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UCC International Pre-Departure Blog Series: ICCC Week One – The Search for Something Better…

This week, I read a book and watched a movie – much like most weeks.

Except, as you may know, this time these activities were part of my ICCC – an Irish Culture Crash Course I’m creating to get a bit more ready for my move to Ireland!

I’ll begin with Dubliners – a classic collection of short stories written by Irishman James Joyce, meant to meld a plethora of characters’ experiences into a snapshot of society at the time (as Joyce knew it, at least). These stories were based on real people Joyce had encounters with or some of his own personal experiences.

I was a bit disappointed by this read. Here are the reasons why:

  1. The book seemed outdated

This, I expected. After all, a book published in 1914 – after years of struggle to even get it into print – should not be expected to accurately reflect Irish society a century later. However, some books are timeless, and I’m not sure Dubliners passes this test.

There are certainly broader themes discussed – mundaneness and the desire for escape; religion and morality; life and death; lost opportunities; unrequited love; total discomfort. These themes have held true for most of humanity and will continue to do so. To be blunt, the stories were often too mundane themselves to make one eager to dig these themes out.

  1. The stories were too short

Although each story did captivate the reader with a mere glimpse at some important facet of its character’s life or thoughts, ten pages on average did not yield near enough insight on that person. I read a few reviews of the book that claimed it weaved these stories together with some overlap in order to generate a bigger picture, but I found myself finishing some stories slightly confused as to what the broader theme was even meant to be. I felt some of the characters deserved a bigger word count in which to be explored.

Along with this, I realized I much prefer longer novels featuring one main character, a few, or even a whole ensemble that all interact. At least in this way I am able to follow the typical (and yes, often cliché) story arc and grow to love or hate characters. This is part of what makes me love reading – growing with the characters.

To conclude, perhaps I’m simply not a fan of short stories (or at least very short ones) or of Joyce himself. Don’t hate me! I just didn’t find the stories as captivating as their place in classic literature suggests them to be.

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We’ll move on, though.

I LOVED The Commitments.

This comedic film follows a group of twenty-somethings (and one fifty-something) from North Dublin who set out to form a soul band in the middle of a very white country.

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“The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And the Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: “I’m black and I’m proud!”

First off, it was hilarious. I’m not very offended by strong language, so the bickering and dry insults made me laugh out loud. The film gave me a sense of the Irish humor, which I think I’ll enjoy very much.

Secondly, the actors seemed to fit their roles. As a band, the vast improvement in the actual sound was obvious from start to finish. By their final performance, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing their renditions of classic songs.

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It isn’t a heartbreaking or life-changing film; the character development does not reach the heights of Good Will Hunting or Cinderella Man. But it achieves its goal perfectly. This film tells a good story and makes you laugh and smile.

Even better, there was a core theme. All of these people came from lower-middle-class families and had their own struggles. They lived in a rougher part of town. They found themselves falling into an unspectacular life and sought to change that; to be different; to stand out.

Ironically, the book and film I chose were connected. The same theme of escape present throughout Dubliners was also core to The Commitments. Set in Dublin at different times and told in vastly different moods, these pieces still reflected a common idea – to find something better and live a good life.

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Here are the picks for next week!!

Cuisine

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Another of Donal Skehan’s recipes, potato and cheese dinner rolls. Potatoes are a staple of Ireland; these look delicious; it just seems right.

Film

 

I’m excited to see this award-winning film about the Irish War of Independence (plus gorgeous blue-eyed Cillian Murphy stars; what could go wrong).

Literature

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An awesome combo of “forensics, history, archaeology, and suspense” set in the Irish countryside, according to the inside of the cover. Cannot wait!!

Join me for Week Two of the ICCC. See you in a few days!

-Elena

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