Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.

That’s Dave Eggers, and he’s right. Tearing down someone else’s work is not helpful or progressive or creative. It’s certainly nothing to be proud of… which is maybe why I’ve been so remorseful about my mean Ruby Sparks post.

Today, I was supposed to recalibrate my goals. In doing so, I was reminded that the start of November is also the start of National Novel Writing Month, during which participants write 50,000 words in 30 days. I may not be able to vote in the national election (my absentee ballot still has not arrived), but I can join my fellow Americans for NaNoWriMo.

I wrote 1700 words today, and I hope I can keep this up for the rest of the month. Quality is not the issue – it’s all about getting words on the page. Still, maybe by the time December rolls around, I’ll have a lot more empathy for writers of fiction (and screenplays).

Tá Muid…

I have got to spend more time on Irish for Beginners. I am learning a lot and really enjoying the class, but my pronunciation sucks.

We’ve started conjugating verbs, though not in any formal sense; just learning to say things like Tá muid inár gcónaí faoin tuath (We live in the countryside).

When I got home after class and sat down to read a chapter of Who Needs Irish, the first page I turned featured a poem in which every line began Tá muid….

And since it was a poem about hybrid culture, many of the words were in English or even Spanglish (rock ‘n roll walkmanach, piña colada cheesecakeach).

With the repetition of Tá muid and the heavy use of English, I can officially state that I understood roughly half of that poem. Progress!


Print Museum

Today I went in to see the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt office in Dublin. I did some contract work for HMH in Austin over the past year, and I would definitely like to maintain a relationship with the company while I’m here in Ireland. I went in to ask a few questions and to make sure they know I’m available for any internships or volunteering projects they have going on over the next year.

Then I went to the National Print Museum.

The National Print Museum is located in Beggar’s Bush, which turned out to be a very nice area of Dublin, just past the canal and within sight of Aviva Stadium. The old barracks set-up means the traffic noise is deafened by the buildings that surround the museum. It’s a quiet little spot with its own cafe and a tiny gift shop.

Dermot McGuinne, who spoke to our Book History class last week, is a [the] renowned Irish type design expert. In passing, he mentioned the exhibit he was curating, From Colum Cille to Colmcille: The development of the Monotype irish printing type series 121, which opened at the Print Museum last night. Since I’m interested in the relationship between the Irish language and the printing press, and I was planning to be in Dublin anyway, I made it a priority to see the exhibit.

I took some time to look at the equipment on the ground floor before going upstairs to the exhibit. A woman I sat next to on the bus yesterday told me there was a printing press that had been featured in a TV show, though she couldn’t remember the name. It turned out to be a press built specifically for the set of The Tudors.

There was also a video demonstration of how all the different machines worked. I thought it was kind of funny that I was watching a video of old men operating the machines in the museum while in real time the cleaning staff – all young and female – were wiping the dust off the displays.

I went upstairs, but before I reached the exhibit, I was sidetracked by the children’s section with its own little library. The first book I picked off the shelf was called Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce Koscielniak… and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

With my morning nicely bookended by HMH, I made my way over to the exhibit, which was fascinating. A few minutes later, an older gentleman came up the stairs, sat down at the kids’ table with Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce Koscielniak, and started taking notes as he read.




When I arrived in Galway exactly six weeks ago, I had three places I needed to go before I went anywhere else: my hotel for a shower, campus for a day of orientations, and Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

With a little help from Vinny, I walked out of the shop with a copy of I was a Boy in Belsen, the non-fiction account of one of Ireland’s two living Holocaust survivors. Tomi Reichental lived in Slovakia until the age of 9, when he and his family were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. He survived, and has lived in Dublin for the past 50 years. His story was published by O’Brien Press.

I was a Boy in Belsen was the first book I bought in Galway, and it has been sitting on my shelf for the past six weeks. I kept meaning to read it, but there’s so much to read for my course, that I kept putting it off.

Then I heard that Tomi Reichental would be speaking on campus tonight. Since I didn’t have class today, I spent the whole day on the couch, reading his story. It’s heartbreaking stuff, even though Mr. Reichental and his family were some of the lucky ones – relatively lucky, that is.

He spoke for about an hour and a half tonight, before members of the university’s law society and other curious students. He revisited the story told in his book, but delved into some more thorough examinations of the political situation at the time. He presented a few articles and photos he had come across in his research, which may not have fit into the narrative structure of the book.

I felt a little sheepish asking him to sign my Charlie Byrne’s copy of his book, since he had several copies for sale tonight. He was extremely nice, though; he personalized the inscription and made sure I got one of his customized bookmarks.

I’m glad he came to campus tonight. I’m glad I already had his book on my shelf, and I’m glad his presence on campus motivated me to finally read it.

While I was waiting for his lecture to begin tonight, I logged into my campus email account, which I only do about once a week. I had an email from the library, telling me a book I have checked out has been recalled. I’ve had it for two weeks, and was supposed to have it for another two, but now I have until Monday to bring it back.

I guess if someone requests a book, the library can light a fire under the person who already has it checked out. I suspect the person recalling the book is somehow connected to the class for which I’m reading the book in the first place. Normally, I would be annoyed by this type of academic queue-jumping, but to tell the truth, I’ve been struggling to give the book the attention it deserves, so this deadline may be the motivation I need to finally get around to reading it.

Latin-Loan Words


One of the first things I was warned of when I decided to take an Irish language course is that Irish is not a Latin-based language, and therefore, sounds nothing like anything I have ever heard before.

However, as with most languages, new technology brings new vocabulary. Words like “taxi” are easily recognizable across languages, and the internet has brought along a whole new global terminology that often breaches language barriers.

Last week in Irish for Beginners, my instructor said something that caught my attention. He said “the technology of writing came from the Latin,” meaning that even though Irish isn’t a Latin-based language, the invention of the printing press introduced a new technology that required a whole new set of terms.

For a variety of reasons I’ve yet to ennummerate, the Irish words for “book” and other words belonging to print culture are all Latin-based. In an attempt to tease out this connection for a possible essay topic in my Book History course, I emailed my Irish professor and asked him to clarify.

Turns out I was on the right track. He sent me confirmation of my interpretation of his statement, provided the title of a book and the location of an academic article on the topic, mentioned two additional professors on campus who might be able to help me, and printed out some more material for me to pick up.

It’s intimidating, because I don’t know Irish. I barely know how to say “hello” and “thank you.” I’m not sure if I’ll be able to handle this topic, or even where I want to go with it. I’m attempting to read The Printing Press as an Agent of Change right now, and there is a discussion of oral culture vs manuscript culture vs print culture that might be relevant, but I just don’t know yet.

Irish is a very precise and descriptive language. The term for another new piece of technology, the mobile phone, is “Fón póca,” which translates as “pocket phone.” I thought I might look at the Irish terms within print culture to see how they interpreted this new technology. If the creation of the codex was the last major revolution in the history of books, then how did they describe these new objects in Gaeilge?

But what else? Is it possible the Irish language influenced print culture in any way? I’ll need to read more before I know if there’s enough Book History here to warrant a paper. It’s a little scary.

I’ve been watching a lot of TG4 lately, which is the Irish language channel on my TV. The show that just finished was called Déanta in Éirinn, in which this dude drives around the country in a DeLorean and attempts to use only products made in Ireland. It was kind of sad – he found out that even the sticks they use in hurling are manufactured elsewhere.

I happened to see the episode where he goes into Eason’s looking for a book or magazine printed in Ireland. I thought this was already problematic, because even though Eason’s is an Irish bookseller, the company began life as an Irish stake in a British bookstore chain.

Of course, none of the mainstream magazines or superstar authors he asked about were available on pure Irish wood pulp, so he had to settle for a Pat McCabe title from an independent publisher, Raven Arts Press – which is the type of title this book snob thinks he should have been looking for in the first place.

But because this was the Irish language channel, all the interviewees had their titles spelled out on screen in Irish, so I learned two new book-related words in Gaeilge:

foilsitheoir = publisher


scríbhneoir = writer

“There’s no little spoons for liars in this house.”

I first saw The Beauty Queen of Leenane when I was 17 and went with my grandmother to visit her sister in Los Angeles over spring break. I was a senior in high school, and I knew everything about everything. My great-aunt and her husband had season tickets to the theatre, and they gave us a choice of a traditional play or an avant garde production. We chose the avant garde, which happened to be The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Unbeknownst to me, The Beauty Queen of Leenane had opened four years earlier at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway. The play’s world premiere was also the first play in the new theatre, back in February of 1996 – a joint production of Galway’s Druid Theatre Company and England’s Royal Court Theatre. By the time I saw it at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, it had played on Broadway, in Australia, and all over Ireland.

I remember being very preoccupied with the sensation of taste and how the actor’s mouths formed words. I was hung up on the question of Kimberleys (“Me world doesn’t revolve around your taste in biscuits”) and the way both mother and daughter spat out the word spoon. I can’t comment on the quality of their accents, because I was 17 and had nothing against which to compare them, but they seemed fine at the time.

On a recent reread of the play, I was more concerned with the sensation of smell. The suspicious odor of the kitchen sink, the scent of something burning in the air. I even wonder if they shouldn’t have had a turf fire, instead of using coal to fire the range.

It’s also different this time because the place names resonate with me. The Dooleys throw a going away party for their American cousins at a hall in Carraroe, which is the town where I finally stopped for coffee and directions when I went for a drive along the coast road. Maureen wants to go shopping in Westport, which is the town I passed through two weekends ago on my way to the Grace Kelly Film Festival. And, of course, the family I crashed into with my rental car on my second day here was from Leenane.

In my Irish language course earlier this week, our instructor went on a brief tangent about the “Do Be Do Be Do” tense in Irish: you’ll hear older people, perhaps those who grew up speaking Irish but can switch to English as necessary, saying things like, “I do be going to the shops,” or “I do be watching the hurling.” Mag, the elderly mother in Beauty Queen, says early in the play, “I do be scared, Maureen.”

I went to a casual discussion about this play on campus with a bunch of PhD students, and I learned that Martin McDonagh is often perceived as “not Irish enough,” because he grew up mostly in South London. I also learned that the play’s violence was heavily influenced by 1994’s Pulp Fiction. And I learned that this play references the other two plays in The Leenane Triology: A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West.

My favorite critique of the play, however, comes from my grandmother, who attended the same LA production as me, all those years ago:

“If the ‘feckins’ had been left out, it would have lasted half the time.”


Irish for “Ruler of the World”

I really did spend a lovely day reading How to Get a Job in Publishing, although I took a break to go catch a 1:35 matinee at the Eye Cinema on Lough Atalia, about a half hour’s walk from the city centre.

This is my second trip out to the Eye since I’ve been here. Funnily enough, the Eye is a literal stone’s throw away from the old B&B I lived in for four months in 2004. The cinema and adjacent G Hotel were constructed mere moments after I moved back to the States.

Last Tuesday was my first visit, when I went to see Anna Karenina, also during the middle of the day. For some reason, I imagined the Eye to be cavernous theaters with the shaking seats and screens approaching Imax capabilities, but it was more of a cozy cluster of smaller theaters, like the Alamo Drafthouse without the foodie-and-boozy atmosphere.

I actually liked Anna Karenina more than I thought I would, but I left the Eye feeling very old. When Jude Law and Olivia Williams are successfully cast as members of the stodgy older generation, Keira Knightly feels threatened by some silly young thing, and the kid from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is playing one of literature’s great lovers – well, it might be time for me to reevaluate my life.

I hadn’t known that Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson was in the film. He was so raw and not immediately likable – in short, the perfect Levin.

Then today, I go to Theatre 3, the “art house” screen (the same size as the others, but it has a bar outside instead of a concession stand) to watch Shadow Dancer. I knew nothing about this film going in, save that it starred my boyfriend Clive Owen and had something to do with the IRA. It turned out to be centered on the lives of a ridiculously good-looking family of Belfast Catholics in 1993. Imagine my surprise when Dohmnall Gleeson showed up on screen as the “shiny haired brother.” (Another casting shock was Gillian Anderson – I always forget she is half-British.)

This time watching Domhnall Gleeson’s performance, there was less “oh, he’s just so terribly earnest” and more “I’m sort of taking a liking to this fella.” By the time he uttered the line “Just f*ckin’ do it already. Just f*ckin’ do it already,” I was a Domhnall Gleeson fan.

I think I’m late to this party, because Domhnall Gleeson is everywhere these days. I remember my first week or so in Galway, I kept seeing his photo, along with Michael Fassbinder’s (also Irish), accompanying a newspaper article about a movie they are making together called Frank. This is definitely important to Irish film and I should have paid better attention to the context, but at the time, all I remember thinking is:

He looks like a Weasley.

And in fact, he did play a Weasley: Bill, the eldest… he who marries Fleur.

Domhnall Gleeson’s real-life family is just as famous and interesting. His father is Brendan Gleeson, who American audiences know most recently from The Guard, as well as Braveheart and Far and Away. He also played Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films.

On my third day here in Galway, I went to a screening of Irish short films on campus, and I am so very glad I did because the films were absolutely fantastic. One of them was Noreen (2010), which stars Brendan and another son, Brian, as dopey garda in County Offaly. Noreen was written and directed by Domhnall.

So half the actors in Ireland have the last name Gleeson. I guess they’re the Irish Baldwins?

Right next to my current apartment there is a construction site with all sorts of cinematic images painted on the sidewalk scaffolding. I read in the paper last week that it’s supposed to be an art house cinema, set to open in late 2013. It’s possible, just barely possible, that I will be living here long enough to see it. Then I won’t have to walk all the way out to the Eye to see me art house films.

I went over there tonight to snap a few quick pictures of the Brendan Gleeson star, and a neighborhood gentleman out walking his dog pointed to the art and said in his wonderful Irish accent:

“That was done by Margaret Williams.”

“It was done by hooligans?” I asked, repeating what I thought I had heard.

“Margaret Williams,” he stated firmly, and retreated down the street a ways.

I took a few more pictures, and as he unlocked his front door, he decided to give me another chance.

“It’s going to be a cinema.”

“The art house, right. I heard. And who did the art?”

“Margaret Williams. You see her around. She does work with the street kids who do graffiti.”

So in a way, I heard correctly: it really was done by hooligans.