The Shortest Way To Tara

Sam Astorga
December 30, 2016

“Told him the shortest way to Tara was via Hollyhead.” –James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


My mother once told me something: “Sam, don’t tell people you read James Joyce, it makes you a pretentious know-it-all.” Yet these wise words only incited my reading rebellion against a household of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville in favor of Yeats, O’Brien, and of course, mister pretentious himself.

It seems strange that I reflect upon my literary dream world of the emerald isle, because as I write this, I am watching Beverly Hills Chihuahua with my own Chihuahua, Scout, sleeping on my lap. Although he may scoff at me from the grave, I do not think that even Joyce could spurn such a loving being like Scout. Besides, I think the Dubliner and my dog are similar in appearance and affectation.  Both are scrawny and bug eyed, and socially inept doesn’t begin to describe their people skills.

But I suppose these comparisons between my mutt and the black sheep of Irish literature demonstrates the platitude of perverse thoughts that have echoed in my head throughout winter break of 2016. While there’s no foreseeable ending to my musings, there is one to my winter break, thankfully.

On January 1st I depart for Dublin, and it is the first time I will be living outside of the L.A. area. Yes, even for college, I opted to go local to Occidental in Eagle Rock, which is 15 minutes from my home in South Pasadena. It’s been living “alone,” but this adventure to the emerald isle will finally let me remove the quotations and spread my adolescent wings as I fly solo throughout the world (figuratively and literally).

Before my departure, I’ve gotten some things ready, besides an apt farewell letter to my dear Scout. Right now, my room is a cacophony of clothes, documents, and luggage, but I’ve been slowly turning it into a full backpack, duffle, and carry on that I can bring with me. But the hardest part is not the clothes so much as what books I want to bring. The for sure list includes God’s Executioner Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland, Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds, and Paul Muldoon’s One Thousand Things Worth Knowing: Poems. I’m on the fence about bringing Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov because I think I should stay focused on Irish lit. But the last book on this list is likely my most valuable possession: Ulysses gambler edition, hardback. On the front flap of the book, my father inscribed “Dear Sam, Let this serve as a blarney inoculation for your trip to Ireland. Love Mom and Dad.” Part of me would love to bring this, but part of me wants to keep it safe at home.

This trip has been a long time coming, and I only hope that I don’t superimpose my dreams of literary grandeur onto modern day Dublin. Besides this, I have no reservations. Tara is the center of Ireland and the seat of the kings long ago. Joyce thought that in order to get to the center of Ireland, one must leave. Unlike Joyce, I’m trying to find my shortest way to Tara by going to Trinity College and exploring the city. Along the way, I will be sure to post blogs and limericks. For now, Drew Barrymore, in Chihuahua form, will lull me to sleep.

And here is a limerick:

I shall soon fly to Dublin,
To see Joyce’s den of sin.
From Pasadena
To lit’s arena
I can’t help but show my grin.

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Sam Astorga

<p>Greetings, welcome to my blog! My name is Sam, and I grew up in South Pasadena as well as books. I am majoring in history and minoring in Russian language at Occidental College, but I always dreamed of studying Irish history and literature. This semester I am going to attend the Trinity College Direct Transfer program.</p>

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