Cover of Thirty-Two Words for Field by Manchan Magan
Title: Thirty-Two Words for Field
Author: Manchan Magan
Date read: February 1, 2021
Rating: ★★

A disclaimer: I’m writing this not because I’m proud of the feelings and thoughts I had but because the first step in interrogating why I felt these things is by addressing them.

Early on in this book, Manchan Magan (who I knew nothing about) announces that he’s descended from The O’Rahilly. Like he’s establishing his bona fides in writing a book about the Irish language and how it affects the Irish psyche. And then he goes on to mention it again and again. And this was the point at which the book sort of lost me. It didn’t feel like it was a fun, standalone little book any more. Because one thing the book didn’t address about the Irish psyche is our tendency towards begrudgery. And the more I read of the book, I just kept thinking: would this book have been written if this man wasn’t an O’Rahilly? I’m not saying he’s not a good writer (he’s a perfectly fine writer), but certainly I think that his name probably helped grease some wheels and open some doors. Doors that perhaps wouldn’t have opened so easily for a better writer without the same connections.

Ireland has a deep culture of nepotism and it genuinely makes me very uneasy to see so few family names at the top of the list of quote-unquote “important people” in Ireland (e.g. ex-director of RTE television, Helen O’Rahilly, related to The O’Rahilly “by cousins”, but you get my point).

Anyway, if I’d never found this out about this book or if it had been announced much later, I’m sure I would have felt a lot different about it. But as it is, it left a rotten aftertaste in my mouth.

(PS the weekend after I originally wrote this, Eve Hewson (daughter of Bono) was on the front cover of the Sunday Independent Magazine because she’s starring in a new Netflix TV show. Make of that what you want.)