Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eric Cross' "The Tailor and Ansty": Book Review

The Tailor and Ansty: Eric Cross: 9780853420507: BooksWhile Eamon de Valera famously judged |"in its general tendency" this 1941 account as ''indecent," years later, the tone of these stories as told by the titular couple from Muskerry in West Cork feels quaint, conveyed from these believers in the fair folk. I found Eric Cross's editorial voice slightly patronizing, as if he was guiding us to a pair of animatronic figures programmed to speak on command their scripted recital. Still, the content, if you can handle the now-antiquated air of the tales told by Tom Buckley and his wife, Anastasia (Ansty).

In Gougane Barra, the earthy life is recounted, whether of people or of animals. Thus Dev's squeamishness. Ansty plays the more curdled to the less ruffled Tailor her partner. Originally published in the well-known The Bell, as fellow Corkman Frank O'Connor reminisces in his 1964 introduction, this take on the imagined and idealized benefits of rural Irish life resulted in the couple being boycotted while Cross' book was debated and denounced by many in the Irish government.

O'Connor also reminds us that the Tailor had a wider range in his native Irish of expression, and that the English is narrower, if still indicative second-hand of his wide-ranging mind and temperament. I'd say it's livelier for readers now than Peig Sayers' tales of woe, halfway to those parodied by Flann O'Brian in his The Poor Mouth, translated from his own Irish, sending-up such rustic ruminations and raw exaggerations. Classified as a biography "as told to," it stirs up blurred fact and lots of fiction.
(Amazon US 11-4-15)

No comments: