Culture Club: An Insider's Guide to the Local Arts Scene: All Your Christmas Book Buying Problems Sorted

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), December 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

Culture Club: An Insider's Guide to the Local Arts Scene: All Your Christmas Book Buying Problems Sorted


Byline: Ian Hill

Putting down, for a moment Patricia Craig's fascinating biography of the enigmatic Brian Moore (Bloomsbury) and John Baucher's photographic essay Living Quarter (Cathedral Quarter Press), it's hard to neglect politics when selecting books of the year.

How could you not list Ed Moloney's Secret History of the IRA (Allen Lane) for the questions it raises about Gerry Adams? Or Brian Feeney's Sinn Fein (O'Brien) and All The Dead Voices (Mercier) by Danny Morrison, once Sinn Fein's spin-doctor.

More revealing is Jeff Dudgeon's The Black Diaries of Roger Casement (Belfast Press), a skylight into early 20th century gay middle-class Ulster. Henry Sinnerton's David Irvine Unchartered Waters (Brandon) is also a glimpse of a dark corner. Will Hutton's The World We're In (Little Brown) is a pertinent glance at the US Far Right. Andy Beckett's Pinochet in Picadilly (Faber) is a chill view of the Thatcher-Pinochet dalliance.

By contrast I'd turn to first C E B Brett's magnificent Buildings of North Down (UAHDS), then Tom Fort's Book of Eels - Fish, Man and His Relationship (HarperCollins) with revelations about Lough Neagh and to the update of The Complete Guide to Ireland's Birds (Gill & Macmillan), Eric Dempsey & Michael O'Clery, indispensable in glove compartments. Flora Hibernic (Collins) you'd read at home.

The poetry essentials are: 20th Century Irish Poems (Faber) ed. Michael Longley; Derek Mahon's Birds (Gallery Press); Paul Muldoon's Moy Sand & Gravel (Faber) with Gearid MacLochlainn's Stream of Tongues/Sruth Teangacha (Cl Iar-Chonacha) edging just behind Angela Reid's & Adrian Rice's A Conversation Piece: Poetry and Art (Abbey).

Not forgotten are Robert Greacen's Collected Poems (Lagan) and a bunch of slim volumes from the Newman gang's Summer Palace. Just in time to make the cut is Ciaran Carson's 'translation' of The Inferno of Dante Aligheera (Granta), wow! John Brown's In The Chair (Salmon) is another 'must'.

For foodies, I'd say copies of the Bridgestone Foodlovers Guide to Northern Ireland by John McKenna & Carolyn Workman should also be in every car, while fish cook Rick Stein, author of Food Heroes (BBC) can do no wrong. Full marks for the Royal Horticultural Society's Encyclopaedia of Gardening (Dorling Kindersley). Sports books come low on this list but who could resist The Hurricane: The Turbulent Life and Times of Alex Higgins (Atlantic) in the light of the Rachel O'Riordan/Richard Dormer bio-drama, which reminds us of Soldiers of The Queen, Damian Smyth's Boer War/Troubles play (Lagan).

Science writing is the biggest growth sector in publishing and out of the stacks which the postman stuck behind the flowerpot were Mary Mulhill's Ingenious Ireland (Townhouse) a cornucopia of curiosities and James Hamilton's Faraday (HarperCollins).

Baird's Basil Blackshaw Calendar 2003, featuring text by Dr Eileen Black, may be the only art publication you can't get for love nor money. Serious buffs will be looking for the update of Ireland's Painters 1600-1940 by Anne Cruikshank & the Knight of Glyn (Yale) or at least a subscription to the Irish Arts Review quarterly. …

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