My review of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion—which is far fiercer and bitchier than people tend to remember—will come out in this week's paper. A detail that didn't fit into the review comes from a Harold Bloom essay on The Importance of Being Earnest:
After Shakespeare, most of the best stage comedies in English were written by Anglo-Irishmen. William Congreve's The Way of the World, Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal, were joined in later times by Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
He doesn't propose a theory about why, but I'll make a reckless, Tuesday-morning stab. I'm guessing Irish writers tend to eclipse English ones for the same reason Southern writers tend to eclipse Yankees and Latin American writers tend to eclipse Spaniards. (Yes, I'm taking one little list in one little essay and extrapolating a ridiculous, sweeping, unified-field theory about geography and imagination. Good morning!)
Two possibilities for this phenomenon:
1. An anxiety-of-influence issue. Each of the dominant cultures (England, the North, Spain) has its humongous old icon (Shakespeare, Melville, Cervantes) that writers in the subservient cultures wrestle with—not just with the intensity of younger writers, but with the double fury of being a) younger writers with b) chips on their shoulders for coming out of a culture that is considered more brutish, less refined, less worthy. They struggle harder and wind up going further: Joyce, Faulkner, and Borges; Martin McDonagh, Flannery O'Connor, and Roberto Bolaño.
2. Assuming that English is to Irish what Yankee is to Southern and Spanish is to Latino, call the formers the metropole (dominant, wealthier, smug), and the latters the periphery (derided, poorer, shame mixed with a little—maybe even secret—chip-on-the-shoulder pride).
A rough equation derived from those givens: the benefits of a cosmopolitan metropole education + a rich oral tradition from the periphery with superstitions and cosmology alien to the metropole + the inward-lookingness produced by shame mixed with chip-on-the-shoulder pride = a promising foundation for good work.
In other thrilling and extremely important news, here's an old video of a jujitsu guy fighting a capoeira guy.