Ireland is famous for its writers: amongst them the confusing but brilliant James Joyce, the hilarious and infamous Oscar Wilde, Nobel Prize winning W.B. Yeats, and the avant-garde Samuel Beckett. There just seems to be something about Ireland, and about the city of Dublin that sparks the imagination. I guess that’s why they’ve put together a Writers’ Museum there.
Making writers into rock stars by showing us their personal belongings, letters, books, photographs – pretty well anything they’ve touched, used or been inspired by. And as a literary tragic, that’s enough for me. I want to see pens, books, signatures. Even a telephone, a chair, a pipe. And I admit to getting a thrill out of seeing a signed first edition book, knowing that the person who wrote it has actually opened that copy and touched the pages. Especially when it’s Joyce or Yeats. Of course, no one can claim to be a fan of Irish writing unless they are willing to follow their heroes down to the pub.
In a long-standing tradition that continues into the present day, writers gather in pubs to complain about the solitary, thankless nature of their work. And to seek inspiration in a pint or two of Guinness. The pub Davy Byrne’s actually features in James Joyce’s Ulysses, though I’d take a bet that on any night of the year, only one person in the crowd might have actually read the whole, somewhat challenging book. That said, on Bloomsday, June 16, the number would rise a fair bit. But if it’s Yeats whose aura you want to imbibe, there’s allegedly only one pub in Dublin he went to and then not often: Toner’s; and they’re still telling the story of that one night.