There You AreWritings on Irish and American Literature and History
by Thomas Flanagan, edited and with an introduction by Christopher Cahill
Thomas Flanagan became famous as the author of a trilogy of novels, starting with The Year of the French, about Ireland from the rebellion of 1798 to the civil war of the 1920s. But the novelist who began by reimagining the mental and physical world of eighteenth-century County Mayo had long been immersing himself, as a scholar, essayist, and reviewer, in the literature and history of his ancestral land.
In the nonfiction writings collected here, many of them unpublished in his lifetime, Flanagan brings what Christopher Cahill calls his "keen eye and strong gaze and sharp tongue" to reassessments of key figures of Irish culture. They range from Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, through W. B. Yeats and James Joyce, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Collins, to contemporaries and friends like Brian Moore and Frank O—Connor, and American Irish like the Molly Maguires and the director John Ford.
Flanagan probes the tragically intertwined origins of celebrity and literary modernism in the careers of Irish-American writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O—Neill, and John O—Hara. He reflects on what his own novels have taught him about the possibilities of historical fiction. And his thoughts on Irish-American identity sum up the long-pondered mixture of experience and scrutiny he brought to his heritage.
Witty, lively, and learned, this collection reveals that Thomas Flanagan was not only as a master of the historical novel but a writer who meditated broadly and deeply on the Ireland he once described as "a complex, profound, historical society, woven of many strands, some bright and some dark."
A handsome collection of essays...skillfully bonded together to form a cohesive examination of what is recognized as an Irish literary tradition...Scholarly yes, but never dull...Flanagan writes for readers, not for scholars—he's on our side...This is critical writing of the highest order, illuminating and exact.
— The Leeds Guide
Flanagan's essays are unencumbered by the fashionable critical baggage—Theory, Post-Structuralism, whatever you're having yourself—that strives to remove literature from our pleasures and place it among our duties...it's the desire to share both his enthusiasms and his reasons for them that makes him such a companionable critic...Books, of course, were his other friends, and he conveys his love of them in this welcome volume.
— Irish Independent
A book testifying to Flanagan's immense gifts...a superb cornucopia of offerings on subjects from Mary McCarthy to the Molly Maguires.
— Sunday Business Post (Irish)
A superb collection of Flanagan's critical work....Cahill has done an exemplary service tracking down previously unpublished work and in editing There You Are into a model collection with sections devoted to American writers and directors—the essay on John Ford should not be missed—Irish writers, Irish and Irish American history and historical fiction and personal essays...Taken as a whole, these pieces—many of them stunningly concise and written for newspapers and other popular venues—are a sign of hope for anybody who has begun to doubt that serious and accessible criticism can yet play a role in our wider popular culture.
— Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times
Fortunately, the NYRB press has just collected his articles for The New York Review of Books, as well as many other pieces, in a volume entitled There You Are...in these essays, which the city's literary crowd devoured over the course of several decades, Flanagan displays his wit and flash in pieces on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John O'Hara and Mary McCarthy.
— Murray Sperber, The New York Observer