Every legend and all mythologies exist to teach us how to run our days. In kind fashion. A loving way. But there’s no story, no matter how ancient, as important as one’s own. So if we’re to live good lives, we have to tell ourselves our own story. In a good way.
The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney which releases February 7 tells the story of Ben MacCarthy, a man who travels around Ireland for the Irish Folklore Commission, talking to the aging keepers of local stories and myths, and recording them before they are lost for all time. In between the marvelous stories of yore, Ben weaves the narrative of his own life in colorful prose with charm and warmth.
There’s real affection here for the people he encounters, his friends, his admired mentor, and he doesn’t shy away from giving us a full account of events in his own life, warts and all. He wants desperately to regain the love of his life, who is now married to an abusive, slimy stage magician.
It’s a blending of the mythical and factual, the poetic and the brutal. The warmth and affection for his friends and acquaintances is juxtaposed with the dark accounts of lives gone horribly wrong. Steeped in the mythology of the land, Ben is able to view events from a different vantage point, seeing parallels from the stories he records in the events of his own life. Nothing is sugar-coated; people make mistakes, take wrong turns in life, have regrets, try to put things right, sometimes successfully, other times not. Ben articulates his own dark side in a strikingly honest fashion. The book is written in a not quite epistolary fashion, but it is a final gift to his children, Ben and Louise, for whom he is writing all this down.
This is probably as close to Ireland as you can get without leaving home.