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Books

A Luddite in love with E-books?

I was procrastinating one afternoon. . . In plain English: I was wasting time online and received an email announcing the month’s meagre takings from Amazon. After a year of supporting locally-owned shops, I bit the bullet and listed Your Day Your Tao with the Big A....

Some things take a bit longer than we’d like

There’s been enough said and written about our instant-gratification lifestyles and how they drive our economy. And, like many people, there are times I prefer things to be done yesterday, if not sooner. Even in those ancient days of B.C. [before computer], I was...

To everyone who told me to write a book – I’ve done it.

But it’s not about independent bookstores, interesting people or any of the other topics I’ve talked about in this space over the years. It’s a self-help book that encourages us all to practice non-action. [At this point you’ll be forgiven for thinking that we teach...

Not proofreading your work? It’s like farting in church.

It makes it awfully hard for people to pay attention to what you want to say. A while back I wrote a piece on sloppy usage and poor proofreading. Since I wrote about writers using style instead of substance the other day, I’ll continue my rant here, with How to insult...

Tell me a good story. And please, please, tell it well.

Good storytellers may not be good writers. Good writers may not be good storytellers. They’re brilliantly boring stylists. But when I find a book that tells me a good story, telling it well without calling attention to its style, I’m in heaven. And yes, I’ve found a...

Did I become the punchline of bookseller’s joke?

You may have seen the cartoon where a customer comes into a bookstore asking for a book, “I don’t know the title but it has a blue cover.” I wasn’t quite that bad, but I had a definite idea of what I wanted. I described everything about this book – its plot, its...

Happy Bloomsday!

Leopold Bloom speculated that it would be a “good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.”  What if today you crossed your town and didn’t pass, but stepped into, your local bookstore. [And if they're closed when you walk by, order a book from them...

Dublin in a day – by the book?

Dublin’s different now from the days when it was my second home. And not just because of the Covid lockdown fallout. It’s younger – or am I older? Til the 2008 crash it was a great place for 20-something bankers. Now it’s a great place for 20-something techies. I’ve...

Modern Times in Dalkey, sans Damon, Enya & Bono

It seems like I was in a galaxy of both a long ago past and a far-away future. I was sitting in a railway station – Dublin’s Connolly – doing what I’ve had a lifetime of practice doing: people watching. And there were a lot of people to watch as the morning’s commuter...

I wasn’t wearing a mask. Neither was she. Were we beyond the Pale?

I was brain dead. My mind was mush after 50+ weeks on the road and even more stores with countless shelves full of books whose titles kept me constantly tilting my head from side to side. Barbara saw my glassy-eyed stare as I wandered through her door. She read what...

Changing Times

After all these years, there’s still a first time

Do you remember your first time? The first time you did something that made you think you might be an adult? That you might be a grown up, contributing member of society? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ve just had a landmark event, one that I’d never...

Things you find when you’re looking for something else

Do you know IKEA’s origin story? I didn’t. Or did you ever hear about the David and Goliath tale of a small company defeating marketing monolith Procter & Gamble? I was vaguely aware of it, but didn’t know the details.  Then the light bulb went off when I...

Not proofreading your work? It’s like farting in church.

It makes it awfully hard for people to pay attention to what you want to say. A while back I wrote a piece on sloppy usage and poor proofreading. Since I wrote about writers using style instead of substance the other day, I’ll continue my rant here, with How to insult...

Remember crowded rooms?

In bookstores? In my case, the call came from the far side of Woodbine Books in Kilcullen. A few weeks ago, just before we all went into hermit mode, I walked through Woodbine’s door to an instant call across the room. OK, it wasn’t from a person, just a display. But...

Is this the next generation of pubs?

Thurles: There’s a long table that starts next to the guitars, runs past non-fiction and ends near the children’s books on the back wall. A counter full of colourful knitting yarn separates it from the rest of the store. Two women and a man chat over their coffee, tea...

No, it was NOT a dark and stormy night.

It was a miserable, blustery, sideways-raining several days. Minutes of glorious sunshine punctuated rolling black storm clouds emptying themselves on all of us stuck below. Or, to put things another way, it was just a normal winter’s day in the west of Ireland....

Is there a future for old-fashioned love?

It’s hard to miss Mullingar’s Just Books when you’re walking down the street. It’s even harder to leave once you’ve gone through their door. If the bulletin board full of neighbourhood notices doesn’t keep you occupied, there are always the books. And if you’re not...

Darwin never said it …

Charles Darwin never said survival of the strongest, he spoke of survival of the fittest, meaning those best able to deal with change and adapt to their environments survive. Have you seen many dinosaurs walking down your street today? When was the last time you used...

Rental car blues – and bookstores, too.

Headlights? OK. Wipers? Check. Reverse? Found it. So I rolled out of the lot to explore Mayo’s book shops, restaurants and scenery. Then I remembered what I forgot: How the hell do I tune the radio? Hell, how do I turn the damned thing off? When you’re on a narrow...

Fear

Angry Voters – grown older, not up.

Remember the kids in the back of your teenage classroom? Not bad, just not engaged. Before Zen and yoga became trendy they were pioneers in living in the here and now. History? Homework? How will they help me get a car today – and some sex tonight? What’s a square...

Cocoons have burst. And it aint butterflies taking flight.

From here, they look a lot more like wasps and hornets. Years ago, marketers used the term “cocooning” to describe how technology and increased societal pressure would push people into safe cocoons of home & hearth, where they could surround themselves with...

Which tribe gives you power?

We’re all tribal, usually multi-tribal. Each of our tribes satisfies a need – for security, for personal warmth, for a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves. For some of us, our primary tribe is our first one, our family. For others, it’s a job,...

Too tired to care? Here’s one reason why.

As many of you know, I’ve spent the better part of the past few years away from the US. The experience has given me perspective – and a desire to keep staying away. One example: media style and pacing. After you’ve seen how the rest of the world communicates, the...

America’s Big D – for education

No, big D isn’t that place in Texas. It’s that Dogma state of mind. When someone firmly believes their direction comes from a higher source, no amount of logic or reasoning can ever sway their direction. “In their hearts, they know they’re right.” America’s dogma is...

The Road to Hell Is Paved. Period.

Don’t take the high road. Or the low road, either. They were built by others, for their own reasons. What if…we found own way. We don’t have to agree with everyone we meet along the way, but it would be nice if we could accept someone else’s right to an opinion. We...

What kind of life refuses to live? Is virtual life life?

Way back in the pre-automobile agricultural era, it was rare for people to travel very far from home. While I can’t speak to their interests, I can understand the limiting effects of available transport and employment patterns. Today we have the mobility, but it...

Are fear-mongers the only thing we have to fear?

Adrenaline feels good. At a minimum, it’s the result of a [hopefully good] cup of coffee. Or bungee-jumping, skydiving or crossing a too-busy street. Or simply sharing good times with friends, family or fans, be it at a holiday or special event. Or, it could be a...

Fear stays home, watches TV. And becomes more scared.

Millions of Americans travel the world without ever leaving home. They fly to self-contained resorts, stay in chain hotels and eat at American chain restaurants. Others enjoy the pampering of cruise ships and the cookie-cutter shopping mall ports of call selling...

Healthcare

If you believe the headlines…

There’s a healthcare crisis in Ireland. The good news is that the bad news – about hospitals, housing, the economy and more – is all over the media. The bad news is that it appears that there’s more talk than action in addressing the issues. I’m guessing that this is...

Remembering the “good old days” of American healthcare

I remember Fran. And if you lived in eastern North Carolina in September 1996, you probably remember her, too. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I spent the next week or so waiting for electric power, patching roofs and clearing downed trees from everywhere....

When was the last time you had the head cold from Hell?

I caught mine on a bus ride in New Zealand. The couple behind me hacked, coughed and spewed spray and germs over me for five continuous hours. Well not quite continuously. At our two rest stops they got off the bus and smoked like chimneys. After a few miserable days...

If you’re alive, your prognosis is terminal.

Not all of the people who’ve helped me stay healthy over the years have worked in the straightjacket of billing code American healthcare. In spite of the long hours/little sleep brainwashing regimen that’s inflicted on them as an initiatory rite of passage, the best...

Healthcare Between the Lines

Are we so busy recording what others say that we’ve lost the ability to listen, hear and respond? Conversation is music. And half of all music is written between the lines. What’s not said – and how we don’t say it – is just as important as what we say. Inflection,...

Home

After all these years, there’s still a first time

Do you remember your first time? The first time you did something that made you think you might be an adult? That you might be a grown up, contributing member of society? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ve just had a landmark event, one that I’d never...

Hello, I must be going.

Thank you, North Carolina. You’ve been good to me. I’m pretty sure I’ve returned the favor, but I’m glad to be gone. We’ve each changed over the past 40-odd years. You’ve given me lifelong friends and memories of truly wonderful experiences. But over the past few...

Book me father, I don’t think I’ve sinned

My past life’s come back to haunt me – and I’m enjoying it. After years of living in places I filled with shelves and shelves and floors full of books, I dematerialized. I sold my house and gave away most of its contents. “If it doesn’t fit in the flight’s overhead...

Less stuff = more life

Many many years ago [Yeah, a whole bunch of 'em] I wondered if I could rent my house and live on the rental income. At the time, that income would have grossed about $7000/year, before taxes, expenses and all the other stuff. I thought the math worked, but then life...

Learning the language

No, it’s not learning to speak Irish, a language many locals don’t speak either. But it would be nice if I learned its pronunciation rules, so I could speak some of the written words whose meanings I think I know. As soon as I open my mouth, most people know I didn’t...

Too big? You’ve failed.

I’ve lost track of the people who’ve asked me, “How big is Cork?” While I realize they’re just being polite, and maybe even interested, about my life, I really don’t know – or care – how big the place is. Too often we use bigness as a shorthand for better. In many...

A home may not be a house.

I’ve done it. I’m settled in [sort of]. Cork is now officially, legally and in most other ways, my home. I’ve signed a lease, have an address – and have even started getting robocalls on my local phone. But it has nothing to do with my search for a home. There’s a big...

My Circle Game, redux

I just completed my census form. It gave me nice feelings of inclusion and completion. I like where I am, at the end of another cycle of life’s merry-go-round, beginning another lap. I’m home. My address here is the first permanent one I’ve had a long time, I’ve even...

If you love the smell of latex in the morning…

And fresh grout, too. You’ll recognize what I inhaled when I first climbed the 39 steps to my new place in Cork. [Insert your own joke here. There really are 39 steps. I’ve counted every one of them, each way, between the street and my top floor apartment.] I’m having...

Coming home

We all have childhood memories, some good, some bad, some we never knew we had until something triggers them years later. At five, I was the kindergartener walking from school with my grandfather, to the local pub. I’d complain about the nuns wanting me to color...

Ireland

Tell me a good story. And please, please, tell it well.

Good storytellers may not be good writers. Good writers may not be good storytellers. They’re brilliantly boring stylists. But when I find a book that tells me a good story, telling it well without calling attention to its style, I’m in heaven. And yes, I’ve found a...

Did I become the punchline of bookseller’s joke?

You may have seen the cartoon where a customer comes into a bookstore asking for a book, “I don’t know the title but it has a blue cover.” I wasn’t quite that bad, but I had a definite idea of what I wanted. I described everything about this book – its plot, its...

Happy Bloomsday!

Leopold Bloom speculated that it would be a “good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.”  What if today you crossed your town and didn’t pass, but stepped into, your local bookstore. [And if they're closed when you walk by, order a book from them...

Dublin in a day – by the book?

Dublin’s different now from the days when it was my second home. And not just because of the Covid lockdown fallout. It’s younger – or am I older? Til the 2008 crash it was a great place for 20-something bankers. Now it’s a great place for 20-something techies. I’ve...

Modern Times in Dalkey, sans Damon, Enya & Bono

It seems like I was in a galaxy of both a long ago past and a far-away future. I was sitting in a railway station – Dublin’s Connolly – doing what I’ve had a lifetime of practice doing: people watching. And there were a lot of people to watch as the morning’s commuter...

I wasn’t wearing a mask. Neither was she. Were we beyond the Pale?

I was brain dead. My mind was mush after 50+ weeks on the road and even more stores with countless shelves full of books whose titles kept me constantly tilting my head from side to side. Barbara saw my glassy-eyed stare as I wandered through her door. She read what...

Blowing in from the beach – and other places, too

There’s something nice about walking along a deserted beach, one that you’re sharing with just a few dogs and their owners. Should I mention that the dogs looked rather joyous when their miserable-looking owners called for them to go home on a windy bone-chilling...

Once upon a time…at a castle near a campus

I was waiting for the traffic signal to change to change when a different light appeared – in my brain, not on the street I was waiting to cross. It wasn’t Maynooth’s classrooms and bookstores that started me thinking, but the medieval castle on the corner between...

How do we let in the light?

I was standing on a corner near campus, next to Maynooth’s 13th Century castle. At first I thought it was just an ABC [another bloody castle] until I noticed where its windows used to be. For whatever reasons they’ve been blocked through the centuries to become...

Who do you listen to – your heart or your mind?

I realize it was just a few weeks ago, but it seems like a lifetime – or maybe just a different lifetime – ago. Before social distancing gave me time to start reading all the books I’ve been buying. I left the house on a road trip to three towns I’ve never seen. My...

Learning

To everyone who told me to write a book – I’ve done it.

But it’s not about independent bookstores, interesting people or any of the other topics I’ve talked about in this space over the years. It’s a self-help book that encourages us all to practice non-action. [At this point you’ll be forgiven for thinking that we teach...

Hopping into my déjà vu time machine

Castlebar. In an otherwise familiar store I discovered a group of students who made Castle Bookstore memorable.  They were talking, not texting. They weren’t asking adults to do something for them. They were doing it for themselves – in person, not online. While...

A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a park –

along with an imam, some nuns of various stripes and a few people dressed in Eastern robes. One of these days I should probably learn how to identify a Hindu and Buddhist cleric on sight, as opposed to cosmology. The grouping wasn’t particularly unusual, since I was...

I wanted to spend money, but there was nothing worth buying

It took me nearly two hours to go to another city. Add another two-plus hours exploring displays and listening to lectures. Then came the moment, one I’d anticipated with some joy. I wanted to buy another book. Not just any book, but a massive book that could collapse...

My Shakespearean Problem

I’ve got a problem. [Duh, don’t we all? And just one? Cue the violins.] Anyway, to use today’s jargon, it’s not really a problem. It’s a challenge, an opportunity, a chance to learn. And compared to all that’s happening in the world, it ranks somewhere less than zero...

I was caught in the spin cycle of a bot machine

I’m old enough to remember watching dirt being invented. But that doesn’t mean that every now and then I don’t get surprised – like when I got caught in the spin cycle of the political bot machine. Over the years I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the response rate...

What’s the point?

I think it’s exploration. Explore whoever and wherever you are –your body, your mind, your soul, your spirit, your place. Learn how you tick. Learn what makes you tick. Know it better than anyone or anything else. Explorers have lots of names. Are you a searcher, a...

The Hitchcock scene in my shower

I was standing in the shower the other morning and something caught my eye. I looked up through the skylight to see a bird looking back at me. I nodded to it and went back to soaking my head. I looked again in a bit to see a flock of them looking back at me, uniformly...

Peter Pan’s evil twin won’t grow up, either

Woke up the other morning and glanced at my phone. Saw that the usual emails included four comments on some of my old blogposts. Felt good, but not surprising, since it’s what usually happens when I get a new subscriber – they’ll scroll through old posts and leave a...

People Along My Path

About the kindness of strangers

I’ve never been a big fan of gin & tonic. Until now. It all started when I was lost and wandering in the historic old town of a small Spanish city. Google maps aren't particularly good in neighbourhoods where you can put your arms out and nearly touch each side of...

Did I become the punchline of bookseller’s joke?

You may have seen the cartoon where a customer comes into a bookstore asking for a book, “I don’t know the title but it has a blue cover.” I wasn’t quite that bad, but I had a definite idea of what I wanted. I described everything about this book – its plot, its...

I wasn’t wearing a mask. Neither was she. Were we beyond the Pale?

I was brain dead. My mind was mush after 50+ weeks on the road and even more stores with countless shelves full of books whose titles kept me constantly tilting my head from side to side. Barbara saw my glassy-eyed stare as I wandered through her door. She read what...

The isolated man – surrounded by family yet far from home

For better or worse, St. Patrick’s Day has become an international celebration of all things Irish and pseudo-Irish. But not all Irish émigrés found that crock of gold. Here’s the story of one of them, who happened to be my neighbour. These days we complain about...

Remembering Dublin City in the Old Times

Let’s admit it. Our memories are selective. We may not remember what we had for lunch yesterday, but there’s a good chance we’ll remember the good deed someone did for us many years ago. Here’s one of my Dublin memories from what now seems like the old days. It's a...

When someone’s more than a Valentine

Let’s forget the candy and ignore the hype. Here’s a glimpse of a couple I encountered a few years ago. I haven’t seen them since, but occasionally wonder whatever happened to them. https://jpmaney.com/private-selves/

Hopping into my déjà vu time machine

Castlebar. In an otherwise familiar store I discovered a group of students who made Castle Bookstore memorable.  They were talking, not texting. They weren’t asking adults to do something for them. They were doing it for themselves – in person, not online. While...

Is this the year to unchain yourself?

How many children’s sports teams or church events or arts presentations in your town does Amazon support? Or Starbucks? Or any of the other chains that homogenize the world with their standardized goods and services while investing their profits – your money – far far...

Have you survived Black Friday?

An American shopping phenomenon is metastasizing around the world. Whether you believe that it’s a glorious sign of the season or an abuse of the season’s reason, have you ever paused to look at things from the retail side of the till? Here’s a piece from a few years...

Reflections

Tell me a good story. And please, please, tell it well.

Good storytellers may not be good writers. Good writers may not be good storytellers. They’re brilliantly boring stylists. But when I find a book that tells me a good story, telling it well without calling attention to its style, I’m in heaven. And yes, I’ve found a...

Modern Times in Dalkey, sans Damon, Enya & Bono

It seems like I was in a galaxy of both a long ago past and a far-away future. I was sitting in a railway station – Dublin’s Connolly – doing what I’ve had a lifetime of practice doing: people watching. And there were a lot of people to watch as the morning’s commuter...

Blowing in from the beach – and other places, too

There’s something nice about walking along a deserted beach, one that you’re sharing with just a few dogs and their owners. Should I mention that the dogs looked rather joyous when their miserable-looking owners called for them to go home on a windy bone-chilling...

Once upon a time…at a castle near a campus

I was waiting for the traffic signal to change to change when a different light appeared – in my brain, not on the street I was waiting to cross. It wasn’t Maynooth’s classrooms and bookstores that started me thinking, but the medieval castle on the corner between...

How do we let in the light?

I was standing on a corner near campus, next to Maynooth’s 13th Century castle. At first I thought it was just an ABC [another bloody castle] until I noticed where its windows used to be. For whatever reasons they’ve been blocked through the centuries to become...

Does Easter bring you more memories than Christmas?

Yes, I know that both holidays have centuries-old pre-Christian roots that were glossed over as Christianity became one of the world's dominant religions. But, for whatever reason, Easter brings me memories of various clergy I’ve dealt with through the years. Here’s...

Can fiction tell us what nonfiction can’t?

And is there a difference between nonfiction and history? Is it just the time period they cover – or is it the author’s attitude, as well? In nonfiction we see an author’s view – or the reporter’s selection of facts – through our own lens – creating two layers of...

If you were thinking of a White Christmas…

It’s been a while since I’ve seen snow on Christmas Day. But whenever I see an accumulation of freshly fallen, still clean snow I remember a particular day in the Colorado Rockies.  I try to remember exactly how it is we can draw the sound of snow....

Travel

About the kindness of strangers

I’ve never been a big fan of gin & tonic. Until now. It all started when I was lost and wandering in the historic old town of a small Spanish city. Google maps aren't particularly good in neighbourhoods where you can put your arms out and nearly touch each side of...

To everyone who told me to write a book – I’ve done it.

But it’s not about independent bookstores, interesting people or any of the other topics I’ve talked about in this space over the years. It’s a self-help book that encourages us all to practice non-action. [At this point you’ll be forgiven for thinking that we teach...

Dublin in a day – by the book?

Dublin’s different now from the days when it was my second home. And not just because of the Covid lockdown fallout. It’s younger – or am I older? Til the 2008 crash it was a great place for 20-something bankers. Now it’s a great place for 20-something techies. I’ve...

Modern Times in Dalkey, sans Damon, Enya & Bono

It seems like I was in a galaxy of both a long ago past and a far-away future. I was sitting in a railway station – Dublin’s Connolly – doing what I’ve had a lifetime of practice doing: people watching. And there were a lot of people to watch as the morning’s commuter...

Who do you listen to – your heart or your mind?

I realize it was just a few weeks ago, but it seems like a lifetime – or maybe just a different lifetime – ago. Before social distancing gave me time to start reading all the books I’ve been buying. I left the house on a road trip to three towns I’ve never seen. My...

You know those days when the stars just don’t align for you?

Do you ever find that things you planned on may not be available? And then stewed on the situation for way too long before learning you were mistaken in the first place? Sure, I’d been through Dundalk before, several times. Every one of them as a passenger without any...

Did I find better stories outside the bookstores?

How many times has a bad movie led you to buy the book? Until now, I can’t remember a single instance – and my eyeballs have absorbed a lot of films and books through the years. I truly appreciate the task of turning a 400-500 page book into a 100-page screenplay,...

No, it was NOT a dark and stormy night.

It was a miserable, blustery, sideways-raining several days. Minutes of glorious sunshine punctuated rolling black storm clouds emptying themselves on all of us stuck below. Or, to put things another way, it was just a normal winter’s day in the west of Ireland....

When someone’s more than a Valentine

Let’s forget the candy and ignore the hype. Here’s a glimpse of a couple I encountered a few years ago. I haven’t seen them since, but occasionally wonder whatever happened to them. https://jpmaney.com/private-selves/

I went looking for fiction – and found a calamity-in-waiting

Have you ever walked into a place that just felt right? Trinity Books in Carrick on Shannon wasn’t on my list of places to visit. Its street sign caught my eye on the way to another store. So I turned left, walked down an alley and opened their door. I was immediately...

Writing

Some things take a bit longer than we’d like

There’s been enough said and written about our instant-gratification lifestyles and how they drive our economy. And, like many people, there are times I prefer things to be done yesterday, if not sooner. Even in those ancient days of B.C. [before computer], I was...

Tell me a good story. And please, please, tell it well.

Good storytellers may not be good writers. Good writers may not be good storytellers. They’re brilliantly boring stylists. But when I find a book that tells me a good story, telling it well without calling attention to its style, I’m in heaven. And yes, I’ve found a...

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