Shamrocks …and a lot of laughs - 'This is Your Brain on Shamrocks'
“It wasn’t until I heard the Pogues and Black 47. Because they were able to introduce elements of punk and rock and hip-hop they were able to give me back my culture in a language I understood.”
Being inspired by the likes of Shane MacGowan and Larry Kirwan led Farragher to look into the music that in turn had inspired them.
“What’s really cool about doing my column is that I can sometimes get the opportunity to thank the people that gave me my culture. If it wasn’t for people like the Pogues and Black 47 I would never have fallen in love with my culture in the first place,” he says.
The day that changed everything for Farragher was the day he packed it all in. One day in his job in the health care industry he closed a three quarter million deal. He popped the check in his briefcase and left the meeting. But he felt nothing, good or bad.
“After they signed the check I went downstairs and I bought an Irish Voice and I saw an ad in the paper for a music columnist. I forgot to place the order for the medical equipment they’d just ordered -- I just ran home and wrote the cover letter to the Voice,” he said.
“If a sale that big was in my briefcase and it wasn’t lighting me up anymore, it was time to change my life. So this column was more than a column for me, it gave me an access to self-expression that wasn’t already there.”
Almost from the outset he became aware of a generational difference between the Irish America of his parents’ generation and his own. Helpfully though, he met other Irish writers who knew all about it.
“When I interviewed Frank McCourt when he had published Teacher Man, his follow up to Angela’s Ashes, I told him that I first picked up my pen because of his book. He was kind about it because he really knew about the differences between Irish America and the native born Irish,” he said.
Farragher told McCourt that if he mentioned his name at the Thanksgiving dinner table he would get a lot of dirty looks because Farragher’s family thought McCourt was full of it.
“His response was that the Irish who come over here end up with a nostalgic, warped view of what Ireland is. For my parents’ generation the Catholic Church was not just a religion, it’s also their cultural identity and their social life,” Farragher says.
“When the Irish came to America and they wanted a taste of home I think the church could provide them with it. I do not have the same viewpoint as my parents do with my faith. I see it as something very different.”
A longtime columnist for the Voice, when Farragher found himself filled with the desire to tell some of the stories from my own life he set out on a path that has resulted in the collection This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks.
“It was just sort an experiment to begin with and I ran a new column in the Voice called ‘Narrowback’s Corner.’ But right away I started getting emails and calls and posts on Facebook from people saying, ‘This is my life too.’ It resonated for them and it just encouraged me to keep on.”
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