What better book for St. Patrick's Day than The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury?
To tell the story of Irish pubs, the pair traveled to over 700 pubs through all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Then, they picked a small group to "celebrate, and document, pubs that epitomize that essential charm of old Ireland." According to the authors, the oldest pubs in the book date to the 17th century, and some of the most recent were built in the late 1990s when the economy was exploding.
The authors break the book into three sections. "Urban Retreat" features the more metropolitan pubs from the 19th and twentieth centuries. The threatened pubs are the ones in the chapter "Rural Charm". These are the more traditional country pubs, closing at a rate of one per day as of 2008 when the book was published. Bunbury explains the economy, the ban on smoking in public places, and the crackdown on drinking and driving have all combined to hurt the traditional pubs. The final section features four pubs, "Contemporary Heritage". Those pubs, created more recently, in the authors' opinions, reflect the best of Irish tradition.
Dark wood, large or small pubs, former groceries, centers of music. In their books, the authors attempt to capture a disappearing Ireland. They make the comment "The upshot is that if you want to see what a traditional Irish bar looks like, you might have better luck in Chicago or Sydney than in Dublin, Galway or Tipperary." But, I think they've found some to write about and photograph. As I said when I reviewed Vanishing Ireland, Bunbury's words are pure poetry. The stories and pictures in this book are magic, capturing pubs that exemplify Ireland for some many of us.
James Fennell's website is www.jamesfennell.com. Turtle Bunbury's website is www.turtlebunbury.com. There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.
The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Thames & Hudson, 2008. 9780500514283 (hardcover), 192p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.