, fair-minded and wonderfully illuminating account of a country still much on our minds.
David Burleigh grew up in the north of Ireland and has lived and worked in Tokyo for almost 30 years.