Wednesday, March 11, 2009


On the eve of a departure for Ireland, I am reading a horrifying memoir, Kevin Myers's WATCHING THE DOOR: Drinking Up, Getting Down, and Cheating Death in 1970s Belfast (Soft Skull Press, $15.95). As one turns a page, one's stomach turns. To call this book a disturbing read is to understate preposterously.

A freelance journalist in Northern Ireland, Myers was witness to the visceral awfulness of the Troubles up close. His pungent prose indicts both nationalist and unionist communities, the British security forces, the IRA, various Protestant paramilitaries, and even himself, at times, for foregoing morality and being complicit in the vile misrule of conscience that polluted parts of the North for several decades. If you, dear reader, wish to get an almost too-tangible sense of what the Troubles in Northern Ireland were like, this book will serve you as well as a more objective historical analysis. The only flaws inflitrating the story are superfluous reports on Myers's various romantic trysts. The blood, bombs, and sustained depravity described elsehwere just do not allow these sexy interpolations seem anything but commercial breaks in the narrative, hardly a reprieve.

post script:

The report of Real IRA assassinations earlier this week sends a particularly sharp tremor as one reads WATCHING THE DOOR. The fanaticisms and hatred seem to have died down in Northern Ireland--peace has mostly prevailed and thank god--but still there are seethings under the surface. J/C