In this loose parody of Dante's "Inferno," four Irish traditional musicians get lost in the backwoods of upstate New York the week before St. Patrick's Day. On the journey, the band descends through nine hellish circles of American-style 3/17 revelry: Step-dancing princesses. Bobbing shamrock headbangers. Green beer bacchanals. Shillelagh-wavin' geezers.
I spent my youth daydreaming. There was no Internet, no facebook, and no digital distractions from exploring my imagination. There were many books, though, and the occasional MAD magazine smuggled into my school desk. I became fascinated with Greek and Roman mythology. When my brother finished a sci-fi paperback, I'd devour it. But then around the time my grandfather died and we had some awkward exchanges with his light-fingered housekeeper, I discovered Eudora Welty's book The Optimist's Daughter. Reading it I realized that stories did not have to focus on fantastical worlds. Everyday reality among simple people could be just as riveting. Works by women writers such as Flannery O'Connor, Anne Tyler and Maeve Binchy were soon filling the bookcase.
Some families grow up playing sports together. In our Irish-American household, we exercised through wordplay. At dinner we'd lob puns across the table like spinning Ping-Pong balls. My great-aunt was a seanchaí (storyteller) who wove jokes so wonderfully before her rapt audience that you enjoyed the journey to the punch line as much as the arrival. Another great-aunt spoke in Celtic triads, though she didn't realize the ancient genetic roots of her wisdom.
A deep shyness that developed in my teens aided my development as a writer. It forced me to watch others and pay attention to the cadence of their conversations. My natural curiosity magnified these skills.
I ran away to Toronto once to write the Great American Novel. Lasted there but a week. (It was, after all, November.) But I returned to the writer's pursuit fully in 2008 after saying farewell to careers of journalism and commercial art. Six novels later, I know that this is what those daydreams were for.
I hope you enjoy my tales, set in upstate New York with a few stray visits to Ireland and even Central America. The Irish language is filled with wonderful proverbs, and here is one as a caveat: "An té a thabharfas scéal chugat tabharfaidh sé dhá scéal uait." (Whoever will bring a story to you will take two stories from you.)
For more information, visit my website marypathyland.com
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