Some End of Year Top Fives

Favorite Five Films
1. The Artist
2. What Richard Did
3. Bernie
4. Looper
5. Shadow Dancer

Five Best Film Events
1. Grace Kelly Film Festival
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the Paramount
3. Gremlins at London IMAX
4. The Dead on Culture Night
5. French Film Festival at IFI

Top Five Films I Missed
1. The Revisionaries
2. The Eye Has to Travel
3. Rust and Bone
4. Dollhouse
5. Cloud Atlas

Five Favorite Plays
1. Tromluí Pinocchio at An Taibhdhearc
2. Jason and the Argonauts at Baboró
3. Who Needs Enemies? at Town Hall Theatre
4. Sanctuary at Blue Teapot
5. The Poor Mouth at Project Arts Centre

Five Best Nonfiction Pieces
1. “The Innocent Man” by Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly
2. “Punk’d” by Harriet Charity Verney, Vogue
3. “A Swing and a Miss” by B.R. Myers, The Atlantic
4. “NW London Blues” by Zadie Smith, The New York Review
5. “Irish Studios Have a Moment in Clover” by John Anderson, The New York Times

Five Best Short Stories
1. “An Abduction” by Tessa Hadley, The New Yorker
2. “Supper Club” by Kevin Barry, Silver Threads of Hope
3. “Thank You for the Light” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The New Yorker
4. “I’ve Hardly Slept at All” by Trevor Byrne, Silver Threads of Hope
5. “Enclosure” by Jim Crace, Granta

Five Best Books
1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
2. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
4. The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant
5. Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

Five Books I Should Have Read
1. The China Factory by Mary Costello
2. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
3. Coming to My Senses by Alyssa Harad
4. NW by Zadie Smith
5. This is How it Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

Five Top Book Stories
1. Rue and Trayvon: Reading Comprehension
2. Jonah Lehrer’s Self-Plagiarism
3. Dalkey Archive’s Job Listing
4. Nonprofits and the Fictional World
5. Mr. Morris Lessmore’s Oscar

Five Favorite Book Events
1. Dublin Book Festival
2. Doing Writing with Kevin Barry
3. Scott Jurek’s Book-Signing 5K
4. Bookpeople’s Cheryl Strayed Giveaway
5. MALP’s Publishers on Publishing Series

Travelling and Writing and Traveling


Back in Galway again, after two weeks of traveling the British Isles. Feels good to be… home?

A decade ago, when I was on my London semester abroad, I took a course called Traveling and Writing. It was more or less a writing workshop where we shared personal essays about our experiences in a new culture.

I didn’t have a laptop at the time, so I would always type my papers in the computer lab of the study abroad office. We were in central London, so all the computers were set to British English, not American English. Spellcheck behaved a bit differently:

American English = Traveling

British English = Travelling

For an entire semester, I turned in essays for my Traveling and Writing class with a heading that included my name, the date, and the name of the course: Travelling and Writing. I actually became convinced that was how traveling was spelled, which took a while to unlearn once I got back home.

I have been thinking about that combination a lot over the past two weeks: Traveling and Writing or even Travelling and Writing. We’re in the middle of finals at school right now, but because all my finals are 5,000-word essays, and the appeal of a writing career is that one can do it anywhere, I decided to take this show on the road and write one of my essays whilst travelling (“whilst travelling” – doubly British).

It worked. I missed out on some stuff, but we planned the trip accordingly and with my writing habits in mind (performs best under a deadline). I really wouldn’t mind a life of Traveling and Writing.

Indulge Me

The plan is to get my long-dormant Flickr account up and running again so I have somewhere to put all the photos I’ve been taking during my postgrad year abroad (and I have been taking them – I promise).

For now, though, I just want to share a few photos of the Antrim coast. I have long held the belief that the Glenns of Antrim are home to the most beautiful scenery on the planet. Some people like rocks and desert; some people love the sun and sandy beaches. Me, I like trees and the ocean, so the pretty coast of Northern Ireland is my idea of heaven. I first visited eight years ago, and immediately fell for the Glenns of Antrim, nine valleys that run along the northeastern coast of the island. I was almost scared to come back, because I’ve built it up so much in my mind, but nope – still beautiful.

These photos will not do justice to the scenery because 1) I have little-to-no photography skills and 2) the bus never actually stopped in the Glenns, which are the best part of the coastline, in my humble opinion. But here are a few shots of the more touristy destinations, just as a taster.











Look at that orb! So cool, and such an accident!

“At least I have a chocolate waffle in my pocket.”


So our stay in Belfast was a comedy of errors, which included two nights in the world’s worst hostel, an overpriced meal at the world’s worst Tex-Mex restaurant (to be fair, we should have known better), and essentially walking straight past a Loyalist protest that made the front page the next day in favor of the Christmas market where I bought the waffle mentioned in the title of this blog post (and pictured in that terrible blurry photo). The waffle-in-pocket quote, an empty snug at the famous Crown Saloon, and a fantastic meal at The Potted Hen were the high points in Belfast, a beautiful city that we did not get to appreciate fully.


Glasgow didn’t start off much better, as our hotel reservation, booked through a third-party service online, was not handled properly. In between dealing with that and doing laundry at the lovely Cotton Fresh laundromat on Paisley Road West, we didn’t get to see much of Glasgow proper. We were also a little disappointed with our hotel, which was not the three-star we had been promised, and cost a lot more than we had planned because of the reservation snafu.

Then, when we set out for a walk to try and find free wi-fi, we discovered the coolest place, directly across the street from our hotel. The Glasgow Climbing Centre is AN OLD CHURCH THAT HAS BEEN REFURBISHED WITH CLIMBING WALLS and has a lovely little cafe (with free wi-fi) located “at the top of the spiral staircase.” Suffice to say, I love this place. I’ve only been rock climbing once, and it was a terrible experience at a gym in Texas, but I am so glad the Glasgow Climbing Centre let us sit in their cafe (The Balcony) on a rainy Thursday afternoon and chill out for a spell. Completely redeemed Glasgow for me… possibly rock climbing as well.

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The Final Frontier

My boyfriend and I were once sitting in front of the TV at home, and he was talking on the phone to one of his friends, who was also sitting in front of the TV at home with his girlfriend.

My boyfriend overheard his friend say to his girlfriend: “So, babe, are we gonna watch some Star Trek or what?”

To this day, we still refer to that as the smoothest line in all of romantic history.

20121203-135829.jpgWe had something of a Star Trek theme running through our weekend in Dublin.

On Day One, Saturday night, we arrived in Dublin on the last train. We checked into our hotel in Merrion Square, and I switched on the TV to see JJ Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek playing. My boyfriend and I saw this movie in the cinema with his mother, who had grown up watching Star Trek every day after school. She knew the name of each character as soon as they arrived on screen.

20121203-135841.jpgYesterday, after our Perfect Irish Sunday, we caught a 3D screening of Rise of the Guardians at the Savoy on O’Connell Street. We both thoroughly enjoyed it, but we had to sit through the credits to figure out who all the voices were (Alec Baldwin as Santa Claus? That was a surprise.) When we saw Chris Pine as Jack Frost, I’ll admit we didn’t know who that was, until I imdb’ed him when we got back to the hotel. We first saw him as “one of the skinheads” in Smokin’ Aces from 2006, but of course, he’s most known for his role as James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise in the 2009 film Star Trek.

Finally, today, Monday, we’re catching the train out of Connolly Station to Belfast. We found out that passengers en route to Belfast have their own special waiting room, and the train is a different model than the one that goes to Galway. It’s name? The Enterprise.


Mall + Library

20121203-110854.jpg20121203-110841.jpgWe tried to get up early and go to the National Leprechaun Museum this morning, but the the tour schedule didn’t mesh with our travel plans, so we just bought some leprechaun gold from the machine out front.

Since we had some free time, I wanted to check out something I’d seen in passing on a previous visit to Dublin.


Basically, there’s a public library inside a shopping mall. I think this is genius, and really fascinating. As a former mall rat, I really could have used an arrangement like this.

20121203-110122.jpgWe were both surprised to find every possible seat full – with jobseekers, I’m guessing – so I found a shelf to browse while my boyfriend started reading a book about war.20121203-110138.jpgI kept returning to this German edition of Skippy Dies.


It was a box set of three paperback volumes, which is not how I read Skippy Dies, but is actually very loyal to the story and the structure of the book.


I suppressed the urge to pocket this handy little bookmark, which introduces all of the major characters (in German!), and left it in the case for the next reader – which should count as my good deed for the day, because it was really difficult for me.

Perfect Irish Sunday

This is my fourth trip to Dublin in two months, and I’ve decided to embrace my inner tourist and walk all over town with a camera hanging around my neck.

My boyfriend and I had what we were calling “the perfect Irish Sunday” today:

We went to the Guinness Storehouse…


My favorite display was the artists’ interpretation of a pint of the black stuff…


I learned a few things about how and where Guinness hits the tongue…


Then we went to Ireland’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head, for lunch…


My boyfriend photo bombed this shot of the wall decor…


We both had stew: I had traditional Irish, he had Beef and Guinness (in a bread bowl)…


We finished the day with a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery…


We learned about the process that goes into making Jameson whiskey…


We sampled the goods, bought some swag, and were on our merry way…


The Chi at Charlie Byrne’s

For as long as I can remember (at least eight years), Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop has wrapped around another small shop in the Cornstore. You could enter the bookshop from the street, browse the displays in the main room, skirt along the edge of the shelves into fiction, step down into the history/art history/travel room, backtrack through fiction to classics and literary criticism, take a quick glance around health/psychology, move into Irish Interest, and giggle at the children’s books on your way out the back door.

The bookstore recently expanded into the space formerly occupied by the smaller shop. There is now an entire room of Irish interest, with its own entrance, located between the history/art history/travel room and the kids’ section. Book-browsing in Galway has a much more circular flow these days.

Oh, and they’re having a sale all weekend to celebrate.