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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Last Night’s Fun

Last Night’s Fun
Ciaran Carson

I should preface my statements by saying that I do not consider myself an Irish musician. Yes, I have Irish ancestors. Yes, I play a number of folk instruments. Yes, I played in a band for about five years that almost exclusively performed traditional Irish music. But the fact is that I simply don’t know the tunes, and never really did. I cannot hope to hold my own at a session. I’m deficient in both skill and catalog.
Nonetheless, there was quite a bit in this book with which I identified. It is clearly a book about music as written by a musician. Not the concert-trained sheet music type of musician, but the type of musician who learns their music through time spent in pubs and on porches, swapping tunes with others of the same ilk. (I once went along to a friend’s voice lesson, and was asked by his instructor whether I was a musician. I mentioned that I played guitar, banjo, and mandolin; he sniffed and said, “Ah, fun instruments.” This was obviously meant to be a perjorative term, which amuses me to this day.)
However, the style at times irritated me. Perhaps there is such a thing as an “Irish voice” in writing, but it too often sounds to me like distorted echoes of James Joyce, with little new to contribute. Joyce was good, but good because he was fresh and unconventional. When that voice gets bent and bludgeoned to serve the literary aspirations of throngs of imitators, it ceases to resonate. That aside, Last Night’s Fun is a good read, especially for anyone who has any heart for folk music. Or fun music, if you prefer.

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