In an effort not to be seduced by Ireland's green fields, barroom bards and fair colleens (the kind publicized by Aer Lingus), O'Hanlon goes to extremes in the other direction. He writes, almost exclusively, about everything that's wrong with the dear ould sod: the depopulated countryside, the ongoing emigration, the desecration of Dublin's lovely 18th century architecture, the artificiality of the new economic prosperity, the pollution of the beautiful lakes, the backward mentality of the farmers, the stratified 19th century sense of class consciousness which still prevails in politics and society, the antiquarian and enormously wealthy and powerful Church and its oppressive attitudes toward sex, its reactionary politics and cultural philistinism. In a word, O'Hanlon bends over backward to depict Ireland as a tacky, corrupt, regressive, cynical place. No matter; it is soil a fascinating country and O'Hanlon's emphasis on all that is perverse and illogical in the Irish psyche only makes it more so -- and you suspect he knows that. The publisher is comparing this to Anthony Sampson's Anatomy of Britain and though it certainly is a very probing book which examines every aspect of Irish society, the comparison is misleading for this is a far more personal, idiosyncratic and contrary view of a people who are at once cranky, authoritarian and fanciful. A well-informed and very astute picture of a culture that, for good or bad, is fundamentally ""out of sync"" with the 20th century.