24 Following


Currently reading

The Lonely Sea: Collected Short Stories
Alistair MacLean
Her Benny
Silas K. Hocking
Vedere din Parfumerie
Silvia Kerim
Mysticism and Logic (Western Philosophy)
Bertrand Russell
The Analects of Confucious
Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking
William James
Does Anything Eat Wasps?: And 101 Other Unsettling, Witty Answers to Questions You Never Thought You Wanted to Ask
New Scientists Books Staff, New Scientist
Mutual Aid
Pyotr Kropotkin
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
Olivia Fraser, William Dalrymple
The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Ireland, a Bicycle, and a Tin Whistle

Ireland, a Bicycle, and a Tin Whistle - David A. Wilson I knew I was asking for trouble by buying this at a Unionist book store in Northern Ireland. The author was born to Scots-Irish parents in Northern Ireland and became a professor of Celtic studies in Toronto. Toronto is historically an Orange (protestant) stronghold I've read.

He does take pains at the beginning to ridicule the anti-papist patrons of a pub in Northern Ireland. As mentioned in one of my updates, his ridicule seems rather badly timed.

The biggest problem is that Wilson is what the author of [b:Strange Creatures From Time & Space|98877|Strange Creatures From Time & Space|John A. Keel|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1244475826s/98877.jpg|95320] describes as a "Type B professor". He goes to Ireland with a bicycle and a tin whistle and makes critical, sweeping pronouncements about Irish music, Irish musicians, Irish politics, etc., without knowing how to fix a flat tire or how to pass an intermediate class in tin whistle, or how to read more than a short essay about Irish independence.

His brief hints that bad luck, laissez-faire economics and Irish Catholic landlords accounted for the famine in Irish history are not only misinformed but dishonest. A great number of landlords were Scots-Irish and English, with strange laws against fishing in the wilds of the Atlantic without an anchor for example. If he's any kind of professor, Wilson must know some of this.

But Wilson cannot grasp the concept of Irish independence. Instead of writing an academic book about that, he plants long, rather badly wilted flowers in his prose and then interrupts it with allegedly dumbstruck disgust when pubs sing songs of independence.

I can't say I've met a lot of people in Northern Ireland who get starry-mouthed about the landscape. As Eric Newby suggests "romantic Ireland is dead, if it ever existed". The writer of Strange Creatures concentrates on another Scots-Irish stronghold, West Virginia, where strange romantics get overly Celtic looking at the rocks. This author's own father also saw a two-headed cow staring at him, probably in the midst of some barren winter in Northern Ireland.

Still, I'd love to read a well-written paean to Ireland by a modern Irishman.

With the exception of the excellent pencil depictions spilling into its page layouts (a style and layout which really should be adopted in far more books), this book should be forgotten, like the Troubles. You need a winter in Northern Ireland to see that only a self-described Brit would insist on staying in the rain, when a a much sunnier empire and world was waiting.