My friend Deirdre Irvine, owner of The Open Window Gallery in Rathmines, has kindly asked me to post the covers of 7 books, with no reviews, as part of a challenge to create a library of great classics. Deirdre writes: ‘It was difficult choosing one book over another and leaving swathes of beloved authors behind. But, now I nominate Des Traynor to take the baton and run. He has been known to read a few books, so I look forward to seeing his choices.’
The trouble is, the more I think about it, I know Lucky 7 is pretty much an impossibility, so it’s probably going to be more like Magic 7 x 7. I will be labouring under a slight disadvantage, as most of my library is in storage at the moment, so this is very much painted from memory. Also, as a sometime professional book reviewer, I may not always be able to refrain from the ‘no reviews’ stipulation. So, here goes…
Obviously and inevitably, let’s start where it all begins. With the exception of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, no Ulysses, no modernist novel. Ignore everyone who has ever told you it is ‘too difficult’. It’s rollicking great fun. Like Shakespeare, like Beckett, like David Foster Wallace, Joyce has been kidnapped into an academic industry, and developed Stockholm Syndrome. If you are still confused, or are looking for explanations, I would recommend Richard Ellman’s wonderful short primer, Ulysses By The Liffey, which nimbly and schematically sorts out the mythological apparatus, i.e. the Homeric parallels. But really, you don’t need to know any of that.
Apart from upping everyone’s game for the next one hundred years, it was about where I was from. Wouldn’t that make you proud? What’s not to like?