October 30th, 2010

ireland

October Books 15) Up the Poll, by Shane Coleman

I've been on the road for the last ten days, so updates have been limited to linking and Whoniversaries, and actually reading LJ and email has barely happened at all. If anything interesting happened while I was away please tell me!

Meantime I managed to read several more books, of which the first was this set of anecdotes, borrowed from wwhyte, about (southern) Irish elections mostly since independence (a couple of notes on the 1917 and 1920 elections, and on Cashel as a rotten borough in the years before 1832). A lot of it was material I had lived through or read about previously, though it is all entertainingly told and there are some extra details that I hadn't previously seen - for instance, on the marathon 21-stage count in Tipperary in 1943, or the biographical details of Richard Mulcahy, or Fine Gael's tendency to call elections at the wrong moment in contrast with Fianna Fáil's record of getting that right.

But Coleman concentrates almost entirely on Dáil elections, so missing the drama of European and Presidential elections, not to mention the extraordinary case of the 1925 Senate election (and for all I know local council elections may have also produced moments of excitement I'm not aware of). So while the prose is generally catchy, and it would be a good stocking-filler for anyone with an interest in Irish politics, I wished for a little more breadth as well as depth.

earthsea

October Books 16) A Short History of Myth, by Karen Armstrong

Having been disappointed by Armstrong's The Age of Transformation, I'm glad to report that I enjoyed reading this very short reflection on the development of mythology through the ages - I'm still not convinced by Armstrong's Axial Age hypothesis, but I found a lot of resonance for me in her thoughts about the importance of myth and how societies have changed their approach to it in the wake of technological and social change since the invention of agriculture to the present day. She urges a wider appreciation of the importance of myth in the present day to which I'm totally sympathetic.