John Moriarty (1938-2007)


Life
; b. 2 Feb., N. Kerry, the son of farmers; ed. St. Michael’s, Listowel and UCD; did not appear for his graduation, travelling in Europe before settling in London; offered post-grad. place in Philosophy by James Cameron at Leeds; acted as 1st-yr. tutor; moved to Canada and taught English at Manitoba Univ. for eight years; returned to Ireland and worked hotels, and later as a gardener in the West; acted as live-in gardener in the Carmelite friary at Boars Hill, Oxford, from 1977, and later again in Sligo and Co. Galway;
 
Moriarty was given a piece of land and built his own house; introduced by Andy O’Mahony on RTÉ [Radio 1] as ‘the most remarkable person I have ever met’; met Anthony Farrell and issued Dreamtime (1994; rev. edn. 1999); presented “The Blackbird and the Bell” on RTÉ, 1998; issued “Turtle Was Gone a Long Time”, a trilogy commencing with Crossing the Kedron (1995), a shamanistic journey, to be followed by The Horse-Head Nebula Neighing (1997) and Anacanda Canoe (1998); moved to Mangerton Mountain, nr. Killarney, mid-1990s; issued Nostos (2001), the first part of his autobiography;
 
he bought land at Horses’ Glen, nr. Kilgarvin, Co. Kerry, and established Slí na Firinne, a retreat where ‘Christianity could recover its nerve’, 2002; issued Invoking Ireland (2005), presenting the idea of Enflaith [bird-reign], with Irish people dwelling poetically within the traditions of Ireland; diagnosed with three types of cancer, 2006; awarded hon. doct., UCG, 2006; issued Sounds Serious (2007), chiefly a meditation on growing up and his relationship with Catholic ritual; tended in last year by Eileen Moore, the love of his life; d. 1 June, 2007; CDs of his talks and lectures issued posthum. as One Evening in Eden; also What the Curlew Said: Nostos Continued (2007).

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Works
  • Dreamtime (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1994), 228pp., and Do. [rev. edn.] (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1999), 288pp.;
  • Turtle was Gone a Long Time, 3 vols. (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1996-98) [see details];
  • Nostos: An Autobiography (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2001-07) [see details];
  • Sounds Serious (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2007), 63pp. [Query, Night Journey to Buddh[a] Gaia (q.d.).]


Bibliographical details
Turtle was Gone a Long Time: Vol. 1, Crossing the Kedron (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1996), 277pp.; The Horse-Head Nebula Neighing (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1997), q.pp.; Turtle Was Gone a Long Time: Vol. 3, Anaconda Canoe (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1998), 332pp.;

Nostos: An Autobiography (Dublin: Lilliput 2001), 707pp.; Invoking Ireland: ailiu iath n-hErend (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2005), 238pp.; What the Curlew Said: Nostos Continued (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2007), 376pp.

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Criticism
There is a John Moriarty website at www.johnmoriarty.info. See Obituary by Peter Clare, in Guardian (30 Aug. 2007) [online], and various internet records.

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Commentary
Kevin Kiely, review of Anaconda Canoe in Books Ireland (Nov. 1998), finds it a book crammed with philosophical quoations amounting to ‘a very arbitrarily chosen anthology’ with an effect like Casaubon’s attempt to write the Key to All Mythologies in [George Eliot’s] Middlemarch; reviewer dislikes the ‘diffuse style’and regards the mysticism as ‘suspiciously invalid’ (p.307-08). Quotes as above, with adverse comment on the rhyming of ‘shame’ and ‘fame’.

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Brian Lynch, review of John Moriarty, Nostos, from author of Turtle was Gone a Long Time (1996), in [?]The Irish Times (17 Jan. 2001): notes a deep-seated fear of emasculation, and quotes: ‘In a kind of eucharistic despair we drink the blood of our own castration.’ Refers to account of emotional unrest in parental household (‘What was so strange is that when it came ot listing and naming the great volcanoes in school, Vesuvius, Etna, Popacatepetl, Misti, Mount Helen - what was so strange is that no one every mentioned our house’); includes memory of his mother decapitating a cock, and seeing the blood spurt between her thighs; cloaked account of visit to Soho prostitution; reviewer finds ‘Moriarty’s pudeur very old-fashioned’. Speaks of ‘rhytmical syntax [and] hyperbole]; ‘chanting of proper names’; essential symbolic freedom and ‘babbling, baby-brilliant, obsessional, essentially nervous’, but lauds the ‘frequently wonderful writing, the radicalism of his vision, his intellectual and spiritual courage, his eccentric charm, his highly developed sense of the ridiculous’; questions whether he has a sense of humour and calls him ‘[a] Messianic […] aspirant Temple founder’ and a ‘chattering Jesus’, quoting: ‘I take Western civilisation by the hand … I lead it to a swordless second chance.’

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Kevin Kiely, review of John Moriarty, Notes: An Autobiography (Lilliput Press), recounts that author spent time as boarding school teacher in N. Staffordshire; later at univ. in Manitoba; San Francisco in the 1960s; [… &c.]. Moriarty considers that ‘Buddhism is pleasant to look at … whereas Christianity is horrible to look at’ (Books Ireland, Summer 2002, p.160.)

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John Moriarty talks with Andy O'Mahony, on RTE Radio 1 (7 July 2007) - replay of 28-min. interview of 1998: ‘baptised himself out of Christianity’ in an encounter with a hare in Connemara; later called himself a a ‘non-dogmatic Christian with a rosary-beads in his pocket’, seeking shelter what secular culture cannot supply; speaks of Rhineland and Spanish mystics and a fifth gospel or mystical tradition. [online: July 1007.]

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Quotations
Anaconda Canoe (1998), ‘If Longinus thinks that he has speared Jesus, and if Jesus thinks that he has been speared, then look at me, Ralph Waldo, transcendently wise, emerging unperturbed and refreshed frm a siesta which, Brahma be praised , continued from the sixth to the ninth hour. Good Heavens! All this Good Friday turbulence! It is so uncivil. No need at all, I say, for a Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sins of the world. Do but climb to the summit of the nearest hill and you will see that the shame of child abuse is no way different from the fame of St Francis of Assisi’s sanctity. No. I’m not a Docetist.’ (Quoted by Kevin Kiely, reviewing same in Books Ireland, Nov. 1998.)

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