Ireland starts for me with the end of “The Dead,” which my father read to me from his desk in his basement office in New Albany, Ind. I don’t remember what age I was — feels like it could have happened anytime between the 6th and 11th birthdays — but I picture the scene with a strange, time-slurred clarity of detail. His offices were always in the basement, because that’s where he could smoke his endless, extra-long menthols, exhaling nasally over the red mustache. I can smell it in his sweat when he bends down to kiss me goodbye, and I smell it in this room. I also note cat urine, because our vicious, lonely old calico, Skipper, tends to relieve herself on the dark green chair in the corner when stressed, and the scent has soaked into the stuffing, and my father won’t throw away the chair, because it belonged to his father. The mottled surface of the desk where he writes is dark green, almost black, and glowing green are the little letters on the screen of the primitive Tandy word processor the newspaper has given him, and an excellent forest green is the cover of “The Portable James Joyce,” my mother’s Penguin paperback from college. He’s holding it close to his face. He was blind in one eye and couldn’t see especially well out of the other, wore dark-framed, vaguely government-issue glasses, but they’re lowered, he’s turning his head and squinting over the top of them. He reads me the famous last paragraph, “The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward… .” Nothing of the actual language remained with me, except, years later, reading the story at school, there was something like déjà vu at the part where Joyce first says the snow was “falling faintly,” then four words later says it was, “faintly falling.” The slight overconspicuousness of that had stuck, as I suppose he intended.