Ireland Unhingedby David Monagan, published by Kanbar & Conrad/Council Oak Books (March 2011)
and Transworld Ireland-Random House (May 2011)
Ireland Unhinged is a searching, multi-layered and often hilarious portrait of one of the most enigmatic countries on earth. Within its pages you will meet remarkable people in extraordinary places — a Cork artist who paints in the dark; a bacchanal in a Protestant cathedral, a white witch in Donegal; J.P. Donleavy, the author of the world famous Ginger Man; wistful rural farmers; monks in a Belfast monastery; and a Major Tut Tut who turns into a human stalagmite. The reader will discover Ireland as it has not quite been presented before — with clichés pushed aside for a loving and jaundiced eye for its very present.
The Ireland in this book is not the same country profiled in previous works of travel literature, nor in any guide book. Ireland Unhinged, told with an insider’s knowledge, is about the peak years of one of the most incredible boom economies in the West, and then its collapse. Just yesterday, the populace was so rollicking it its new wealth that the Irish were buying Mercedes Benzes faster than any other people on earth. Now the bubble has burst, gloom and doom seem to be apocalyptic — then again, little in Ireland is ever what it seems.
Who blew the dream? What endures? Ireland Unhinged takes the reader into hidden recesses of the country’s culture and landscape to answer those questions in picaresque style. Visionary entrepreneurs and crack ups surface in the giddy days of the Celtic Tiger. The author carves out a second life in bucolic riverside village that somehow turns its back on the hubbub. And here is neighbour who doesn’t give a damn, digging for 15,000 year old skeletons in his bog.
“I altogether loved Ireland Unhinged. In its pages a transplanted Connecticut family moves to Ireland; then encounters begin with J.P. Donleavy, Seamus Heaney, witches, fairies, eccentrics, lunatics, plus a reunion of the famous band The Dubliners, which proves in Ireland that death is not always fatal. Ireland Unhinged is hilarious, it’s sad, it’s loving. David Monagan also writes about how crooked bankers and corrupt politicians reduced the Celtic Tiger to a throw rug and how spirituality fled in the face of rampant materialism. You don’t have to be Irish to dive into this grand book – one of the best about Ireland in these last few years.”
—Malachy McCourt, actor and author of A Monk Swimming and Singing My Song
“In Ireland Unhinged, David Monagan is on the loose in a poisoned Eden littered with deflated bouncy castles, abandoned SUVS and Euro-funded motorways slicing through the ancient Hill of Tara. David Monagan’s book is incisive, wry, and witty but also coldly surgical and repeatedly captures the zeitgeist perfectly. The fact is – David Monagan knows his Ireland. He has borne witness to an almost unforgivable felo-de-se, without doubt unique in our history. But analyses such as this may be the first step toward our conditional absolution. There’s Mad Max stuff in here, ‘Aisy Rider in the Land of the Bouncy Castle’ – read it.”
—Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy and The Stray Sod Country
“The author and his family purchased a house along the Blackwater River, in Ballyduff, full of gardens and sky, rolling hills and forest and warm, welcoming neighbors. Writing with an unhurried and considered hand, his wryness evident but checked by a brooding malaise, Monagan visits with landscapes both sullied and unsullied, in search of Ireland ’s many silver tongues. There are great bar-side chats with anonymous pubsters, as well as a wonderfully anecdote-strewn day with author J.P. Donleavy.A penetrating, droll embrace of an Ireland in the midst of tumult.”
“David Monagan’s charming, funny, sometimes harrowing take on modern Ireland is a pleasure to read. Trust this fella – he knows his stuff.”
—Bill Barich, author of A Pint of Plain and Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck’s America
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