I used to be pretty thrilled in a low-key, understated way about the Irish side of my background until PBS disillusioned me. They showed a documentary on the Irish and I realized that I had been thrilled about the Anglo-Irish, who were the overlords from whom my actual ancestors had to flee, leaving behind their brutish sod cottages and mealy potatoes for the crowded tenements and filth of America. (That’s not why I stopped supporting PBS, though. That was when they started ignoring opera and theater in favor of nostalgic band reunions for aging wealthy hippies. If PBS doesn’t do it, who will? Well, VH-1 for starters. Who needs that?) My disillusionment was not really a watershed event, given my tendency to avoid any group to which I might reasonably belong. I’ve always hated St. Patrick’s day, from the silly "pinches if you're not wearing green" in grammar school to the adult form, which is vomiting up cheap green beer. I knew a guy in Boston who did a hilarious impression of South Boston residents the rest of the year (stereotypical Southie accents) versus St. Paddy’s Day (out come the faith and begorrah brogues). I imagine my patron saint himself was a fairly fierce and driven man, not some boozy twinkler dancing with the leprechauns, whom he probably would have considered imps of the Devil if he thought about them at all. I tend to avoid Irish plays too (again, not Anglo-Irish, so the boycott doesn't include Wilde, Shaw, or Beckett), having a fairly low tolerance for sorrowing spinsters and drunken dreamers and The Troubles, so I had completely missed out on Martin McDonagh’s work until I was urged to see The Pillowman at Berkeley Rep a few months ago. It’s pretty fantastic, in every sense, and the outstanding production helped make up for the evening I wasted at To the Lighthouse. The playbill articles, in what may have been either canny promotion or Irish self-mythologizing, acted as if his works were sui generis, whereas I felt that certain scenes picked up exactly where Pinter’s The Birthday Party (which I had seen the week before) left off; there are trace elements of Pinter, Mamet, and Orton, not to mention the grotesqueries of the Jacobeans, who can never resist making adulterous liaisons incestuous as well, and scorn murder by knifing when poisoned lipstick might do. Anyway, McDonagh is now on the list of Irish writers with whom I feel affinity. Once in Boston I saw an animation festival that featured a short based on one of Edna O’Brien’s stories. I don't remember the exact plot, except that I assume it had an unhappy ending, since that’s the sort of thing that gets my attention, but what really got me was the realization that if that story had been by a Jewish author I would have bought the book on the way home from the theater. I’m sure that if I were an actual Jew instead of just an honorary one my interests would be reversed. Irish and Jewish brings us to Leopold Bloom – I’d like to wish a very happy (is that the right word?) Bloomsday to all of my mountain flowers out there. And here’s a fun website to check out: http://www.james-joyce-music.com/. Since I re-read Ulysses just a few years ago, I think I will start re-reading Portrait of the Artist today. I last read it when I was thirteen, and I suspect I missed a few subtleties.