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Green Dreams: Essays Under the Influence of the Irish

Stephens, Michael

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ISBN 10: 0820316164 / ISBN 13: 9780820316161
Published by University of Georgia Press
Condition: As New Hardcover
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1994. Hardcover. Green cloth. 209pp. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # KON0822438

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Green Dreams: Essays Under the Influence of ...

Publisher: University of Georgia Press

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:As New

About this title


In Michael Stephens's words, "the net these pieces fall into is that world of the Irish American, the mick, the monkey face, the potato picker, the bog man." More to the point, it is the Irish of Stephens's youth, of Brooklyn's working-poor slums, under whose influence he composed these essays. In each of the book's three sections, he looks back on his life as he ponders a legendary quality - or, sometimes, proclivity - of his people as writers, fighters, or drinkers. Searching for the truths in the stereotypes, Stephens finds himself in what he discovers. Schoolyard bullies, surly longshoremen, boxers, and gangsters populate the opening section. On the subject of gangsters, Stephens takes a measure of their Hollywood renditions and finds them wanting. Those old James Cagney movies and such recent films as State of Grace have their moments, he says, but they can't touch the real thing - the vengeful, chaotic despots of Hell's Kitchen and the Manhattan waterfront. The lucky punch and its consequences to sender and recipient form the core of Stephens's musings on boxing, which are enriched by his own experiences in the ring. Reckoning his various literary debts, Stephens assays Joyce, Beckett, Flann O'Brien, and Yeats, and lays cultural claim to the Continental writers Italo Calvino and Thomas Bernhard, whom Stephens likes to regard as lost tribesmen of the Celts, products of a literary diaspora. This section also includes a profile of Bill Griffith, comic book artist and creator of Zippie the Pinhead. "Griffy" came from childhood circumstancee so similar to Stephens's that he categorically nods assent to Zippie's surreal observations. A Dantesque tour of the alcoholic's poisoned andever-shrinking microcosm concludes Green Dreams - a tour complete with highlights of Stephens's progress from check-in at a treatment center through detoxification, counseling, and that state of eternal penance known as rehabilitation. Beginning at age fifteen, Stephens drank every d

From Publishers Weekly:

This collection of essays by the noted Irish-American novelist Stephens, author of The Brooklyn Book of the Dead (Fiction Forecasts, Jan. 3), is something worse than a marathon conversation with a drunk, for the talker here is a well-read literary man who has stopped drinking and won't let you forget it. If drink and literary endeavor have anything in common, it is perhaps their orality: in this case, deprived of one mode, Stephens wildly overindulges in the other. Structured in three parts--"Fighting," "Writing" and "Drinking"--the book sets forth a trinity of pursuits that are hardly in need of the kind of hyperbolic ennobling Stephens gives them. The essays in the first section are at best raw outtakes from his novels about life in Brooklyn; in the essays on that other Irish trinity--Joyce, Beckett and Yeats--Stephens's observations are steeped in vats of blarney--"At the banquet of the moderns, you will find even the poets step back from the feast until the prosemaster Joyce is seated." One can only imagine an audience of Irish grandchildren for these grandiose pronouncements. The book's final essays, maudlin reminiscences about the romance and horrors of boozing, are certainly vindications of the man who stopped drinking, but they are unflattering of the man who couldn't stop writing about it.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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