Despite talk of the economic "Celtic Tiger" and Dublin's growing clout as a high-tech center, the Ireland of the imagination is still the Ireland of village and bog, with 40 shades of green and pints of creamy Guinness for young and old alike. In No News at Trout Lake
, Lawrence Donegan first journeys to the village of Creeslough in search of such stereotypes, but his book succeeds not by celebrating clichés but by exploring the complexity and contradictions beneath them.
Caught in the throes of a premature midlife crisis, Donegan, a London journalist, pulls up stakes and moves to an Irish village he once visited on holiday. The book chronicles his (mis)adventures there, from an abortive attempt at cattle farming (described here as "Quentin Tarantino's All Creatures Great and Small") through a series of exploits with the rambunctious editors of the Tirconaill Tribune, a feisty local paper. Donegan relates his experiences, which include a hunt for a whale tooth and a visit from Newt Gingrinch, and describes his companions in Creeslough with great intimacy and wit. This is certainly not the final word on "the Irish character," if such a thing even exists, but Donegan's story abounds with charming characters, Irish and otherwise, providing a meditation on small-town life that is at once universal and as unique as the Irish village it describes. --Andrew Nieland
From Publishers Weekly
After spending a holiday in the small village of Creeslough, Ireland, Donegan decides to escape the madness of urban life and move there. Leaving behind urban comforts of London and a decade of employment at his dream job reporting for the Guardian, Donegan tries his luck working as a farmhand before quickly moving on to beg for--and land--a job at the Tirconaill Tribune, an opinionated community paper. Donegan clearly appreciates his co-workers, as well as the opportunity to be closely involved again in the grind of newspaper publishing (he does occasionally feel queasy about reporting on beached whale carcasses and geriatric pop singers while watching former Guardian co-workers cover top international stories). Although he joins a local Gaelic soccer team and tries to make new friends, Donegan does not relinquish all his big-city ambitions--he hopes to make a name for himself uncovering a murder mystery involving American heiress Doris Duke (aka "The Richest Girl in the World") and her butler, a Creeslough native named Bernard Lafferty. While this lead never does pan out, Donegan's account of his eight-month stint at the Tribune is peppered with intelligent commentary on local history and politics and rural vs. urban living. Happily, Donegan's sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor and keen wit (his public, poetic "eulogy" on the anniversary of Princess Diana's death and his account of a visit by Newt Gingrich seeking a nonexistent Irish pedigree are particularly amusing) prevent the narrative from dissolving into a collection of soggy sketches about eccentric locals. (Apr.) FYI: During the 1980s, Donegan played in the pop band Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.
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