Book Review – Vertigo by Joanna Walsh

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It has been an astonishing couple of years for Irish published and Irish written short stories, hasn’t it?

I genuinely feel like I should apologise that this one got caught up in my backlog of reviews from the last few weeks – I read it just after publication and it’s actually one of the books of the month I’ve chosen for April over on my book club on FB.

You know every now and then you get hypnotised by a writer’s style or a series of short stories? For me, Vertigo brings both of those to the table. It’s less a series of disconnected stories and more almost a continuous stream of vignettes from the internal narrative of what could easily be the same woman in different countries, situations, parts of what seem to be the same life.

If, like me, you find yourself attracted to sparse stories of honesty and internal alienation then this may just be right up your quiet alleyway. It’s Irish published, only a tenner, you’ll read it in an afternoon and it has many, many moments that will stay with you long after you’re finished with what could seem the flimsiness of the stories that wash over you.

Vertigo is a little thing of hidden beauty, you should seek it out.

Book Review – Deep Sea And Foreign Going by Rose George

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See, this is either going to float your boat (appalling pun apologised for) or it won’t. I developed an interest in the whole topic of the movement of globalised goods a few years back after reading Alain De Botton describing the journey of a tuna fish from the seas around Sri Lanka to a suburban Tesco in the UK, so this one had me at the cover page.

Rose George’s utterly fascinating (to me anyway) account of a 5 week trip from the UK to Singapore through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, passing along the pirate-infested coast of Somalia, is much more than just a travelogue. She uses the journey to look at the history of moving goods by sea, how fair it has come over the centuries (from ugly, dirty, busy docks in the centre of cities to hidden, clinical staging areas away from human eyes) and to examine how almost all of the world’s consumer goods are transported (even though we know little about it and care even less).

I was fascinated by the baffling lack of interest the tiny crews on these huge ships have in what they’re actually carrying (she says the crew’s attitudes to the containers are that “…they think they are boring, opaque, blank. Stuff carrying stuff.” She also does more than her fair share of examining the conditions in which crews work, the lack of labour laws and, for some, their disinterest in ever going ashore at all.

Yes, there ere one or two diversion chapters she takes from the main narrative that I felt lost the thrust of the main story, but if you have any interest in the subject matter you should give this a shot.

Book Review – Neurologic by Elizer J Sternberg

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Briefly, this is an occasionally interesting, sometimes factually dense, ever so often dull series of chapters on neurology. If you’ve read Oliver Sacks over the years or even Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast And Slow or the like, I’m afraid you might not find much new here.

I did love the section on certain types of epileptic seizures potentially leading to religious conversion even if that did scare the bejeesus *into* me. That was a new one. As was the idea of athletes doing “mental training” when coming back from an injury (literally imaging themselves out on the track or bike).

Solid, worth your time if you’re new to the subject but a lot of stuff I’ve seen before.

Craft Beers For March 2016…

Right then.

It’s been a while since the last post so, for the first time in 2016, here are a few crafty beer ideas that might be useful.

All tried, all good…

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These two, both from the barrel aged series by Stone Barrel are both super and easily the best beers they’ve made so far…

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I *wish* there was more of this from Trouble Brewing. It was lush…

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The Northern Monk is super, have a had a lot recently and the O Brother Max is a great session. Children Of The Revolution is at least as good as any of the IPA or pale ales WW have made and, while the O Brother Joe Porter was top, top-notch, the coffee-less version is great too…

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This is, of course, incredible. And gone. Apart from the box I have in my cupboard…

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And unfortunately something you can’t get here. Found it in the village of Soll in the Austrian Tirol and tasty it was too…

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Book Review – Here Are The Young Men by Rob Doyle

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Yes, I’m very late to this particular table so I’ll keep this particularly brief.

Rob Doyle’s first novel from 2014 is a beautiful, vicious, angry, touching, all too real portrayal of a Dublin many of people see, some of us know people who lived in and one we hope our own teenagers never, ever encounter although we fear they may.

Four young lads spend their first summer after finishing school wandering the streets and beaches of Dublin (and Boston) drunk, stoned, angry, depressed, suicidal and worse. Hard going in many places if you’re thin-skinned or reticent when it comes to grit, dirt, violence and reality, but one of those books that you really should read.