Recalling those little moments of life now past

Recalling those little moments of life now past
Stolen Moments by John Quinn (Veritas, €16.99 / £14.50)

Over recent years John Quinn’s books have proved popular and for good reason. This new book is a sort of sequel to an earlier book Moments (which appeared back in 2011). In this book I can see why.

These days I find I do not sleep quite as well as I once did, and often am awake at 3 o’clock in the night. I found that a long book, novel or complicated history did not provide those moments of relaxation that induced the return of soothing sleep. I found short stories and essays filled the bill far better.

John Quinn’s pieces in this book and his previous one would have worked just as well. These days our papers and magazines are filled by journalists determined often enough on investigative, world changing reporting. Even the New Yorker has lost the tone of civilised amusement it had back in the 1930s when it was a popular read among some middle class Dubliners.

This strain of literature can perhaps be traced back to Daniel Defoe. But John Quinn writes what were once called “essays” (before the term was filched by academics for a very different kind of composition), and which derived from the sort of things that Charles Lamb, Goldsmith and Addison wrote. Older readers will remember the sort of style I mean from the old days of Carty’s Senior Prose. But in Ireland the essay died out in the 1960s when students were encourages to become short story writers like Hemingway or James Joyce. It was forgotten that self-expression can take many forms.

There are some 94 short pieces collected in here, reflective, genial, kind-hearted and humane, drawn from ordinary life, small places, and things many still have the kindly thought for. If you too are seeking quiet moments in the days or nights of these troubled and fear-filled times, this is a book for you.

I would also like to draw attention to Quinn’s earlier book Daily Wisdom (Leann an Lae), a gathering of Irish proverbs and sayings for each day of the year, an epitome of insightful moral folklore from rural Ireland.