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Well, did I do it?

imageIt was during my Christmas break in 2015 that I set myself a challenge – Read 52 Books in a year.  1 a week – should be easy?

It all started with Steven Gerrard – a christmas present

The road to wigan pier followed closely.  George Orwells tale of how we can show a brighter future

As it was the centenary of 1916 Easter Rising there were plenty of books relating to that theme

Jimmy Wren’s The GPO Garrisson was one such story of all the people in the GPO that week

Kieran Glennon’s From Pogrom TO Civil War took in a slightly later time in Irelands Nationalist history

Roger Casement is not only a figure in Irish Nationalist History, prior to (and during)his involvement in Ireland culminating in his trial where he stated “Ireland has wronged no man, that has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others – Ireland is treated today among the nations of the world as if she was a convicted criminal” he was a British Foreign diplomat.  His most notable work was exposing the slave trade in Congo and the  horrendous slaughter of Peruvian Indians.  The Devil and Misteer casement tells the story of Peru whole King Leopolds Ghost spoke of Congo

Russian troubadors Pussy Riot have had a lot written about them Words Will Break Cement is one of those

Kim Gordon has spoken a lot about how Pussy Riot are strong Women in a band and her Girl In  A Band book tells of her time in Sonic Youth and beyond

Chasing The Scream challenged my perception on the so-called War On Drugs and has really made me think about its relevance

As part of the challenge I asked my kids what book they would like me to read – Pele was my youngest ones choice.  A strange book about a character who exists in a world of stardom and almost seems like an alter ego of Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Luca Caioli asked is Messi More Than A Superstar and the answer is very much yes in his mind, interesting that humility is his biggest trait after being a superstar ball player

During Easter Week I decided to take a 360 turn and see how many Ross O’Carroll Kelly books I could cram in this year.  Ross is the obnoxious, sexist beast known to so many Dubliners. The teenage Dirt-Bag years is one of the early ones, his formative college years, a J1 American Visa and the theft of a statue from UCD all get the O’Carroll gloss.

One of the hardest books to read was The Wrath of Cochise, not for the level of detail of the blood feud between the Chiracuau Indians and the US Army but just the level of detail.  Terry Mort has a way with words, and it’s a long way. It was enlightening to read about the ‘White men’ being willing to loose lives in wars and use that as a tactic or about the Irish Bounty hunter James Kirker.  it is interesting that this small island has produced many people who travelled for different reasons and had an impact around the world. Kirker was a hugely successful bounty hunter, willing to work, and kill, for the highest bidder.  There were many Irish recruits into the US Army in the 1850’s – over 30% of those enlisted were Irish hunger having forced them from their homes. Then there were those being sold into slavery, a tale of woe that still continues.

I re-introduced myself to the world of pop punk and Lookout records through Larry Livermores two book and the story of Lookout. Interesting that a label with no initial aspirations other than to release records and get bands heard ended up as a multi million dollar business and the tale of how those millions made people want more. Another label I re-introduced my self to was K Records. Love Rock Revolution, the story of K was published a few years ago but I missed out on it then. It tells the story of Calvin Johnson and K, much like Lookout, a label that saw huge increases in sales when Nirvana got signed but thankfully unlike lookout K is still going.  Sarah records was another label I listened to many bands from and Pop Kiss tells its story with a glorious jangle.

The Lost Women Of Rock Music – Female Musicians of the punk era by Helen Reddington is still altogether too true as it tells the battle females have just to be recognised in rock.. Punk promised to breakthrough  as more and more females joined bands but the establishment re-established its hold and MTV had a different story to tell. It drove it underground

NOFX were a band whose antics when they were in ireland I had blocked out of memory. I knew there was a story around a fireplace and an inscription but the tides of time held no grudges. it was sad to read stories of how fireplaces in other cities, belonging to other peoples parents, were treated with similar disdain. Like spoilt children the drug fuelled lifestyle of nofx left casualties in their wake. We had to run other gigs after they left town, we had to mend a lot of bridges. This book is not surprising in its tome. Pity I like their music so much.

Jack Doyle’s autobiography slowed me down and made me realise I wouldn’t meet my target.  Instead of 1 book a week I went for one a fortnight.  It halved the overall number but still was hopeful and realistic.

This was bropught to fruitiion with somw time over Christmas allowing me to complete my final two.  How Champions Thnk gives some snippets into the mind of sucessful people and it finashed in style with the Aesthetic of Our Anger – a critique of anarcho punk, politics and music.  Although this book is aimed more at an academic audience it is an excellent reflection on the influence of Crass throughout popular culture.

So next year I will try and better this, wish me luck

This years List

1. King Leopolds Ghost

2. The Devil and Me

3. Steve Gerard – My Story

4. Jimmy Wren – The Gpo Garrisson

5. Kieran Glennon – From Pogrom to Civil War

6. Paul Howard – Ross O Carroll Kelly, the teenage Dirtbag years

7. George Orwell – The Road to wigan pier

8. Johan Hari – Chasing the scream

9. Pele – the autobiography

10. Kim Gordon – Girl In  A Band

11. Masha Gessen – Words Will Break Cement

12. The Wrath of Cochise – The Blood Feud That Sparked the Apache Wars

13. Larry Livermore – Spy Rock Memories

14. Larry Livermore – How to Ru(i)n a record label

15. Jeff Alullis – NOFX The Hepatitis Bathtub and other Stories

16. Kevin Prested – Punk USA – The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records –

17. Mark Baumgarten – Love Rock Revolution – The Story of K Records

18. Luca Caioli – Messi: More Than a Superstar

19. Michael White – Pop Kiss – the life and afterlife of sarah records

20 Helen Reddington  – The lost Women of Rock Musc

21.Dave Dictor – MDC

22. The Defects – Nervous Breakdown

23  Michael Taub -Jack Doyle The gorgeous God

24  Adrian Chiles – We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

25 William Macaskill -Doing Good Better

26  Bob Rotella – How Champions Think

27  Mike dines and Matthew Worley – The Aesthetic of our anger

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Book of the Week – GPO Garrison, Easter Week 1916


The GPO Garrison
Easter Week 1916
A Biographical dictionary
Jimmy wren

Geography publications
It is the centenary of the Easter rising this year. 100 years on from an historic event and we will continue to be plagued with books on the matter, and rightly so. Many will tell stories of what happened, some may even have my nana’s tale of how she was playing in Parnell street in Dublin City Centre as a 5 year old girl when a British soldier brought her in off the street for her own safety but not before looting a handful of sweets and placing them in her apron. Many will be factual accounts of what happened but Jimmy Wrens book has taken a different angle. The General Post Office is the symbolic point of the rising but it was here where the leaders read out the proclamation (a remarkable document) and here where the winning and losing was to be. Donnycarney native, and old neighbour of mine, Jummy Wren has decided to list all those who were in the gpo, all 572 of them. Not only that we get an illustration and a breakdown of all the people involved, in fairness to the author the rank and file equal coverage. Those executed soon after may, in some instances, get a few extra lines, not many though in this book of equals.

There are some some amazing facts hidden in the collective tales. O’Connell’s boys school taught 29 of the participants, the age profile (like any army) is so young, 28% of combatants were under 20, more kids gone off to war which has continued through the generations.  Liverpool provided some people and buenos aires was the furthest someone came to fight  for the cause  with many hailing from Dublin’s north side and of course many soldiers ended up in opposite sides a few short years later in our countries Civil War.

There are some fascinating insights into many of the 572 soldiers who participated in the GPO garrison with many of today’s politicians having ancestry involved. There’s the human story of people like Mary (may) Gahan, a 17 year old revolutionary who fought in the rising and subsequent Irish civil war, after fighting for the cause of what she believed to be Irish freedom May then emigrated to Australia and had 10 children before dying in 1988. There must have been some fascinating dinner parties around her house!

Or how about Antil Makapaltis, a merchant seaman originally from Finland who appeared at the GPO and offered his services until his ship was due to depart the following Thursday. Antil never made it for that trip and stayed for the week until the GPO was evacuated and he was then incarcerated.

Or Eamon (Ted) O’Kelly who lived through a hunger strike, a Black and Tans ambush and the Easter Rising only to be fatally wounded during the Second World War when the Germans bombed London during his time living there.

The historic element will be written about in many other times wren has written about the people. As it marks an event 100 years gone past all the participants have passed away, thankfully their stories haven’t and works like this are essential to keep it in public knowledge and discourse. It’s amazing how such a bloody and initially unpopular event has polarised our country  and the spotlight will shine until the summer months at least whilst those of all persuasions claim the heroes to themselves.

One striking aspect of the human side to this story is how people who ended up as enemies during the Civil War and then became citizens, with many leaving their revolutionary days behind as they participated in society, some politicians, many civil servants and business people. It’s a fact of life that things progress but Wren lists their future careers in a kind of “where are they know” dialect which is fascinating at times

Finally the 16 men who lost their lives are all listed, and subsequently the 6 who were executed to accompany the 69 who were injured over the week of fighting for the GPO garrison.

Great stuff



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