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A PINT OF PLAIN by Bill Barich


How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World

by Bill Barich

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8027-1701-6
Publisher: Walker

An American goes on a sentimental journey seeking an authentic pub in Ireland.

Barich (A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance, and the Irish, 2006, etc.) has been in thrall to the idea of Irishness since seeing John Ford’s The Quiet Man. Ireland, to his thinking, is still a land where people cultivate the fun to be had amid friendly conversation at the center of social life, the pub. An Irish pub is a gentle, polite and good-humored place. More importantly, it imparts a strong sense of community and shared values. But the Irish pub of Barich’s imagination, already an illusion, is quickly giving way to the realities of globalization. Irishness now has more clout outside the Emerald Isle than it does within. Italy has the greatest growth per capita of Irish pubs, while England is the largest consumer of Guinness, with Nigeria in second place. Meanwhile, pubs in Ireland are closing, though a good 12,000 are still in business. Economic forces are putting pressure on the local, the particular and the unique. Fewer pubs are run by families and as they fade, so do their traditions. Barich's quest, born of nostalgia and fueled by a deep love of Irish literature and humor, is beleaguered by anxiety over the rapid pace of change and disappointed by the vexing paradoxes of authenticity. The author takes us around Dublin and then out to the countryside to find the “perfect local.” He fails often, yet succeeds in ways that are surprising. Barich weaves bits of social, political and literary history into his travelogue, but his premise remains thin. Even so, the author wins us over with his delicious sense of humor, stylish storytelling and abundant affection for Ireland and its people.

A refreshing draught for Irish aficionados, but not as serious as the subtitle suggests.