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Lord Curzon once stated flatly, ""I do not understand Ireland. I know now I never shall -- and that nobody else ever will either."" Which doesn't keep Yet Man, Caulfield from speculating about the collective mind and soul of those garrulous, gentle people and their timeless ability to enchant and exasperate all comers. Caulfield knows how much of the Irish mystique is built on chassis -- what O'Casey called the ""Irish penchant for carefree chaos,"" on rambunctious wit and on good conversation. Caulfield's own unhurried, anecdotal writing is steeped in Irish bonhommie from Dublin to Clare and laced with bits of poetry, personal reminiscence, the history of Cromwell and Wolfe Tone, myth and legend all presented with graceful affectionate disorder. First Dublin -- ""the largest open-air lunatic asylum in the world"" famous for its pubs and its knobbly democracy. (Said one Irish writer ""Ours is a classless society. We don't care whether a man has money or a title. The only thing that matters is his personality. We have an aristocracy of personality."") Then the scenic backroads of Clare and Mayo where donkey's still have right of way over cars and a natural courtesy and kindness prevail. Then Irish cooking, possibly the worst in the world, and Irish whiskey, possibly the best. And the folklore of Cuchulain and the Fenians and how it has fired more than one bloody war. And a good deal of drink (""A Dublin queer is a man who prefers women to drink"") to lubricate the throat especially when talking about Ulster, the ""statelet"" where ""the energy that keeps the wheels turning has been. . . nothing more than hate."" Caulfield knows the Irish from St. Patrick to Brendan Behan and he can convince you that yes, the Irish laugh, fight, drink, wench and talk more than most people, thanks be to God. Anyone itching to board a plane for Shannon should read him right away.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Prentice-Hall