The Irish Americans: The Rise to Money and Power

By Andrew M. Greeley | Go to book overview
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ELEVEN
Irish-American Writers

IRISH CATHOLIC FICTION WRITING IN THE UNITED STATES HAS PRO- duced a Greater Trinity, a Lesser Trinity, and a whole clutch of aspirants from among whom has emerged a New Trinity. One can search in vain among the whole lot of them, however, for a sympathetic and yet critical depiction of Irish Catholic life in the United States, though the Greater Trinitarian James T. Farrell in his old age and the "now generation" Elizabeth Cullinhan come closest to such understanding from the inside, the length and the breadth, and the height and the depth of American Irish Catholicism. Among the others, self-hatred and selling out to the enemy seem, as usual, to have gotten in the way.

In the Greater Trinity, F. Scott Fitzgerald ignored his Irish heritage (though, as William Shannon points out, there are traces of Irish lyricism in his work), John O'Hara did his snobbish best to escape from it, and James T. Farrell in his early years bitterly attacked it.

The Lesser Trinity is more explicitly Irish. Defying Harvard and the East Coast literary establishments, the late Edwin O'Connor managed to write two best sellers and won one National Book Award (for The Edge of Sadness, not for The Last Hurrah). His novels were unabashed celebrations not only of the Irish but, heaven save us,

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