Monday, March 31, 2008

Christopher Nolan

I recommend Christopher Nolan's The Banyan Tree to any reader who, like me, reads Irish literature for the pleasure of the Irish way with words. It's also quite a rewarding book if one wants to learn more about Irish life. But he does have a rare way with words, and his style of loosening up the denotative function, broadening it by feel, until the meaning is connotative, apparently owes much to his familiarity with Gaelic. His characters are modern people with roots in old country life; Gaelic is to them something that they remember from their childhoods, the way they remember nursery rhymes. The basic story is a sad family saga, the accounting of an old woman waiting for the return of her youngest son who she imagines will take over the old family farm, a fantasy that no one else believes. However there is no sentimentalism here, just a respectful rendering of an old soul fueled for decades by the memory of a long-dead husband and the good times she had with him, even as the reader is permitted to note much that Minnie O'Brien does not.

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