John Walsh

CriticismCommentary

Life
Son of Irish parents settled in Britain; lit. editor of Sunday Times (Books Section); issued The Falling Angels: An Irish Romance (1999).

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Works
The Falling Angels: An Irish Romance
(London: Flamingo 1999), 282pp. [infra].

Bibliographical details

The Falling Angels (1999) [‘To Madelyn, the best of sisters, whose memories of all this will, I fear, be very different’]. CONTENTS: Prologue; The Wanders; Ingrid Bergman and George Raft; An Irish Stew; Singing the Greens; Katy Wiltho and Tommy G’Moth; The Dancing Priests; Martyrs and Matriarchs; Up Went Nelson; The Road to Graig; Hunting the Spooks; The Court of the High Kings; In the Heart of the Irish Metropolis; Parting of the Ways; The Fields of Athenry; Going the Long Meander; Beyond.

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Criticism
Stephen Regan, ‘Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark, John Walsh’s The Falling Angels and John McGahern’s Memoir’, in Irish Literature Since 1990: Diverse Voices, ed. Scott Brewster & Michael Parker (Manchester UP 2009) [Chap. 11]; 9. Louise Sheridan, ‘“You’ve been a fake Irishman over here long enough’: Masculinity, Belonging and the Father-Son Relationship in John Walsh’s The Falling Angels: An Irish Romance’, in Irish Masculinities: Reflections on Literature and Culture, ed. Caroline Magennis & Raymond Mullen (Irish Academic Press, 2011) [Chap. 9].

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Quotations
The Falling Angels (1999), extracts: ‘I soon learned that ignorance was the thing that was to be most avoided. “Ignorance” held a special place in my parents’ lexicon of disapproval. On their lips it didn’t mean stupidity, or lack of knowledge. It meant bad manners, rudeness, lack of consideration. It was a class thing, a terrible put-down about someone’s social standing, their education, their pace in the social nexus of the Irish village. My mother would apply it to yobs in the market who shouted raucously to each other as she wended her courtly way - the doctor’s wife on a royal progress -down the street. She applied it to men who pushed through the door of a shop without holding it open for her, or to women who swore in front of their children. /.../ These, though ,were mostly English people, to whom the word was directly more in pity than contempt. She reserved the greatest vehemence for her own countrymen. [... 84] / The word ‘reared’ was itself a landmine always waiting to go off. It exploded regularly through my childhood. I’d hear Mum telling Dad some scandalous tale of a family whose daughter had given birth to a child out of wedlock, and the girl’s parents ‘reared it as their own’. American parents ‘raised’ their children. English parents ‘bring up’ their children. The Irish usage carries businesslike connotations of fattening cattle or plumping game birds for the market. It treats the concept of bringing up children, not with any modern nonsense about self-expression, but as if it were a kind of organic manufacture - a process of germination, construction, injection-moulding, watering, pruning, caring-for, planing down, toning up, buffing and cleaning and servicing, along with a lot of stern disciplining and sheepdog-like harrying to the finished product until it has learned to be right, decent and proper and a credit to its maker. In its Irish finery it means making your children into something. It meant that, for an Irish mother, it’s all you’re going to be known for; your children are the advertisement of your virtue or its opposite. To please my mother, one of her friends would look at me (or more likely Madelyn), and say: ‘God, Anne, [85] I’d love to have rared a child like that’, and my mother would beam because it meant she had done her job well. /But the word had its native aspects. [...]’ (pp.84-86.) ‘Not for the first time, Gay Byrne gave the impression that he was presiding over a nation talking to itself, a three-million-strong audience who haad suddenly become discussion group, focused on a single subject [divorce] and looking or a solution. It was fantastically un-British ... The British population is just too huge for a single subject to hold the attention of the majority for more than a day, with the sole exceptions of the World Cup and the death of a famous Royal.’ [202.]

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