Review: Bill Jaker, WSKG FM
Doesn’t Tioughnioga look like it could be a Gaeilge word
by Mary Pat Hyland
on OFF THE PAGE
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 1pm,
rebroadcast at 7pm on WSKG Radio
For a small island nation with a present-day population of about five million, Ireland continues to have an outsized influence on the world’s culture. The works of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney are among the literary high spots of the twentieth century. Irish music has an emotional range and depth that gives it connections to both Early Music and New Age sounds, and an influence that extends into contemporary American country and western songs. With a tradition so rich, spread by centuries of Irish emigration, it may be expected that Irish ethnicity and local custom might mingle and mix into something else.
So the plot of Mary Pat Hyland’s new novel “3/17”, while often bizarre, does not strain credulity. A four-member Irish musical group has been booked to play around St. Patrick’s Day at a few college campuses and pubs in upstate New York. Fionn, Diarmuid, Peadar and Aisling fly to Boston, rent a car and head for the hills. While driving down a country road in Cortland County a mysterious black pony runs across their route and the car careens off the roadway and breaks an axle. Help arrives soon, but the musicians are stranded. They take their instruments and settle down to become short-term emigres. The Irish band would like to play for the locals, but they soon discover that the Ireland they left behind is not the one that’s celebrated on this patch of American soil.
“Be on the lookout for a suitable pub, restaurant or banquet facility. A place with a dance floor and drink.”
“Let’s figure out a playlist, then,” Fionn said. They got out their instruments and had a pickup practice session. Fionn asked Aisling if she’d care to sing some sean-nos songs in Irish. That’d be really different for the folks around here. Diarmuid knows most of those rebel songs. Nuthin’ like them to get the crowd goin’. He wanted Peadar to play the songs people associated with highland pipe bands, songs with a high emotional factor such as “Amazing Grace” and “The Minstrel Boy”. –from “3/17”
The musicians soon learn that the local concept of Irish music is Bing Crosby singing “Toora-loora-loora.” Trying to hold body and soul together, make music and overcome the distortion of their native culture, the four foreigners descend into a series of experiences that author Mary Pat Hyland likens to the nine circles of Hell described in Dante’s “Inferno”. Mugs of green beer bubble and foam everywhere and the aroma of corned beef wafts through every chapter of “3/17”, a reminder that the ubiquitous St. Paddy’s Day main dish originated on this side of the Atlantic. They end up playing in an Italian restaurant and sharing the stage with “The Irish Elvis”.
Mary Pat Hyland is originally from Long Island. She has been an illustrator, an editorial writer and columnist whose columns appeared nationally in about 90 newspapers, and a teacher of Gaeilge, the Irish language. Her earlier novels include “The Cyber Miracles” and “A Sudden Gift of Fate”. The first draft of “3/17” was completed during National Novel Writing Month in November, 2009. Mary Pat joins Bill Jaker to tell about her experiences as a musician working on St. Patrick’s Day (“Trust her, it hasn’t been pretty”) and to respond to listeners’ questions and observations. To join in the conversation, call during the live 1:00 PM broadcast to 888/359-9754 or post a comment here to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG.
Danby Town Talk by Gay Huddle, 12/23/2010 Ithaca Journal
Getting her Irish upMy friend Anne Woodard from Ithaca College is a devoted fan of this column, so I am happy to include here information about Anne’s sister, Mary Pat Hyland, author of the new book “3/17.” Mary Pat is a former graphic artist, designer and art director who spent 15 years as a journalist, including writing for the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton until leaving in 2007 to become a novelist. She has an interest in the Irish language Gaeilge, which she has taught, and has danced in Irish companies and performs with the traditional Irish band The Hylands, all of which have given her a rich background for her third book.
“3/17,” a loose parody of Dante’s “Inferno,” is about four Irish traditional musicians who get lost in the backwoods of upstate New York the week before St. Patrick’s Day, after their car slides off the road when an Irish pony darts out in front of them. On the journey, the band descends through nine hellish circles of American-style “3/17 revelry,” such as step-dancing princesses, bobbing shamrock headbangers, and shillelagh-waving geezers. An Amazon.com review raves: “You don’t have to be Irish to love this book. Grab a corned beef sandwich and a pint and sit back for a wild ride.”
Mary Pat … frequently visits Tompkins County, and much of her first two books, “The Cyber Miracles” and “A Sudden Gift of Fate,” take place in the Finger Lakes, with a large part transpiring in both the Binghamton and Ithaca areas.