1. Brian J. Showers sitting pensively before
2. Duane Spurlock's illustrations.
3.Duane addressing the crowd.
4. Brian's speech.
5. Damian Gordon, Brian and Lucy Walshe.
6. Bridgette Rowland (editor), Brian and
Eoin Purcell (publisher).
7. Peter McClean of Albedo 1 and Damian
(kneeling). Seated: Duane and Brian.
8. Duane and Brian and Gothic Dublin.
9. Albert Power, Brian and Jonathan Barry.
10. A box full of joy.
THE LAUNCH PARTY
by Duane Spurlock, © November 2006
The launch party for Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin was held at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin on 3 November 2006.
"The story of the supernatural or the mystical can disclose aspects of human conduct and human longing to which the positivistic psychologist has blinded himself."THIS QUOTE FROM Russell Kirk's "A Cautionary Note on the Ghostly Tale" is quite apt to apply to those Irish authors--Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker--celebrated in Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin. For even though Stoker's lifetime crosses into the 20th Century and overlaps the opening of what might be called the Age of Psychiatry (bells rung by William James, gates opened by Sigmund Freud, lamps lit by Carl Jung), the stories by all three of these Dublin writers reveal mysteries and emphasize the mysterious more than they clarify psychoses or shine light in dark corners of the mind. The ghosts and spirits in their tales remain ghosts and spirits, not merely outward manifestations of thwarted desires.
Which is a roundabout way to open this brief description of the launch party for Brian Showers's Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin. As the book celebrates Maturin, Le Fanu and Stoker, and shines some light on these men, their environs and their works, so the party celebrated the publication of Brian's book. Friday, 3 November 2006, a group gathered around 7 pm in the first-floor rooms of the Irish Writers' Centre at 19 Parnell Square, adjoining the Dublin Writers Museum. Among those present were Brian; his lovely companion, Anna-Lena Yngve; Nonsuch Ireland publisher Eoin Purcell and editors Bridgette Rowland and Kerstin Mierke; Stoker scholar Albert Power; Albedo One editor Peter McLean; artist Jonathan Barry; and several other good-natured friends and well-wishers, including librarian Lucy Walshe, who provided Irish translations for the Tigh an Bhreithimh chapbook. I was pleased to be able to make it to Dublin for the launch and meet all these fine folks.
I arrived Tuesday in Dublin from Kentucky. Perhaps oddly enough, I'd left Louisville at the same time some Irish eyes were turning their attention there; that same weekend as the Gothic Dublin launch, the Breeders Cup was to run at Churchilll Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.
Friday afternoon before the book launch, I met up with Brian and Aly at the Crampton Quay Forbidden Planet, after they left work for the day. We dined at Govinda's Vegetarian Restaurant on Abbey Street, then strolled up to Parnell Square and the Irish Writers Centre. There was a slight chill in the evening air, but the Centre provided welcoming warmth.
After a small crowd gathered, wine tasted and copies of Gothic Dublin displayed, I said a few words about how I first encountered Brian by responding to his request--posted to the All Hallows email discussion group--for someone who could draw "old-fashioned illustrations" for a project. My resulting illustrations for The Snow Came Softly Down chapbook were "old fashioned" in appearance and execution, because I drew them with India ink and a crow-quill pen instead of with computer software, much to Brian's surprise.
Brian followed up by recounting a fuller history of his research, writing and seeking a publisher for Gothic Dublin. Appreciative applause, more wine, some pleasant conversation (Albert Power and I discussed Russell Kirk's ghost stories, and Peter McClean and I talked about--believe it or not--LEAN management methodologies and ISO certification in healthcare settings; I don't know how any other chit chat at the event could top that), and book signing followed. The party eventually broke up. Afterward, Damian Gordon accompanied Brian, Aly and me to the Gresham Hotel bar and bought a round of drinks to top off the night. It was a fine conclusion to a very nice evening. My many thanks for the wonderful hospitality so graciously offered by everyone I met!
ON THE CONCEPTION OF GOTHIC DUBLIN
by Brian J. Showers, © November 2006
Delivered at the Irish Writers Centre, 3 November 2006
THANK YOU ALL for coming tonight. I am not the most eloquent of public speakers. Instead I hope you don't mind if I read a few pages I adapted from an e-mail I recently sent to friends and family a couple of weeks ago about the conception of the book.
It starts: Some of you may already know that last February I signed a contract with Nonsuch Ireland to publish my book Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin, which until then I had been calling Ghosts, Vampires and The Devil.
Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin formally started in the spring of 2003 as a lengthy article on the Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu for a Canadian journal called All Hallows.
As some of you may have noticed, I am not a native Dubliner. In fact, I'm not even Irish. I moved to here from Madison, Wisconsin, which is located just west of Galway, in 2001, and almost immediately upon my arrival I started to discover various places around Dublin connected with Le Fanu--The Bleeding Horse Pub, the vault in Mount Jerome Cemetery, 70 Merrion Square, Chapelizod, Phoenix Park and I even remember the first time I realised I was walking down Aungier Street, which I probably delighted in more than most people should.
I enjoyed making these discoveries so much that, at the suggestion of Barbara Roden, who is the editor of All Hallows, I set these discoveries to paper. In short, the article I began in the spring of 2003 was a condensed biography of Le Fanu with an emphasis on his life and work in relation to the city of Dublin. The article now forms the middle section of Gothic Dublin.
When I moved to Stockholm that summer, I decided to write two more such "articles" in hopes that I would end up with something book length and possibly even marketable.
The next article I decided to write was on Bram Stoker. Being in Sweden this was a more difficult task than I had first imagined. The Royal library in Stockholm had 14 copies of Dracula and little else. Not that I expected them to have a copy of Stoker's first book which is laboriously entitled The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland. I scrounged for a few books, ordered a few more, took a trip back to Dublin that winter and by late January 2004 ended up with what I thought was a pretty good article on Stoker (even though I had not read Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions).
The third article I wrote was on Charles Maturin, whom I am convinced that, of the three authors in the book, would make for the best drinking partner. I also suspect he was a pretty good dancer too.
Anyway, this part of the book was written in the summer of 2004 shortly after I returned to Dublin. This was the most difficult portion of the book to write as there is little information about Maturin. In fact, the only substantial biography was written by a Finn with the unusual name of Niilo Idman. That's N-I-I-L-O. I found out later that Idman is well-known in Finland for translating the works of Poe.
Here in my email I had copied the first lines of "The Raven" in Finnish, but I won't attempt to read them tonight on the off chance that there are any Finnish people in the audience.
This brings us to the autumn of 2004. I had my manuscript, complete with photos and appendices, which I dutifully sent to some 35-40 publishers in Ireland, England and North America. The postage cost a small fortune. This small fortune in turn bought me a stack of rejection letters, many of which frustratingly said things like: "What a fascinating and unique book! We enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, we cannot publish it."
The manuscript sat on a shelf until January 2006, when I found an ad for an assistant editorship position at Nonsuch Publishing. So naturally I sent them a copy of the book proposal. Less than a week later I received a phone call at around noon. I cleared my throat and pretended I had not just got out of bed. Noelle Moran, the editor who read the proposal, said to me, "We're interested in your book." I didn't know what to say other than, "Would you like to read it first?" So I sent the full manuscript. Another week went by before I got a reply. This time I was awake. "We're still interested in your book," she said. To which I replied, "You have read it, right?" She had, she liked it, and in February, as you know, I signed the contract.
Back in 2004, when I was sending the manuscript to prospective publishers, I was using an illustration by Meggan Kehrli as a mock-up cover. Those who have read my chapbook The Old Tailor & The Gaunt Man will be familiar with Meggan's work.
In fact, the cover for Gothic Dublin is an illustration from The Old Tailor & The Gaunt Man which is the orange Swan River Press chapbook.
So when the topic of a cover for Gothic Dublin arose, it was generally decided that Meggan's illustration suited perfectly. And Meggan, thankfully, agreed.
Why stop there, I thought. After persuading Nonsuch a little, I was able to enlist the help of Duane Spurlock. Duane illustrated the other Swan River Press chapbooks including: The Snow Came Softly Down, the forthcoming No. 70 Merrion Square, and another story I'd written with an Irish title that I can't pronounce [Tigh an Bhreithimh].
Gothic Dublin reprints one short story by each of the authors covered, so it was decided that Duane would use his talents to illustrate the work of the masters. And so he did with excellent results as usual.
To top it off Pat Liddy, a local historian, scholar, artist, writer, entrepreneur and probably master chef as well, kindly agreed to write a foreword, for which I am exceedingly grateful.
Mr. Liddy has a pretty good excuse for not being here tonight: he is in Moscow, which I am told is somewhere east of Dundalk.
Bridgette Rowland and I spent the summer and early autumn wrangling with proofs and edits, a first experience for me, and one that I do not think I will forget any time soon. Which brings us to tonight, November 3rd, 2006. Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin is finished. I think it turned out pretty well, and I hope you do too.
I'd like to thank everyone again for coming, especially Duane who flew all the way from Kentucky to be here tonight. Also Eoin Purcell, Bridgette Rowland and Kerstin Mierke at Nonsuch, Pat Liddy for his introduction, Barbara Roden for her initial prodding, Jim Rockhill, Douglas A. Anderson, Mike Osbourne, David Lass, Gary W. Crawford, and Elizabeth Miller for their valuable advice and encouragement.
So if anyone has any questions, I'll be over there by the wine.
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