1. Ann, Brian, and Jim at Le Fanu's tomb.
2. Jim and Brian at 70 Merrion Square.
3.The Central Hotel, Exchequer Street.
4. The P-Con crowd.
5. Reading "Favourite No. 7 Omnibus".
6. Jim, Jonathan, Brian, and Sean.
7. Cecilia Ahern's new book.
THE LAUNCH PARTY
by Jim Rockhill, © June 2008
MARCH IN DUBLIN--bright blue skies with a gentle breeze one moment, charcoal grey with driving precipitation and sudden violent gusts of wind the next. The streets are teeming with natives and visitors, gutters and alleys with the skeletal remains of umbrellas torn apart by recent gusts of wind and hail.
I had arrived in Dublin early Thursday morning from Michigan, and had spent a rapturous, if rigorous, first day touring the Le Fanu-related sites at Mount Jerome Cemetery, The Bleeding Horse, and Merrion Square. The following evening, 28 March, marked the opening ceremonies for P-Con V, and found Brian J. Showers, his mother Ann, his stepfather Larry, and myself traveling from Rathmines to the convention center, noting the way Rathmines Road changed its name as it reached deeper into the heart of Dublin: Richmond Street South, Upper Camden Street, Lower Camden Street, Wexford Street, and Redmond's Hill all passed in succession, their varied architecture and quaint histories relegated to another day of exploration. Here was Aungier Street, but only a few Old Houses remained, and it was singularly devoid of Strange Disturbances. And here, to our right, a few blocks along South Great Georgeís Street, an ornate green glass awning on Exchequer Street announced the "Central Hotel". Into the lobby and up the Victorian staircase we carried our suitcase laden with treasure, entrusting it and the books inside to a gentleman named Brian Nisbett within whose large red beard lurked a ferocious smile.
The books safe, we retired to the hotelís Library Bar, a dark, comfortable place of loaded bookshelves, antique yet comfortable furniture and the kind of ambience in which I imagine Dunsanyís Jorkens would have been comfortable relating his tall tales. It proved a favorite gathering for members of the convention between events and late into the evening throughout the week.
Having lubricated our parched throats with liberal amounts of hot tea and cold fresh Guinness, we gathered in the hotelís alternative convention room for the eveningís opening ceremonies, presided over by the witty, jovial, and obviously much-loved Frank Darcy, whose black tuxedo accentuated the trace of pallor he still bore from a recent severe bout of illness and leant his often macabre ruminations a certain Mephistophelean glamour.
Brianís introduction to the history and social milieu behind his stories was received with raucous glee, the author clearly in his element and matching the audience in the packed room quip for quip, allusion for allusion, there being no doubt that his presence was deeply appreciated and this sparring match a mark of giddy respect, which Brian clearly reciprocated. My own brief remarks concerning the book were no more than a strange interlude preceding the main event--Brianís riveting reading of "Favourite No. 7 Omnibus", a story I knew well from having read it several times while the present volume was in progress. Brianís reading caught nuances of the story and the distinctions between narrative voices in ways that I had not anticipated, and the audienceís response to the manner in which he layered true events and real locations into the story, as well as the leavening of humor, made it clear to me just how powerful this story and its companions were.
Applause following the reading was, not surprisingly, loud and long. The two chamber-style Poe reenactments that concluded the evening were clearly anticlimaxes, despite creative touches and the finesse of the actors portraying the vengeful Montressor and the distraught master of the Black Cat.
Afterwards, I had a chance to meet two friends of Brian and members of the late lamented Bram Stoker Society, Sean Bourke of the European Commission and the artist Jonathan Barry, who regaled me with local ghostly lore and suggested additional locations I must see before leaving Dublin. The editors of the Irish Journal Gothic Studies, Bernice Murphy and Elizabeth McCarthy, were not able to attend the opening, but were able to grace us with their charming presence and erudite discussion of ghostly literature following the convention's closing ceremony.
I was, alas, granted but a short sojourn in Dublin and its environs, departing for dear, dreary Michigan by the beginning of the next week. But I continue to recall my trip vividly and count this book launch as one of the highlights.
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