As it approaches its 40th anniversary in March, Books Ireland and its owner Wordwell Ltd. must be heartily congratulated for sheer endurance and persistence. There seems no better time for the national magazine’s continued, generous support of the publishing industry in Ireland than right now and no more appropriate time to announce well-deserved grants to it from both the Arts Council of Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland than in this, the centenary year of the birth of the nation.
Also, a special two-day writing workshop at Ireland Writing Retreat on the famous Wild Atlantic Way amidst the inspiring sea and landscape of west Donegal is offered to one lucky winner among the new subscribers of the magazine.
As Tony Canavan, proudly points out in his page 3 editorial of this month’s edition, Books Ireland is going places, announcing the winners of its very own short story competition and a grand literary birthday bash at the Irish Embassy in London during April’s London Book Fair.
To help commemorate the ideals for which Irish people fought and died during Easter week 100 years ago, Books Ireland celebrates in its latest edition our native language by publishing the five winners and five commissioned authors of the IMRAM/Irish Writers Centre Flash Fiction competition, which as Mr. Canavan so right states, “celebrates new Irish writing and introduces it to a wider readership.”
But that’s not all – far from it. Sharp, succinct, well-written briefs in “Book Notes” give readers a quick glance into changes occurring in the Irish publishing scene and beyond, whether that be welcome tidings about Belfast’s historic Linen Hall Library, news on document collections related to the works of William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney or, cheekily, a breezy item pertaining to “Playboy” no longer featuring photographs of naked women.
With mainstream publishing struggling somewhat, there’s insights into self and indie publishing and an article with the intriguing title “Sex and violence in Donegal” by Tony Canavan about Glencolmcille-born writer, Patrick McGinley, whose novel “Bogmail,” first published in 1978, then republished by New Island three years ago, was also transformed into a BBC mini-series of three 55-minute episodes entitled “Murder in Eden.”
For Oscar Wilde lovers (what’s not to be wild about Wilde?), an insightful article penned by author Eleanor Fitzsimons investigates the women who made the writer the man he was.
Several two-page book reviews include an interesting one by librarian and lecturer Micheal O’ hAodha on Aidan Doyle’s “A History of the Irish Language: from the Norman Invasion to Independence” published by Oxford University Press, in which he considers the fate of our most precious cultural platform. O’hAodha claims Ireland’s relationship with its language is “duplicitous,” adding that there are endless examples of this, including, “The state’s appointment of public servants, and even government ministers, with specific responsibility for the Gaeltacht, who cannot speak Irish.”
It is also refreshing and heartening to see a special two-page segment written by Sue Leonard, journalist and writer, devoted to book reviews of first-time authors, as well as “First Flush,” a comprehensive 14-page coverage of recent publications.