A counterpoint to this The British James Joyce by Brenda Maddox – TLS

So this month I published a book. It was an incredible experience, especially because it was with a talented author and about a fascinating topic. The book is called A Little Circle Of Kindred Minds: Joyce in Paris and it’s written by Conor Fennell. As you might imagine, it is about James Joyce and the group of friends he built up during the twenty years he spent in Paris. All of which serves as precursor to the article below from The Times Literary Supplement yesterday:

“There Joyce continued to retreat from formal Irish identity. At the end of 1931, when his father died in Dublin, he would not go to Ireland for the funeral, as he felt he would not be safe from prosecution. In 1932, he declined an invitation to a St Patrick’s Day party in Paris when told the Irish ambassador would be there; he feared his presence might imply an endorsement of the new Free State. That same year he refused an invitation from W. B. Yeats to become a member of the new Irish Academy of Letters as “I see no reason why my name should have arisen at all in connection with such an academy” (though he wished it success). Indeed, as he was writing Finnegans Wake, he asked Miss Weaver, “Why go on writing about a place I did not dare to go to at such a moment, where not three persons know me or understand me . . ?”.

via The British James Joyce by Brenda Maddox – TLS. I wanted to suggest that what Maddox is saying is just not plausible. Especially when you consider just how obsessed with Dublin Joyce was. Just as an example I thought I’d share a little of Conor’s excellent book:

Austin Clarke got similar treatment when, in the winter of
1923, he used to meet Joyce promptly at 6pm outside the
church of St Sulpice. The two would adjourn to a quiet café
where, after a long silence, Joyce would ask: ‘Is Mulvaney’s
shop still there at the corner?’ – the first of many
When Kenneth Reddin arrived at Joyce’s apartment in
Square Robiac he found it full of Irish newspapers, including
provincial ones. He was impressed that Joyce was able to
recall the smart remarks by witnesses at Kilmainham
District Court over which Reddin presided.
At dinner at the Trianons Joyce challenged him and the
artist Patrick Tuohy to name the shops from Amiens
Street station (now Connolly station) to Nelson’s Pillar,
first on one side then back on the other. ‘Mostly he was
three or four shops in front of us,’ said Reddin. ‘When
Tuohy and I left a gap, he filled it. When he named a new
proprietor, he named, and remembered the passing of, the

When you read about the man in that way it becomes impossible to believe he was anything but Irish in the true sense. Yes he might have, at times, had issues with the state and even some of the people, but there was no way he could be described a s British as Maddox seems to claim. I could say you should read more of Conor’s book to uncover the truth and I really do think that would help, but perhaps that might be just a little self-serving!

Making Things Happen: The Irish Story’s Apps

It’s been an incredibly busy few months for me in lots of ways. But I’ve also managed to get a few things shipped as Seth Godin might put it. So I thought I’d write a few posts about them.

One of the things I’ve managed to get done is submitting all five of The Irish Story‘s first set of ebooks into the iTunes App store. Some of them (Rebellion, Famine and Easter Rising) are already live and available. The final two (Civil War and Independence) will go live soon.

Since I finished at Mercier Press and decided to create The Irish Story, Apps and ebooks were always my focus, the ebooks were the easier part to create, the Apps took a little longer so I’m very glad we are there with them now.

It has been a great experience, which I mostly put down to the talent and commitment of our wonderful co-publisher, Mike Hyman at Collca. I first came across Collca in late October when I found the wonderful History in An Hour Series, which I discovered Collca co-published.

That find sparked an e-mail, a phone call and a contract agreement within a fortnight and now a five app publishing schedule in the space of six weeks. Things can truly move rapidly in the digital publishing space can’t they?

I’ve written before that I don’t believe that Apps are the future and that ebooks are a distraction. Oddly enough I don’t see the fact that I publish ebooks and apps as a contradiction of those writings. Rather I believe a publisher should be ensuring that all their material gets out on the market in as many ways as possible.

So rather than one edition or one format, books should appear online, as ebooks, apps, printed editions or whatever else they can reasonable be packaged as. Brian O’Leary who writes cogently and well about issues in publishing calls this agile content widely deployed.

I like to think that The Irish Story Apps are just one example of that!

Stories Don't Really Come Better Than This | The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010

This story speaks for itself!

There is a common assumption that Irish artists of the late 19th century transcended the harsh realities of political and economic life either by emigrating and assimilating or by staying put but avoiding subjects that might mirror or create discontent. Mulvany’s The Battle of Aughrim�, however, places visual art at the centre of an emergent nationalism traditionally perceived as the preserve of poets and playwrights, journalists and politicians.

Mulvany chose a propitious moment for the action of the painting, the momentary victory by Jacobite forces over the Williamite army at Urraghry on July 12th, 1691, before their subsequent calamitous defeat on the Hill of Aughrim, in Co Galway. By showing the weakest link in the Jacobite position Mulvany illustrates the bravery of the Irish as they took on the superior forces of William. But when the Jacobite commander Lieut Gen St Ruth was decapitated by a cannonball, near victory became a rout. In a striking prefiguration, the painting depicts a Williamite soldier, in the centre of the picture, staggering backwards as his head is severed from his neck.

The myth of Aughrim is largely built on the randomness of the defeat – the decapitation of St Ruth – as one stray cannonball consigns Ireland to another 200 years of subjugation. As if to emphasise this, the decapitation of the British soldier in the painting signals, in its one-on-one combat, the valour of the Irish by comparison with the contingency of the British victory. From near triumph to resounding defeat, the story of Aughrim was subsequently reclaimed in Irish cultural memory as an enduring symbol of entitlement, a site for future resurgence.

via The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010.

Quick Link | Dublin Life in 1597: Gunpowder,Explosions and Strikes. « Irish History Podcast

Fantastic post today from Irish History Podcast on a little known explosion that ripped apart a large portion of Dublin city in the 16th Century:

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what caused the explosion itself. That week a shipment of gunpowder had arrived in the city and was being off loaded onto the quays. The gunpowder was for the English army waging the Nine years war (1594-1603) against the O Neills amongst others. Normally this powder would be transported the short distance from the quays up to the castle (see map below). However that week conflict arose between the porters in the city and castle officials and a large supply of gun powder built up on the quays. At lunchtime on Friday it exploded with devastating consequences demolishing twenty houses around the Woodquay area of the city.

via Dublin Life in 1597: Gunpowder,Explosions and Strikes. « Irish History Podcast.

Irish Independent does a round up of sales in 2009

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=sebastian+barry&iid=3751517″ src=”6/8/3/a/The_Costa_Book_c8df.jpg?adImageId=8277532&imageId=3751517″ width=”234″ height=”368″ /]
Sebastian Barry, king of the fiction world in 2009 with over 70,000 units sold of The Secret Scripture

The Irish Independent story is based almost entirely on the Nielsen figures and doesn’t mention that this can cause a bias because of what doesn’t get included (independent stores and some non-trade sales outlets). In any case, it’s a fascinating read and the nub of the issue which isn’t explored fully lies here:

Overall, however, the Irish retail book sector remains remarkably buoyant despite the recession, with the latest Nielsen data valuing the fiction market here at just over €37m for 2009 with sales of 3,882,427 to date for 46,929 titles. The non-fiction figures are running at 4,630,297 book sales worth just €65m for 199,377 titles.

This compares with the 2008 total market value of €111.3m.

Of course what seems like good news, hides rather bad news for Irish publishers of all shades. Still, no need to get TOO depressing on a Sunday!

Poor imitations

Eoin Purcell

Reading the headline of the Irish Independent this morning I spotted a story that promised:
Access [to] your favourite magazines through a new Irish website
And I though excellent, an Exact Editions for Ireland.

But unfortunately mymagonline.com is but a poor copy of exact Editions, offering at least in its samples, bad resolution, PDF only downloads, little in the way of search capacity or even a nice clean site.

It is incredibly disappointing.

A quick debate about ‘Irish’ publishing

Eoin Purcell

Comments get attention here you know
You might have spotted the comment on my About Eoin page (of course you might not have too so here it is). It really got me thinking and I wanted to respond to some of the queries raised as they were both intelligent and interesting.

Three points were raised so I’ll deal with them in order:

1.The Irish language section in all major bookstores is in retreat and in some cases has disappeared entirely.

Such is the fate of all niches unless (like say cookery) they have big budget TV shows and stars behind them. in some sense Irish ought to have that appeal factor. Lots of money is spent on TV shows after all. Perhaps it is only a matter of time!

2.Despite an upsurge in the interest in Irish at some level (though this is an area where I have grave reservations about how real or ‘deep’ this phenomenon is) [With you on the depth] and a significant increase in Irish language media (TG4, Beo.ie, Radio na Life etc), there remains a tiny number of books published in Irish. I mean < 200 per annum as far as I can see. There are a number of state agencies involved in promoting Irish language books/publishing (Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, Foras na Gaeilge/Áis, etc). Why is there no acknowledgement of a general failure to make progress for readers? Why is there no push to address the challenges faced by this particular niche market in the newly fragmented, more diverse and celeb-driven market place?

Pushed by who? Recently Mercier published a dual language book called Bibeanna which had great support from Bord na Leabhar Gaeigle and was the offshoot of a brilliant TV documentary series. We sold through a full 2000 copies in the first month and went on to a second print run which I believe we will sell through by early next year. We will probably reprint and keep selling a few hundred copies every year for a decade or so (if we are lucky).

Without Bord na Leabhar I doubt the investment could have been made. So from that perspective their is a critical push from the publishers perspective. How can you push the book into the public consciousness? Well that is the million dollar question and the one that we find so bloody hard to answer for books in English too!

Irish gets funding from a variety of sources and that is as much as any niche can hope. I think the key to success is to make the content great, publish to the highest standard (Bibeanna was a very high quality production) and make sure that you adhere to the same time lines and deadlines that mass market publishers do. Then you will see results, hopefully.

3.Finally, given the utter narrowness of Irish publishing (and where at least 50% of the tiny number published is childrens books (38%) or self-referential, teaching, or language status) how can we square this with the claim that the Irish language is central to our culture (not saying this is agreed – I don’t but it’s the first line of defence in any argument by the pro-Gaeilge lobby)? The range of debate in Irish in written published form – whether literary or factual – is so thin that it cannot constitute anything close to what might be called a ‘national discourse’ or separate ‘world view’. This in my view undermines the credibility of the entire language project. Why are organisations who are serious about the latter not crying out for a root and branch review of reform of Irish language publishing?

As to this I can only suggest that the reason is that Irish is not central to out culture in the way that we say it is. In fact it has not been central to our culture since the early 20th century. Maybe it is time we accept that and move on. With the lies and hidden agendas out of the way we would probably be able to fund the industry properly, demand better accountability and see more promising results from our funding too!

In favour of quality published book in Irish, English or any -ish for that matter,