Irish nonfiction seems to be the preferred genre

Book Club

September 21, 2000

An interview with Pamela Clark, leader of the Irish Book Club at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Long Gate Shopping Center, Ellicott City.

What book are members reading this month? "This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52" by Christine Kinealy. That's really the best book available now on the Great Hunger, which is the proper title of what most people in this country call the Potato Famine.

Are most of the books that your group reads nonfiction? We do some of both. We'll read lighter stuff. We'll read Maeve Binchy's "Circle of Friends." That's a romantic novel set in Dublin, sort of about upper- and upper-middle-class life in Dublin in the 1950s. It's about students at Trinity. It was made into a movie about [five] years ago.

Which books have members liked the most? There have been a couple of real Perennial favorites, one of them being "How the Irish Saved Civilization." That was actually the first book that we read ... written by Thomas Cahill. That's really about how the Irish laid the foundation for the European Renaissance. It was Irish monks who set up what are called the scriptoria, the places where manuscripts were copied.

Have there been books that none of the members liked? Well, I really expected that some of the novels written by [James] Joyce, which are well known in Irish literature, would do well, and we didn't have people showing up for "Dubliners" or "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." People seem to be more interested in the non-fiction.

How many people attend club meetings? We get anywhere from two to seven or eight people. It varies a lot month to month.

How often does the club meet? We meet once a month, the first Sunday, at 5 p.m. And I should indicate also that because I am fairly widely read in Irish history and I have done local and oral history research in Ireland, I provide a lot of supplementary material when we read the nonfiction. So I have interviews on tape, written materials that I share with people. Information: 301-596-9339.

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