Review of American Doll
Anne Cunningham Sunday Independent 29/8/16
Danny Faraday meets Laura Calane,an Irish-American postgrad student in Trinity, and their attraction is instant. Laura is beautiful and enigmatic and plays infuriating mindgames. Her father Con dislikes Danny because Danny doesn’t hate Muslims. Con is poisoned with hate. An ex-fireman, he was on duty on 9/11 and lost his wife in the tragedy. His fireman brother Thady saved Con’s life that day and sometime later Thady retired to live in Ireland. Laura visits Thady regularly. And therein lies the problem…
Danny has suffered his own tragedy, losing his parents in a plane crash and still feels vaguely responsible. Laura and Danny commence a relationship fraught with trouble, in which Thady plays his part. If this book hadn’t been published in 2016, with Donald Trump feeding on the bloodlust and paranoia of so many white Americans, one could be forgiven for thinking the plot is a tad far-fetched. But Lawless has his finger on the pulse of post-9/11 America, and his depiction of the bitterness and paranoia within Laura’s family is – in the context of Trump’s rise to prominence – frightening.
Laura is less convincing, alas. She is a fruitcake, while Danny is an even-minded man. A bit haunted maybe, but aren’t we all? Therefore I didn’t hold out much hope for their strange coupling. However, this is an excellent novel by an award-winning writer, highly praised by the likes of Jennifer Johnston.
James Lawless deserves to be more widely read than he is.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Book Review: ‘American Doll’ by James Lawless
Read a few page of this novel and it becomes quite apparent that the author, James Lawless, is an Irish novelist. His first novel, PEELING ORANGES, was originally published in 2007, and the quality was so fine that it spawned five more novels as well as short stories, children’s stories and poetry. AMERICAN DOLL is his current novel. He was born in the Liberties of Dublin, is an arts graduate (reading Irish and Spanish) of University College Dublin and has an MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from Dublin City University. According to his bio ‘he taught in a secondary school and lectured for a number of years and volunteered for a time in the Simon community which informed the social concerns in some of his work. Lawless divides his time now between County Kildare and West Cork.’ His much-lauded books have been translated into several languages
The magic ingredient of all of James’ books is his radiant singing style of prose. He is able to create a spectrum of atmosphere in a few paragraphs, such as the opening of this novel: ‘He first met her in late May at a talk on W. B. Yeats given by Professor Foster in the National Library in Dublin. He knew she was American the moment he saw her, before he even heard her speak. She had that all American healthy complexion of piano ivory sparkling teeth and bright smiling brown eyes. And the way she was so open was American too, he figured, as she made for a vacant seat, talking to everyone around her in a voice a little too loud for Irish decorum. She was pushing her auburn fringe back saying, ‘My bangs are in my eyes’, like someone who wanted to share the world. ‘Imagine, accounts of my ancestors are stored here. Oh my god, and those green shades like one of the forty shades when I was looking down from the Aer Lingus plane. It was so exciting.’ ‘Why didn’t you fly Panam?’ another woman, American also judging by the accent, asked her. ‘My dad insisted on the friendly Irish airline.’ Sitting down beside him she said smiling, ‘I just adore Yeats.’ ‘He has his moments,’ he said. ‘Laura Calane.’ ‘Danny Faraday.’ ‘You’ve very long arms,’ she said. He looked at his sleeves; he could never get a shirt with sleeves long enough to cover his wrists, but she obviously meant it as a compliment. After the lecture when he told her he sometimes wrote poetry, she latched onto, ‘You’re a poet.’ ‘More a poetaster.’
The story takes on a serious tone as the summary suggests: ‘When Laura Calane of New York comes to Ireland to further her studies and to live in what her father considers a safer environment after 9/11, she discovers that the land of her ancestors is not the haven she had believed it to be. When she meets social worker Danny Faraday, she is torn between her attraction towards him and the emotional blackmail of her uncle Thady who is domiciled in Ireland and who never lets her forget that he saved her father’s life in a terrorist attack in New York.’
Few authors today can consistently create novels of such breadth – infusing the spirit of Irish charm into the events of now – a marriage of intrigue and romance that is polished and a joy to read. Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books. 8.2.18
Clearing the Tangled Wood
This monograph is a study of poetry as an alternative way of seeing the world and of obtaining insights into realities that enable the reader to see the vast otherness that usually eludes. The process of creativity is discussed. The influences of other disciplines on the heightening of consciousness are described as well as methodologies of observation that have been employed in the last 100 years are elucidated. Attention is paid to the specific contribution of modern Irish poetry especially in the role of the poet in society. Works of three non English poets (Salinas, Lorca and Pasternak) are appraised in some detail and the role of these three poets in their societies discussed with a view to the vindication of poetic insight and illumination against societal forces that would destroy the poet and his poetry. The final section of the work deals with poetry as an art form uniquely able to interpret a fragmented and arid post modern world.