Green Nostalgia: An Irish-American Novelist on Myth, Memory, and Moral Fiction
Marking New Editions of James Carroll's Mortal Friends (1978) and Supply of Heroes (1986) from Blackstone Publishing. Respondent: John Sexton, NYU President Emeritus.
“Nostalgia - from nostos, return home, and algia, longing - is a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed. Nostalgia is a sentiment of loss and displacement, but it is also a romance with one’s own fantasy.”
- from The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym
In casting his eye back across four decades to his early novels about the Irish Rising in the old country and the Irish arrival in America, James Carroll considers what he wrote, when he wrote it, and why? Supply of Heroes, challenging the creation myth of Irish Republicanism, was written while the secret Hume-Adams talks anticipated the Anglo-Irish Agreement and all that followed. Mortal Friends celebrates the Boston Irish for refusing to settle for immigrant inequality, even as they became the city’s champions of intolerance.
The late John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction (1978) was contested, but for Carroll, these novels are a particularly Irish mode of moral reckoning. Yet now what? In this lecture, he asks - where, actually, was the romance; where was the fantasy, and what happened less to the lost home than to the idea of it? A close look at one writer’s work for the sake of a larger understanding of the Irish-American story - and of story itself.
James Carroll is author of 12 novels and 8 works of non-fiction; winner of the National Book Award and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences