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The Craic: Craic (PB): A Journey Through Ireland Paperback – 4 Nov 1999
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A funny and original look at Ireland that goes above and beyond the usual tourist book.
As a culture, the English are familiar with images of Ireland and Irishness. From the romantic to the gritty, from Dublin as a cheap and cheerful weekend getaway to the Irish theme pubs on almost every English high street, no-one can escape the fact that Irish culture is perhaps more popular than ever. Mark McCrum explores the heart of contemporary Ireland, gaining an impression of its culture and politics through meeting its people. Starting in Dublin and roaming south and around the coast before turning northwards and completing his trek at the ruin of the old McCrum family seat, on the way attending the Puck Fair, going to a beach where bones from victims of the Potato Famine lie unburied, meeting the Travelling Folk; all the while experiencing the mix of good conversation, good company, a little Guinness and a lot of fun -- colloquially known as the Craic -- as he comes to an understanding of the country and its inhabitants.See all Product description
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This book idolizes the bigots and terrorists among Irish Catholics and vilifies the Protestants who are standing in the way of them getting what they want - a united Ireland of Eire and Northern Ireland (united in what way exactly? Certainly not in peace and harmony if this book is anything to go by). A Protestant would have to be mad to want to join a country in which he is loathed so wholeheartedly as this.
I'm amazed that a reputable publisher should have agreed to publish what seems to me to be an incitement to hatred of Irish Protestants. Surely it must contravene the race relations act or some such. And why is Amazon selling such a defamatory book?
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Refreshingly, he spends a bit of time in areas rarely portrayed in detail either in guidebooks or travel accounts. Anglo-Norman memories in the south-east, for example, or Puck, Lisdoonvara, and Ballinasloe fairs. Even when he visits familiar settings, such as the Aran islands, Derry's Bogside, or Belfast's Peace Wall, he notices what most visitors do not, or if they do, rarely record! His skepticism and enthusiasm often mix with intriguing results. Through mysterious set-ups he often stays with well-off Irelanders, and his encounters at a Kerry artist's colony epitomize this type of isolated hothouse setting as opposed to a more gritty scenario such as his meetings with the Travelling community in Tuam, or his frank talks with Loyalists from Shankill Road.
My only letdown was that his itinerary does not penetrate the midlands, only easing into Ballinasloe in East Co Galway as the furthest point away from the coast. A look at Longford or Offaly would've been worth it, for certainly these too are less frequented spots in which McCrum might or might not have found tales to tell or people to interview. Sticking to the circle route, he never explains really why he never went into the interior of Ireland as well. And I'm still mystified about what Bord Failte did to compensate his stay--I sometimes felt that he was set up at places free, and at others he had to fend for himself. I got the impression he may have inadvertently wound up endorsing certain hoteliers or hosts with whom he lodged.
He avoids easy putdowns of (some of!) his fellow tourists, and keeps his language free of self-indulgent pity or easy sentiment. In the rare instances he describes natural beauty, he conveys its sensations well. And the range of accomodations never fails to keep the reader alert and bemused. A book worth seeking out, an appropriate companion to two concurrently written travelogues also recommended: Pete McCarthy's more humorous McCarthy's Bar and Lawrence Donegan's more localized No News At Throat Lake.