From the Publisher
“Ciaran Carson is a class of centaur-a flute-playing poet and a word-rich musician. Last Night's Fun is a cracker of a book, pure pleasure, stuffed with anecdotes, memories, wit and humor and deep knowledge of traditional Irish music. The reader is transported into the smoke and warmth of certain rooms in Northern Ireland where a glass of whiskey stands on the table, the black, cast-iron pan sputters on the burner, and a tune falls canted and sly out of the instruments.” E. Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News
“Last Night's Fun is an uproar.” Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
“This whole beautiful little book is... full of metaphor and observation and side trip and word-juggle and anecdote. It could well be the ideal book to read before a trip to Ireland, offering, instead of maps of highways, a deep drink of what the place is really all about.” Charles M. Madigan, Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Belfast-born flute player and poet Carson (The Pocket Guide to Irish Music) has four collections of poetry, including First Language, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize. Now he applies his poetic prose to mapping the terrain of his Belfast childhood, his early struggles learning music and his travels through Ireland and America, finding friends and fun at a ceili ("an evening visit, a friendly call"), at dances, parties, Sunday soirees and spit-and-sawdust pubs. Each chapter takes the title of a tune, and each tune leads into another: "Every day, tunes float into my head unbidden; I am caught up in their ingrained patterns. The tune is not a story, but stories cling to it." For Carson, "time itself is a chameleon," and thousands of stories, literary references, quotes and musical moments resurface. His words express a love of language, of names, musical instruments, cooking, drink and forgotten songs. A spinning LP evokes one tale, and a lost tape recording unreels more memories. A passage on Bob Dylan and Delta bluesmen leads into "the mythology of trains and the blues," then segues into cinematic trains and train wrecks. Here is a book piled with "unspeakable, archaeological layers of things strewn and assembled," all cascading forth in a scintillation of music and life. It is an endless pub crawl in the labyrinthine soul of a remarkable writer who dares to play unfamiliar tunes. (Mar.)
In this collection of 31 interconnected essays, poet and musician Carson takes the reader into the heart of Irish folk music's culture and ritual. The fine art of the Irish fried egg, the wonders of poteen (homemade Irish whiskey), and Chicago's former police chief Francis O'Neill are just a few of the wide-ranging essay topics, but Carson's impressionistic prose links them all to his experiences as a participant in the traditional Irish music scene. The musicians Carson writes about play on buses and in smoky pubs, learning and passing tunes on by ear and adding their own signature to the ever-evolving music each time a piece is played. Readable and enjoyable, this is nonetheless a book for purists. Those expecting to read about Enya, Altan, or the other recent stars of Celtic music will be disappointed, and general readers may find Carson's earlier Pocket Guide to Irish Traditional Music (Appletree, 1986) more useful. Still, this is well recommended for larger public libraries and for ethnomusicology collections.-Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., Cal.