Thomas Flanagan (1923–2002), the grandson of Irish immigrants, grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he ran the school newspaper with his friend Truman Capote. Flanagan attended Amherst College (with a two-year hiatus to serve in the Pacific Fleet) and earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, where he studied under Lionel Trilling while also writing stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. In 1959, he published an important scholarly work, The Irish Novelists, 1800 to 1850, and the next year he moved to Berkeley, where he was to teach English and Irish literature at the University of California for many years. In 1978 he took up a post at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, from which he retired in 1996. Flanagan and his wife Jean made annual trips to Ireland, where he struck up friendships with many writers, including Benedict Kiely and Seamus Heaney, whom he in turn helped bring to the United States. His intimate knowledge of Ireland’s history and literature also helped to inspire his trilogy of historical novels, starting with The Year of the French (1979, winner of the National Critics’ Circle award for fiction, reissued by NYRB Classics in 2004) and continuing with The Tenants of Time (1988) and The End of the Hunt (1994). He is also the author of There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History (2004). Flanagan was a frequent contributor to many publications, including The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and The Kenyon Review.

O Albany!

This is the last article Thomas Flanagan wrote before he died on March 21, 2002. Roscoe is the seventh in William Kennedy’s cycle of “Albany” novels, which began with Legs in 1975. This was followed by Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game in 1978, and Ironweed in 1983. They were spoken of …

John Ford’s West

When André Bazin described John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) as “the ideal example of the maturity of a style brought to classic perfection,” he employed an apt metaphor, that of a “wheel so perfectly made that it retains its equilibrium on any axis in any position.” No image is more common …

Western Star

One Fourth of July, early in the twentieth century, young John Ford and his father stood in the main street of Portland, Maine, to watch the parade. The name in those days was not Ford but Feeney. “When the flag passes,” the father said, “take off your cap.” But the …

Fitzgerald’s ‘Radiant World’

Scott Fitzgerald conceived of the story which would become The Great Gatsby on Long Island, where man, in the person of a crew of Dutch sailors, was placed “face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” That was in the spring …

Master of the Misbegotten

O’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo[^1] The life of Eugene O’Neill describes an arc which resembles the world of his plays with their atmosphere of fatality. The plays upon which his reputation rests most securely—A Touch of the Poet, Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the …

The Best He Could Do

“We do not have great writers,” I said. “Something happens to our good writers at a certain age. I can explain but it is quite long and may bore you.” “Please explain,” he said. “This is what I enjoy. This is the best part of life. The life of the …

Waking from the Nightmare

In the early morning of the day that fills Ulysses, as they stand outside the Martello tower at Sandycove, Haines, the sentimental English celtophile with eyes sea-cold and imperial, tells Stephen Dedalus: “We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame.” Stephen …

Family Secrets

STAIRS February 1945 On the stairs, there was a clear, plain silence. It was a short staircase, fourteen steps in all, covered in lino from which the original pattern had been polished away to the point where it had the look of a faint memory. Eleven steps took you to …

The Quaking Bog

Denis Donoghue, who is among the most lucid and intellectually powerful of modern critics and literary theorists, does not tell us directly what he means by “We Irish.” Certainly this is because the various occasions that have elicited these essays and reviews collected under the title would have made so …