Into this turbulent landscape Jamie O'Neill casts the heroes of his historical novel, At Swim, Two Boys, whose title is a play on the title of Flann O'Brien's landmark Irish comic novel At Swim-Two-Birds. This story takes place in the year leading up to the Easter Rising and investigates the complicated weave of alliances in Ireland; the two Dublin boys struggle not only with their political affiliations but with their religious and sexual identities.
W. B. Yeats spoke to Ireland's scars of strife, famously noting in "Easter, 1916" that, after the Rising, "All changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born." A new volume of Yeats's essays, Writings on Irish Folklore, Legend and Myth, examines ancient tales of the land -- an Ireland bewitched by "sociable fairies," the banshee, and the medieval warrior Cuchulain. In fables, Yeats writes, mortals are transformed into "perfect symbols of the sorrow and beauty and of the magnificence and penury of dreams.'' (Lauren Porcaro)