Friday 8 November 2013

Vampires of Literary Dublin

I've never really understood the appeal of unboxing videos, in which people film themselves unpacking a newly arrived smartphone or tablet and commenting on the experience.

However, I couldn't resist posting this pic to Twitter on the day my copy of Lonely Planet: Great Escapes arrived in the mail:

Where I was expecting a compact paperback, Great Escapes turned out to be a hefty hardback coffee table book with beautiful images on glossy paper.

It's full of travel "escapes" of various kinds, from cultural to adventurous.

My contribution is Dive into Literary Dublin, highlighting the Irish capital's literary history and associated attractions, from the ancient Book of Kells to literary pub tours.

Each article also contains a number of breakout boxes, looking at specific aspects of the escape. One I was particularly pleased with contained my potted history of Bram Stoker's inspiration for his hugely influential horror novel Dracula.

With kind permission of Lonely Planet, here it is:

Bram Stoker, Vampire Writer
When it was published in 1897, no-one could have guessed that Dracula would make Bram Stoker the most influential horror fiction novelist ever. Born in Dublin in 1847, Stoker had been a sickly child with plenty of time for reading. As an adult he became friends with Oscar Wilde and the actor Henry Irving. But it was possibly from his chance meeting with Hungarian historian and traveller Arminius Vambéry that Stoker learned of the legend of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. Vambéry’s reward? As rumour has it, he was immortalised in the novel as Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula’s implacable foe.
(The above text is an extract from Lonely Planet’s Great Escapes, © Lonely Planet 2013. In stores now, A$49.99. Buy online here.)

In the drafting and redrafting of the escape, some content was jettisoned but is still of interest. So in the spirit of DVD extras, here's some additional Dublin-lit content from me:
North of the Liffey lies a museum devoted to the oldest type of Irish storytelling – folklore. Although the National Leprechaun Museum has an amusing name, this institution is devoted to all of Ireland’s ancient myths, covering creatures both famous and obscure. To thread its interior is entertaining in itself, passing through a giant’s living room and beneath upside-down umbrellas, and taking in a shifting map which outlines the creatures of this rich mythical world. But the best part is listening to a live storyteller, who weaves tales involving leprechauns, greedy men and the legendary outlandish warrior Finn McCool.
(Read about my visit to the National Leprechaun Museum in my Kindle ebook, I Am a Bond Villain: A Travel Writer's Strange Affair With Britain & Ireland)

The Cheeky Statues
For a laugh and an insight into Dubliners’ surprisingly acid sense of humour, spend a day weaving between the city’s most prominent pieces of street art. When you reach each one, ask a local what they call it. Every piece has a nickname, including a statue of Molly Malone (‘The Tart with the Cart’), a statue of two shoppers (‘The Hags with the Bags’) and the needle-like Spire of Dublin (‘The Stiletto in the Ghetto’). In a park next to the Liffey is a water-drenched statue of Anna Livia, who represents the river; she’s ‘The Floozy in the Jacuzzi’.
(For more on Dubliners' irreverent naming of statues, with photos, read my previous post on the subject.) 

And finally, some extra reading in these books by Irish writers, intimately involving Dublin:
The Portable Virgin (Anne Enright) Collection of short stories by a prize-winning author, exploring the city and its people. [Buy here]
Winterland (Alan Glynn) A fast-paced crime novel which highlights the seamier side of 21st-century Dublin. [Buy here]
(And you can read my interview with Catherine Duffy from Dublin's City of Literature office here.)
 Enjoy! And keep reading that Irish lit.

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