What Matters

She’s a genius, the way she makes evil seem so normal (64).
– Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart IMG_1914 Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have a vague understanding that the year is 2014. I do occasionally read things written in recent times. To that end I picked up a book the other day written by Donal Ryan, (no relation as far as I know, which in my case – is not very far, but never mind that) with the lovely title, The Spinning Heart.

So I’m going to Australia in the context of a severe recession, and therefore I am not a yahoo or a waster, but a tragic figure, a modern incarnation of the poor tenant farmer, laid low by famine, cast from his smallholding by the Gombeen Man, forced to choose between the coffin ship and the grave (57).

It’s the story of a small Irish town devoured by that psychopath, Capitalism. Worse than that, of course, it’s rather a pile-on for poor Ireland- it just never gets a break. Each chapter of the novel is written from the perspective of a different inhabitant of the town, another victim of the centuries of troubles. But the heart of the story revolves around Bobby, it is the spinning heart that graces the gate to his father’s house that mocks him. Oh but he  is an enormously sympathetic character- oh, Bobby….and like the rest of the town folk the reader falls in love with him and his wounded soul. The relentless troubles, superstitions, prejudices and poverty of all types: monetary, intellectual, of the spirit, and heart have the usual results; but boy do the Irish know how spin a yarn. The vernacular is wonderfully written by Ryan, the woe is heart sickening.

Isn’t that a fright, after a life spent blackening my soul for him, for all of them? Yerra what about it, sure wasn’t I at least the author of my own tale? And if you can say that as you depart this world, you can say a lot (34).

It’s a tragedy. Ryan writes about hateful people in a way that, oddly,  doesn’t make you hate them- you just want to stop the spinning. The heart of the town has been bled dry, left to spin in the wind.  The spinning heart is cruel in its malfunction, nothing more to pump, it listlessly spins. I told a friend I was reading a heart wrenching story set in Ireland and he said to me, maybe that’s what people need: to have their hearts wrenched.
Beats the insensible desuetude…the spinning.

I just said oh love; oh love, what matters now? What matters only love? (156).


6 responses to “What Matters

  1. It is always the young & strong who leave of course, leaving even fewer to carry on at home

  2. Your precis with that great line “that psychopath, Capitalism” makes sound like more like Durrenmatt’s “The Visit” than “Winesburg, Ohio”? Both of which I liked when i read them long long ago.

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