September 30, 2009

Inwood on Inwood.

Longtime commenter Inwood comments on last weekend's post about Inwood. 


ricpic said...

I read Studs Lonigan as a very young man and was tremendously moved by it. Because of my age I missed Farrell's political angle. What I got out of Studs Lonigan was the slow strangulation of the poetry in Studs' soul as he aged by the harshness of his working class Irish-American cultural milieu and the hardness of his life as a working man.

AJ Lynch said...

I enjoyed Inwoods' humorous but pointed take on Angela's Ashes and its author.

Kirby Olson said...

I am grateful to see this post, as I would have missed it otherwise, having thought the thread was dead. It seems the books Inwood is now linking to have to do with the need for the Irish to get out Irish neighborhoods, which were once all over the northeast (I think the William Kennedy novels might also qualify).

Thanks for this!

Why was drinking so essential to the Irish? Carroll's father was a barman.

traditionalguy said...

Inwood would enjoy Pat Conroy's new novel "South of Broad" for a wonderful portrayal the exploits of a of a loving but crazy Catholic family.

Theo Boehm said...

From Inwood has long been my favorite Althouse commenter. My only complaint is he posts far, far too little. But scarcity makes anything dearer, so I've got to thank him for these gems.

As someone who long ago parachuted into part of the Boston Irish world from California, I'm fascinated by these stories of East Coast urban Irish life. We had tiny echoes of this in suburban So. Cal., but nothing like the full kit. And of course I arrived too late in Boston and as too much of an exotic to ever be a part of it.

So, I want to thank From Inwood for his book critiques and his wonderful writing, which, as I say, we don't get enough of.

And I particularly want to thank him for saying what needed saying about Frank McCourt.

From Inwood said...

Theo Boehm

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Perhaps some day I can get back to commenting more frequently. I enjoy reading your comments also. Mutual admiration society.

I enjoy Prof A’s threads & I almost always find a gem in the comments even if I don’t care a fig about the subject of her thread & even though I may not agree with the overall comment.

And somehow even though I would’ve thought that a subject was something I could care less about, oftentimes, the set up by Prof A hooks me. (She had me from ….)

From Inwood said...


Don’t look with disdain on us Irish-Americans. See how disdain for Italians leads to lack of understanding & dismissal of some of them in, for instance:

Canarsie, Rieder 1985, About Italians & Jews rather than the Irish, but on point with race relations; Yale sociologist spends two years on Coming of Age not in Samoa but in lower-middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood & tries to make sense of it all; he, gradually, coming of maturity & understanding, discovers the reason why many of these, what we might call Archie Bunkers, bought up on the New-Deal-as-Religion, but mugged by reality, became Regan Democrats (fewer Jews could bring themselves to vote (R) than Italians, it seems. (Of course a lot of the party politics changed in the Panic of 2008, or 23 years after this book.)

AJ Lynch.

Thank you for your comment

Traditional Guy.

Conroy’s novel, now on the bestseller list & qualifying for a B&N discount, is on my “to read” list.

From Inwood said...


I think I’ll stay with my comments on Studs & Danny & I think I expressed your earlier viewpoint as similar to the (quoted) Catholic bashers who ignore Danny O’Neill’s escape from the “spiritual poverty” of his culture/parish/ neighborhood. Your early reduction of Studs could also be used to explain the effect of Willy Loman on what you refer to as “the slow strangulation of the poetry in [Biff’s] soul”. (And if you don’t understand at first, Arthur will hit you over the head with his lecturing. “Themes, motifs, moral conclusions often glare from his plays like neon signs in a diner window.” – and that was from the NYT obit!- Farrell was better.)


The Irish & drinking & laziness. That’s boring. And none would dare describe any certified victim race that way.

Repeat after me: Not all Irish are drunks & lazy & not all lazy drunks are Irish.

And some of us Irish-Americans do not need to look back or to blame our own misfortunes on anyone or any one thing, e.g., our culture, including our ancestors, our parish/neighborhood, the Church, or our ancestors troubles with the English & their WASP descendants right here in the US.

Interestingly, the price we Irish-Americans who achieve riches or even the comforts of the middle class pay for our success is what you call “boring dithyrambs”, here of annoying Left-wing Irish Americans who epitomize “the Leisure of The Theory Class” & who are who are lionized by the non Irish. These writers sneer at their parents’ religious and social conservatism as if these were opiates handed down in some family recipe rather than a rational approach to life by those lacking the wherewithal for the luxury, or even the security, of the educated, wealthy social classes.

And they celebrate dilettantes & excoriate us work-a-day Irish-Americans. They went from the romance of “shamrocks & shillelaghs” to the romance of Sandinistas, Sinn Fein, & shebeens. Alas, they are more interested in lowlife losers of their own race & sneer at the Irish-Americans like moi, who worked our heads, rather than our backs, off in corporate America, which they see as a fountain of evil. And it’s better to be an autodidact like them than to have gone to Fordham or Notre Dame. They produce unnecessarily unsympathetic caricatures of their betters. They are snobs at heart, embarrassed by their own people who’d made it in what these authors dismiss as a comfortable WASP way.

Apparently in their “boring dithyrambs” one is not a loser, after all, if he’s a dreamer with the right dreams & they can condemn Reagan Democrats & what they see as uppity Irish-Americans, while sitting comfortably in penthouses overlooking Central Park. With fewer credentials than most.

Ironically, these guys & others of their ilk have it both ways: “We’re mucked up, but it’s not our fault; it’s that if Irish culture, ya see. And we ourselves, are not losers because we can make beaucoup money writing about how every other Irish American is a loser!”

Kirby Olson

If one may be serious (refer to sociological studies) about drinking, see, for instance, Chapter 7 ,“The Creature”, in Greeley’s That Most Distressful Nation, including this:

“While the Irish are more likely to drink, the proportion of Irish drinkers who have serious problems may be no greater than the proportion of Anglo Saxons who have serious problems …

“The drinking of the Irish is not a particularly amusing phenomenon, which may be why I am not enchanted with the Joe Flaherty, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill style of Irish journalism. I am angry with anyone who assumes that the Irish drunk is a happy and charming person. He is, on the contrary, a deeply unhappy and tragic human being. I am even more angry at the unfortunate truth that a weakness for “The Creature” seems to be one of the few residues of the Irish heritage that still survives. Finally, I am most angry of all at the thought that many of us can only be Irish when we have had too much to drink.”