From Publishers Weekly
The irrepressible Durcan is up to his tricks again. The 52-year-old Dubliner maintains a reputation as Ireland's most popular and entertaining poet (he famously compared "his love" to a pint of stout) and yet is taken seriously by the Irish literary community as a poet extending the Celtic bardic tradition of the public balladeer. In this booklength poem, Durcan tells of a Christmas Day shared by two Irish bachelors, Paul and Frank: they bring each other gifts; they do not go to Mass; they have a meal; they sing a song or two-all the while reminiscing about old cemeteries, old loves ("Motoring down to Wesport/ And calling in on Mary McBride/ In the Old Rectory/ And taking the kids out for a spin/ All five of them") and the fate of being a poet ("Two men of no property/ Do men rate/ Who have no real estate?"). Durcan can't help but amuse, and yet here, as throughout most of his work, there is the whiff of gratifying guilt, a sense that Durcan finds a certain malicious pleasure in punishing himself with humor, knowing he deserves worse. It's a peculiar Irishness, perhaps, that permeates Durcan's poems, and may be the secret to his popularity. Still, one might question the poet's evocation of a five-year affair with a nun, which might shock the unsuspecting gift buyer ("All she was interested in/ Was making love," he wryly complains). But priests enough wander in and out of this bawdy, blarney tale to suggest that confession is being heard and sins, perhaps, will be absolved. (Dec.) FYI: Durcan's poem "The Goose in the Frost," written in tribute to Seamus Heaney's winning the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, will appear at the end of this volume.
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"[A]n intimate soul-searching, by turns painful and savagely funny" -- Dominic Cavendish Independent "He is a master of minor tragedies and melancholy, self-mocking humour... It is a beautiful, poignant and wry piece of writing. The firm yet hesitant friendship between these two men is the most genuine note of goodwill you could come across in a whole month of Christmases" -- Maggie O'Farrel Independent "Melancholy yet achingly funny" Observer "Like all first-class comedians, he is deadly serious" -- Terry Eagleton Stand