Brief Reviews: Irving A. Greenfield and Michael Corrigan

Both of these men are former colleagues in the editorial labor at New Works Review, and both have old or new books out in new Kindle editions. Their work is also highly readable and of deep literary merit.

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I have just read Irving A. Greenfield’s Snow Giants Dancing, whose 2012 electronic edition with Blueberry Lane Books is a first edition http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Giants-Dancing-ebook/dp/B0089SM22E/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344966537&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Snow+Giants+Dancing%2C+Irv+Greenfield. His other new e-book, from the same publisher, is Ancient of Days: The Chronicles of Ronstrom the Builder, which spent six weeks on the bestseller list in its original 1973 incarnation. His book Tagget, not available yet in an e-edition, became a made-for-TV movie starring Daniel J. Travanti. And this scarcely scratches the surface of his prolific literary production over the years.

 

Snow Giants Dancing, by Irv GreenfieldSnow Giants Dancing, in its estimated 166 pages, is a swift read with an out-sized moral and emotional impact. Its dramatic ending, which I will not give away, left me rather stunned and emotionally drained, yet perfectly satisfied as a reader interacting with a text: the ending is, simply, what it had to be.

The setting is a vaguely medieval period and purely fictitious isolated village high in some snowy mountain range, but there are enough historical markers to Catholic Rome and Crusades, Jews and Gypsies and such, as to ground it in a convincingly historical context. In this village evil has taken root and the inhabitants and Nature itself are expecting some catastrophe involving death; the fear and the hysteria are symbolized by the swirl of snow and ice that presents the sign or illusion of dancing snow giants which, according to pagan legend, have always prophesied forthcoming death.

Stirred up by the hatred and bigotry of a trio of religious zealots or posers, it is most all the town (minus one good Christian family) against Chayym the local Jew, his beautiful and sensuous daughter Shulamith, and the also marginalized and embittered sculptor who is her lover. The story is timeless but its portrait of intolerance bolstered by a thin layer of piety seems painfully prescient of our own times in which a separation of Church and State seems ever more precarious, and intolerance and real and potential violence ever-present.

Following is an excerpt: “The wind blew up great curtains of snow. The dying sun filled them with all the colors of the rainbow. But even as Shulamith watched, the spectacle changed. The high veils of snow formed into reddish colored swaying giants with heads that touched the sky and bodies that danced obscenely with the wind. Trembling with fear, she could not move, nor could she cry out. As the last light of the sun left the sky, the giants still danced on the edge of the snowfield.”

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Confessions of a Shanty Irishman, by Michael CorriganMichael Corrigan’s newly published Kindle books are 2011 editions of his “minor cult classic” (as I seem to recall someone writing) of a fictionalized memoir Confessions of a Shanty Irishman, and his more recent and wholly un-fictional memoir A Year and a Day: Journal of Grief, inspired (if that is the word) by the sudden death of the love of his life Karen, his wife of too few years.

Confessions of a Shanty Irishman http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Shanty-Irishman-ebook/dp/B004KABB5E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1344966686&sr=1-1&keywords=Confessions+of+a+Shanty+Irishman%2C+Michael+Corrigan begins with a charming portrait of the grandparents who helped his dad to raise him and of his growing disenchantment, after their death, with both his now-and-again present mother and the rigors and hypocrisies of a Jesuit schooling; and later of his intellectual and sexual adventures through the ‘60s, as well as his drinking troubles and passing activism during the California campus troubles of that revolutionary era. It ends appropriately enough with his settling down and marrying his beloved Karen, which marked an end to the years of dissipation and malaise.

grief memoir by Michael CorriganA Year and a Day http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=A+Year+and+a+Day%2C+Michael+Corrigan is an invaluable record of loss that might be read profitably by anyone facing such a crisis. It begins with this very appropriate epigraph, from Samuel Beckett: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”; the book’s great strength is that, rather than press any one-size-fits-all self-help solution to grief, it simply shows – with brutal and cleansing honesty – the slow progress, over the Irish people’s traditional year and a day of mourning, of a particular man and a particular grief.

Here is an excerpt from Confessions of a Shanty Irishman: “On the way home, Grandfather described the three breeds of Irishmen: Lace Curtain for the well off, Shanty Irish for the working class, and the extremely rich Micks called Two Toilet Irish.

“‘We won’t ever have two toilets in our house,’ he said, ‘unless  you make a killing in vaudeville. We’re shanty Irish. The neighbor woman used to look down on me when I came home covered with tar, but whose door was she knockin’ on when her lawyer husband needed a blood transfusion? Mine! Never gave blood in me life, but I did. I guess I wasn’t so Shanty then.’”

stories by Michael Corrigan***

I should also mention Michael’s collection of stories, These Precious Hours, which is presently being serialized at The Scream Online http://www.thescreamonline.com/fiction/corrigan/ThesePreciousHoursHome.html. I have fond memories of editing three or four of these fabulous pieces for publication at NWR. Mark them in your agenda book as essential reads! (The book is also available in a 2010 Kindle edition and in a new audio version.)

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One response to “Brief Reviews: Irving A. Greenfield and Michael Corrigan

  1. Dr. Irving A Greenfield

    Thank you Brett for your stunning review of SNOW GIANTS DANCING. I just read it.

    Thanks — Irv Greenfield

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