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A Pint of Plain: How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World

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Seamlessly blending history and reportage, Bill Barich offers a heartfelt homage to the traditional Irish pub, and to the central piece of Irish culture disappearing along with it. After meeting an I rishwoman in London and moving to Dublin, Bill Barich—a “blow-in,” or stranger, in Irish parlance—found himself looking for a traditional I rish pub to be his local. There ar Seamlessly blending history and reportage, Bill Barich offers a heartfelt homage to the traditional Irish pub, and to the central piece of Irish culture disappearing along with it. After meeting an I rishwoman in London and moving to Dublin, Bill Barich—a “blow-in,” or stranger, in Irish parlance—found himself looking for a traditional I rish pub to be his local. There are nearly twelve thousand pubs in Ireland, so he appeared to have plenty of choices. He wanted a pub like the one in John Ford’s classic movie, The Quiet Man, offering talk and drink with no distractions, but such pubs are now scare as publicans increasingly rely on flat-screen televisions, rock music, even Texas Hold ’Em to attract a dwindling clientele. For Barich, this signaled that something deeper was at play—an erosion of the essence of Ireland, perhaps without the Irish even being aware. A Pint of Plain is Barich’s witty, deeply observant portrait of an Ireland vanishing before our eyes. Drawing on the wit and wisdom of Flann O’Brien (the title comes from one of his poems), James Joyce, Brendan Behan, and J. M. Synge, Barich explores how I rish culture has become a commodity for exports for such firms as the I rish Pub Company, which has built some five hundred “authentic” Irish pubs in forty-five countries, where “authenticity is in the eye of the beholder.” The tale of Arthur Guinness and the famous brewery he founded in the mid-eighteenth century reveals the astonishing fact that more stout is sold in Nigeria than in Ireland itself. While 85 percent of the I rish still stop by a pub at least once a month, strict drunk-driving laws have helped to kill business in rural areas. Even traditional I rish music, whose rich roots “connect the past to the present and close a circle,” is much less prominent in pub life. I ronically, while I rish pubs in the countryside are closing at the alarming rate of one per day, plastic I PC-type pubs are being born in foreign countries at the exact same rate. From the famed watering holes of Dublin to tiny village pubs, Barich introduces a colorful array of characters, and, ever pursuing craic, the ineffable Irish word for a good time, engages in an unvarnished yet affectionate discussion about what it means to be Irish today.

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Seamlessly blending history and reportage, Bill Barich offers a heartfelt homage to the traditional Irish pub, and to the central piece of Irish culture disappearing along with it. After meeting an I rishwoman in London and moving to Dublin, Bill Barich—a “blow-in,” or stranger, in Irish parlance—found himself looking for a traditional I rish pub to be his local. There ar Seamlessly blending history and reportage, Bill Barich offers a heartfelt homage to the traditional Irish pub, and to the central piece of Irish culture disappearing along with it. After meeting an I rishwoman in London and moving to Dublin, Bill Barich—a “blow-in,” or stranger, in Irish parlance—found himself looking for a traditional I rish pub to be his local. There are nearly twelve thousand pubs in Ireland, so he appeared to have plenty of choices. He wanted a pub like the one in John Ford’s classic movie, The Quiet Man, offering talk and drink with no distractions, but such pubs are now scare as publicans increasingly rely on flat-screen televisions, rock music, even Texas Hold ’Em to attract a dwindling clientele. For Barich, this signaled that something deeper was at play—an erosion of the essence of Ireland, perhaps without the Irish even being aware. A Pint of Plain is Barich’s witty, deeply observant portrait of an Ireland vanishing before our eyes. Drawing on the wit and wisdom of Flann O’Brien (the title comes from one of his poems), James Joyce, Brendan Behan, and J. M. Synge, Barich explores how I rish culture has become a commodity for exports for such firms as the I rish Pub Company, which has built some five hundred “authentic” Irish pubs in forty-five countries, where “authenticity is in the eye of the beholder.” The tale of Arthur Guinness and the famous brewery he founded in the mid-eighteenth century reveals the astonishing fact that more stout is sold in Nigeria than in Ireland itself. While 85 percent of the I rish still stop by a pub at least once a month, strict drunk-driving laws have helped to kill business in rural areas. Even traditional I rish music, whose rich roots “connect the past to the present and close a circle,” is much less prominent in pub life. I ronically, while I rish pubs in the countryside are closing at the alarming rate of one per day, plastic I PC-type pubs are being born in foreign countries at the exact same rate. From the famed watering holes of Dublin to tiny village pubs, Barich introduces a colorful array of characters, and, ever pursuing craic, the ineffable Irish word for a good time, engages in an unvarnished yet affectionate discussion about what it means to be Irish today.

30 review for A Pint of Plain: How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    Irishness is big business these days, and the always-glamourized role of drinking in Irish culture is as ripe for commoditization as anything else. Irish bars have become a worldwide phenomenon, offering a prepackaged gateway into a mythical world of great conversation, beautiful music, perfect pints, and a sense of belonging that, in theory, you just can't get anywhere else. Using an appropriately loose barhopping structure, Barich tries to find the One True Irish Pub, noting the effects that g Irishness is big business these days, and the always-glamourized role of drinking in Irish culture is as ripe for commoditization as anything else. Irish bars have become a worldwide phenomenon, offering a prepackaged gateway into a mythical world of great conversation, beautiful music, perfect pints, and a sense of belonging that, in theory, you just can't get anywhere else. Using an appropriately loose barhopping structure, Barich tries to find the One True Irish Pub, noting the effects that globalization has had on that Platonic ideal not only abroad, but also back home in Ireland. It turns out that many Irish people themselves have deeply ambivalent feelings about pubs, and that Ireland's increasing wealth means that the romantic stereotype of endless nights of good fun with cheap beer is not only vanishing from most Irish pubs, which increasingly resemble their American counterparts, but may never have actually existed for most people. Barich does a great job investigating what "authenticity" means in the context of Irish pubs, uncovering some good stories along the way. I wish I'd read this before I went to Ireland, it would have made me appreciate my own role as a tourist in how the meaning of pubs has shifted over time a bit more. The book is somewhat of a travelogue: after moving to Dublin for an Irish wife, Barich wanted to find a good local authentic Irish pub of his own. "The Irish pub's attraction is universal, and it cuts across cultural boundaries and crops up everywhere on earth with a frequency matched only by the unavoidable Chinese restaurant." Most people have some sort of ideal bar in their heads, their own personal Cheers, and a good bar should be many things to its patrons. Barich mentions the sociological concept of the "third place", distinguished from the home and the workplace, and how a third place has multiple personalities. Throughout history, bars have been meeting spots, places to write, opportunities to find romance, an escape from responsibilities, and much more, up to more modern concepts like sports-watching venue or place to play skee-ball. In Ireland, which has always had a truly exceptional number of pubs, they've come to play an outsized role in the country's image abroad, especially because so many of its most famous cultural figures spent lots of their time getting drunk in them (though not as much as publicity-hungry bars often claim). Even the title of this book, which Barich takes it from the title of a poem by Flann O'Brien, one of my favorite authors, references this. He quotes the first two verses: "When things go wrong and will not come right, Though you do the best you can, When life looks black as the hour of night - A pint of plain is your only man. "When money's tight and hard to get And your horse has also ran, When all you have is a heap of debt - A pint of plain is your only man." It's especially well-chosen because it alludes to a longstanding debate about drinking culture in Ireland. What seems to one person like a light-hearted ode to beer as a respite from the harsher side of life can seem to another like something less pleasant: simple alcoholism. Ireland enjoys its reputation as a land of carefree revelers, but at many points during its history, there have been major efforts to restrict or prohibit drinking due to the social cost. Those efforts didn't take, obviously, but the idea that pubs might have a downside to them is not unknown in Irish culture, which is a nuance that is often lost in discussion, or in the replication of the Irish pub to distant shores. One man's proud local archetype is another man's embarrassing stereotype, and so a "carefree reveler" and a "wasteful philandering dockworker drinking away the money for our children" might be the same person. "If a man tells you he has mastered whiskey, you can be certain that is the whiskey talking," as Barich relates. We don't really want to talk about downers like that, though. What Barich is after is the upside: the pub as a source of music, fun, and good conversation. As he gradually relates over the many pubs he visits over the course of the book, this imagined utopia is not really a specific place, or even a particular gathering of people, it's a state of mind. He had an image of the ideal Irish pub with a solemn yet friendly publican, conversation that flowed incessantly yet organically, filled with music yet conducive to discussion, steady regulars who always have new stories, and cheap yet not filled with riffraff. Above all, it would feel like his own place conducive to "craic", the Irish word for good times. This is nearly impossible to discover on a travelogue, even though Barich visits an impressive number of bars (some of which I've even been to), in Dublin and around in the countryside. It's difficult not only because as an outsider you can't hope to just drop in and instantly become part of the fabric of people's lives, but also because their lifestyle is changing constantly. Barich cites Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" as part of his discussion of authenticity, as he confronts the question of what it really means to have an "authentic" traditional Irish pub experience in a 21st century Ireland. Ireland entered the 20th century as one of the poorest countries in the west, and left it as one of the richest. "Gentrification" is an incredibly overused word, but the underlying concept of rising rents leading to a changed neighborhood and a changed lifestyle is familiar to most everyone. The appeal of the traditional pub to the Irish is waning, because one of the things that it meant was poverty, and now there's an opportunity to replace those old pubs filled with one type of patron for other kinds of pubs filled with different types of patrons, or even things that aren't pubs at all. Even the publicans, who used to grow up with the pubs and inherit their operation, no longer have the same near-hereditary desire to run them, due to other opportunities. This same conundrum is all over the United States as well, where Irish pubs are themselves a symbol of gentrification (yes, that shamrock-spangled bar that brags about being half-built in Ireland and serves $6 pints is just as "corporate" as any other sports bar), yet the powerful image of an Ireland that doesn't even exist in Ireland anymore attracts people with the promise of some really convivial Irish approach to drinking. Yet, as Barich uncovers, there are many different approaches to drinking in Ireland, and it might be best to just find a place that works for you, invite some of your friends, and see where the evenings take you. Sounds good enough to me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A map would have been great and some pics too!! Lots of interesting commentary here on Irish drinking, history, music, culture, etc.. Sometimes gets a little "dry"-no pun intended--- but a cast of "characters" and road trips to the country keep it going. This is really an ode to the passing of a cultural tradition. Where have all the bars gone?? I'm ready to follow in Bill's footsteps but I better do so fast as many of these gems will be gone soon replaced by suburbs or chains.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rory

    Some interesting facts about the history of Irish pubs often marred by a merry-go-round of boredom, whereby Bill Barich writes about the relatively modern-day history of each pub he enters that he intends to review, and then goes on about the decor, the attitudes of the barmen, the alcohol itself, comparing it all to an ideal that can't possibly be met anymore. It would have been fine if he had either changed up the format, or made it more of a mission to find the ones that suit him and write ab Some interesting facts about the history of Irish pubs often marred by a merry-go-round of boredom, whereby Bill Barich writes about the relatively modern-day history of each pub he enters that he intends to review, and then goes on about the decor, the attitudes of the barmen, the alcohol itself, comparing it all to an ideal that can't possibly be met anymore. It would have been fine if he had either changed up the format, or made it more of a mission to find the ones that suit him and write about spending a few days in each, rather than continually lamenting the loss of the good old days. There is some validity in that, but it doesn't make for an interesting book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Summary: The story starts out with Bill Barich living in Dublin, Ireland with his wife. Bill is looking for an authentic anf successful pub to be his regular, everyday pub. He started his search in Ranelagh but he didn't find any owners that he got along with or a pub with an original Irish atmosphere. He expanding his search in a desparate attempt to assure himself that there were still good irish pubs around. He started traveling all around Dublin and the outskirts of it until he finaly went t Summary: The story starts out with Bill Barich living in Dublin, Ireland with his wife. Bill is looking for an authentic anf successful pub to be his regular, everyday pub. He started his search in Ranelagh but he didn't find any owners that he got along with or a pub with an original Irish atmosphere. He expanding his search in a desparate attempt to assure himself that there were still good irish pubs around. He started traveling all around Dublin and the outskirts of it until he finaly went to a pub whose owner's name was Eugene Kavangh. The pub was authentic with antique irish artifacts hung on the walls and an outdated television that was only turned on for a major news or sports event. Feeling good about his discovery of Kavangh's pub, Bil continued on his search and traveled to so many horrible pubs that he was ready to give up. Then, he found the O.Connor family who owned a pub that was attatched to their home. The pub was very successful anf Bill got along with Mr.O.Connor very well. In the end, Bill just traveled home again in hopes of finding a successful pub near him at a later date. Review: Irish and American culture seem to have many differences. In Ireland, the original tradition is to have your home connected to your place of work. So, a pub owner would have his house connected to his pub. In contrast to that, America is known for it's industrialization era and huge factories that hundreds on people go to each day for work. In Ireland, they seem to value knowing exactly what is going on and being there to fix any problem at all times at their place of work. Another cultural difference that I noticed is that Irish are very protective of their identity and proud to be who they are. America, however, is called "The Melting Pot of the World" because so many people from so many different countries come to America and there is so much diversity. It is difficult to be protective of your identity when anyone can come to America to start a living and call themselves American. I noticed a couple of things about the author's purpose for writing this book. First, he wanted to emphasize just how much of an impact Irish pubs have had on the history of the country and the entire world. In the very beginning of the book Barich establishes the pub's major impact "Its[the Irish pub] attraction is universal, and it cuts across cultural boundaries and crops up everywhere on earth with a frequency matched only by the unavoidable Chinese restaurant."(p2) The second purpose I noticed was that the author simply wanted to write a book about the Irish pub because he is so interested in them. At the very end of the book he points out how long he has been taking notes and writing aobut Irish pubs "A friend in California had alerted me to the existence of the Flann O'Brian Original Irish Pub is Graz, Austria, so I could add it to my file of literary oddities. There was no end to the business of appropriating writers, apparently."(p219) I am excited to find tons of more cultural differences between Ireland and America! The theme of the text is that modern day technologies and advances are depleating and covering up the importance of original traditions and values. Something small that Bill always noticed in the book was whether or not the pub he was visiting had a television or not because, if it did, the pub was not original and authentic enough for him. He decribed televisions as being a "minor-nuisance." When Bil visited Kavangh's pub he commented on it fantastic original qualities that made it successful "Though the two fires were electric, not turf, they kept us warm. The barmen were rock steady and dedicated to Eugene, who tutored them well and exercised a control over the place that was somehow both iron-fisted and as light as a feather."(p23) I completely agree with the theme of this text and that there are not enough original traditions around anymore. I would not recommend this book because the plot line was not very interesting. Just as soon as it would start to progress, Barich would input historical facts and go off on a tangent about them and by the time the historical facts were over, you forgot what was actually happening in the story. Another thing that I didn't like was that Bill traveled to so many different places that I never knew where he was or where he had been. A map of Dublin would have been very helpful to follow along and keep the story line less confusing. All in all, I give the book a two stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve lovell

    The New Brunswick, James Squires, the Alley Cat, Republic, New Sydney, Shipwright’s Arms – all terrific Hobart pubs that I love to frequent – an eclectic mix from the brassy to traditional all serving an equally eclectic range of ales, rather than just the ubiquitous Cascade/Boags - fine tipples though they may be. Once upon a time my favourite was an Irish pub that had seen better days but still retained, I felt, charm with its cosy nooks. It had the best risotto, a fine range of brews and it w The New Brunswick, James Squires, the Alley Cat, Republic, New Sydney, Shipwright’s Arms – all terrific Hobart pubs that I love to frequent – an eclectic mix from the brassy to traditional all serving an equally eclectic range of ales, rather than just the ubiquitous Cascade/Boags - fine tipples though they may be. Once upon a time my favourite was an Irish pub that had seen better days but still retained, I felt, charm with its cosy nooks. It had the best risotto, a fine range of brews and it was a must on a Friday eve before watching the footy. Sadly its owners sold and the new ones decided to yuppify, taking away the charm to appeal to the hipster set. In days of yore, when Hobs was the base for every whaler decimating the southern seas, the city had one of the highest ratio of pubs per person in the world – and almost as many brothels. But of course these days my little metropolis under the mountain is no Dublin, where Bill Barich has his adventures, accompanied by endless pints of the ‘black stuff’. That city has spouted one of the world’s most lucrative franchises, the ‘traditional’ Irish pub, and now exported world-wide, as were the Irish themselves during the diaspora. It is done so to a very strict formula, a world away from the ancient rural bars of the Emerald Isle. Why this love of everything Irish – Barich’s theory is that it is all down to John Ford’s classic ‘The Quiet Man’. Does this explain the globe’s love of Guinness as well? This well honed book has something of Bill Bryson’s ‘House’ about it. In the same way that Bryson did for each room of his stately home, the author does for pubs in that he uses them as a starting point to riff on the history, customs and quirks of his chosen home. But finding the real ‘authentic’ Irish pub as eulogized by Ford was not a given, causing Barich to crisscross his city and the Republic in his search. Thankfully he does come up with examples that were not tarted up facsimiles or possessed of the heady atmosphere of a game of lawn bowls. He found a few gems that had the feel, the perfect pint and the craic of the real deal – and from that began the tales. These expansions into Irish lore took in the famous writers that frequented those ale-houses, the dying breed of their paternal publicans as well as of the legendary pint men who consumed from sun-up to sun-down. The book was written just as the Celtic Tiger had reached its zenith, but already the massive number of public houses Ireland boasted was in sharp decline due to ‘over-zealous’ policing and lifestyle changes. Heaven knows how many of the heavenly boozers Barich did manage to locate are left now that the Irish have joined Europe’s ever-growing list of basket cases. I loved his list on what constitutes Irishness (page 174 for those interested), but it also made me sad that again Irishmen and women have their backs to the wall. Many are again leaving for the new world and antipodes. ‘A Pint of Plain’ is a very fine look at something that may not exist for much longer and is well worth a peruse – to be sure!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    My hardcover edition is subtitled "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub" -- which maybe sounded too ominous or academic to early readers; perhaps the publisher thought "magic" and "conquering the world" would sound more attractive/exciting. Certainly Bill Barich is looking for the "magic" as he embarks on his ultimately fruitless quest (or such is the impression he leaves this reader with) to find pubs in Ireland that live up to his romantic vision, inspired by John Ford's "The Quiet My hardcover edition is subtitled "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub" -- which maybe sounded too ominous or academic to early readers; perhaps the publisher thought "magic" and "conquering the world" would sound more attractive/exciting. Certainly Bill Barich is looking for the "magic" as he embarks on his ultimately fruitless quest (or such is the impression he leaves this reader with) to find pubs in Ireland that live up to his romantic vision, inspired by John Ford's "The Quiet Man." He actually travels to the town where the movie was filmed and looks for the fake/real bar being built to replicate the one in the movie! As he puts it near the end of the book, what he wants to find is "the traditional pub, plainly furnished, with no phony bric-a-brac, recorded music, or TV, where a genuine publican ran the show, the barmen (or women) didn't change by the week, and the locals outnumbered the tourists." Not asking for too much! I can't think of a bar anywhere that isn't a total dive and/or doesn't make any money that doesn't have TVs -- though the sound's usually off to allow for the too-loud, generally bad, recorded music to drown out your conversation. But no TV and no music? Might as well expect leprechauns to serve you your Guinness. The "fate" of the traditional pub in Ireland itself is to disappear at about the same rate as "authentic" "Irish pubs" open in malls, airports, and city centers around the world. Of course, there once were pubs everywhere in Ireland; reasons for their decline are many, but include tougher new drunk-driving laws and a changing (economic) culture, in which the erstwhile working-class dockers or farmers in the new European Union Ireland prefer to relax at a nice wine bar or stay home and watch their giant flat screens. Barick remains hopeful that he'll find that perfect old watering hole, so he walks out if a TV's on or the tourists have descended (which of course they do if the pub has any claim to historical authenticity at all), or even if the music isn't live, traditional, and (it would seem) not organized for profit. Not an unentertaining book, but for all its great promise something of a disappointment.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Far too ramble-y for my taste. I suppose I had a bunch of strikes against me on this: I picked it up on a whim. I don't drink. I've never been to Ireland (and rarely visit a pub). But I thought that this would be an interesting to read.   It was tough to get into, when this guy claims he was an expert of any sort on Irish pubs based on watching a film and visiting pubs in other countries and thinking it was what it was like in Ireland. Overall I found his style rather rambling and meandering.   I th Far too ramble-y for my taste. I suppose I had a bunch of strikes against me on this: I picked it up on a whim. I don't drink. I've never been to Ireland (and rarely visit a pub). But I thought that this would be an interesting to read.   It was tough to get into, when this guy claims he was an expert of any sort on Irish pubs based on watching a film and visiting pubs in other countries and thinking it was what it was like in Ireland. Overall I found his style rather rambling and meandering.   I think my main problem is that the guy is looking for something that only matches his ideal, in his head. And as he is an ex-pat, it looks like he brought an unfortunate and impossible bar to meet. I'm not exactly sure what or where he thinks he will find his "perfect" pub, because it sounds like he is searching for something that no longer exists, or is searching for something that really only exists in the movies or film .   Another review points out that a map and/or pictures would have been great, and I agree. For a travelogue it can be very helpful for someone to be able to actually SEE what he's talking about instead of relying on his descriptions. And it would be fun to retrace his path for those interested.   I suppose if you're familiar with Ireland and/or the history of pubs this might be a good pickup. And even then I'd recommend library or bargain.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    A quest for "authenticity," that nebulous concept which, like "cultural appropriation," is nearly impossible to define and may not even exist. Other critics here, I think unfairly, have suggested Barich has avoided the reality of modern-day Ireland, the Celtic Tiger which had its tech boom up until the mid 2000s. There is much reference to changing drinking preferences (home vs away at the pub, wine vs beer and the percentage of the latter that has been absorbed by the former) as well as the gro A quest for "authenticity," that nebulous concept which, like "cultural appropriation," is nearly impossible to define and may not even exist. Other critics here, I think unfairly, have suggested Barich has avoided the reality of modern-day Ireland, the Celtic Tiger which had its tech boom up until the mid 2000s. There is much reference to changing drinking preferences (home vs away at the pub, wine vs beer and the percentage of the latter that has been absorbed by the former) as well as the growing cosmopolitanism of a city like Dublin and its affect on the traditional pub. That's not unique to Ireland's capital. With heightened wealth, comes more choice, more variety. Took a while to get into Barich's voice, but when it settled in, much like the second pint - I was hooked. Elegiac, nostalgic, but with a foot firmly in the present, A Pint of Plain is filled with copious research. I learned, for example, how the phrase "off the wagon" came about. And there are terrific historical diversions about the lingering mystique of the likes of Brendan Behan and of course, James Joyce, who, if he tilted an elbow at as many pubs as they say he did, most certainly would've dropped dead much earlier than he did. 3.5 star.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clinton

    Much like a pint of Guinness, this book went down easily and enjoyably and made me feel better for it. Barich blends travelogue with history, sociology, and cultural anthropology to explore the Irish pub's fate in the face of globalization and other transformative forces. We enter numerous pubs with the author and experience vicariously his pint or two (sometimes more), the ambience, conversation, and characters; quite often the last three are seriously lacking and even the first leaves some to Much like a pint of Guinness, this book went down easily and enjoyably and made me feel better for it. Barich blends travelogue with history, sociology, and cultural anthropology to explore the Irish pub's fate in the face of globalization and other transformative forces. We enter numerous pubs with the author and experience vicariously his pint or two (sometimes more), the ambience, conversation, and characters; quite often the last three are seriously lacking and even the first leaves some to be desired. Along the way, Barish contemplates such topics as authenticity, manufactured nostalgia, and social capital from a truly informed and researched perspective. He weaves these elements together engagingly so that the time spent reading flies by like a cozy couple of hours in your local while turning the pub into a serious subject of consideration.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    Though insightful and informative regarding the globalization and the "fake" Irish pubs popping up across the globe, the author relied too much on tips and travel books. The narrative jumped a little too much for me and at times I was not even sure if he was in the same village/town that he was in, in the previous sentence. I was expecting more from this than his disappointment of all the pubs he was able to enjoy. I understand he was looking for the quintessential true Irish pub of days gone by Though insightful and informative regarding the globalization and the "fake" Irish pubs popping up across the globe, the author relied too much on tips and travel books. The narrative jumped a little too much for me and at times I was not even sure if he was in the same village/town that he was in, in the previous sentence. I was expecting more from this than his disappointment of all the pubs he was able to enjoy. I understand he was looking for the quintessential true Irish pub of days gone by and worried about the future of these pubs but it was becoming downright depressing to read. Overall I enjoyed the experience and also left wondering if all Irish pubs are meeting their demise due to tourists and the rest of the world's perception of what constitutes an Irish pub.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Ross

    (click the image below to watch some comments on this book) Why not subscribe to my channel while you are at it?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Long

    I like this book, about an American's search for the perfect, traditional Irish pub in Ireland. Longing for a pub as shown in The Quiest Man, Barich travels around the Emerald Isle, looking for Fairytale Ireland in the land of the authentically replicated pub. In between his visits to public houses in Dublin and beyond the pale, he offers a seminar on the role of alcohol in Irish life, a history of the Irish pub and its effect on Irish culture, and how the unique Irish sports and literacy scenes I like this book, about an American's search for the perfect, traditional Irish pub in Ireland. Longing for a pub as shown in The Quiest Man, Barich travels around the Emerald Isle, looking for Fairytale Ireland in the land of the authentically replicated pub. In between his visits to public houses in Dublin and beyond the pale, he offers a seminar on the role of alcohol in Irish life, a history of the Irish pub and its effect on Irish culture, and how the unique Irish sports and literacy scenes and the solitude of rural life helped the traditional pub thrive. It's an interesting and well written perspective.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    First of all, the subtitle on my copy says, "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub." Neither subtitles were actually addressed. Barich's book is a travelogue, with a little more froth to it. I did enjoy his journey to seek the perfect pub, as he saw in John Ford's The Quiet Man. There ARE still pockets of charming, REAL pubs in "Fairytale Ireland," but they key to preservation is to KEEP them untapped, away from the transient tourists and outsiders. A pleasant enough book to relax wit First of all, the subtitle on my copy says, "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub." Neither subtitles were actually addressed. Barich's book is a travelogue, with a little more froth to it. I did enjoy his journey to seek the perfect pub, as he saw in John Ford's The Quiet Man. There ARE still pockets of charming, REAL pubs in "Fairytale Ireland," but they key to preservation is to KEEP them untapped, away from the transient tourists and outsiders. A pleasant enough book to relax with.

  14. 4 out of 5

    M. I.

    I'm not schooled enough in Irish literature to comprehend much of the author's literary references (that's my failing), but I also found that the text jumps around a bit too much for my tastes, though the jacket blurb calls the book "seamless." A map would have been nice. I was left wishing Barich had gone back to M.D. Hickey for more insight there. Perhaps best of all, and why I liked the book, was that it got me to thinking of the watering holes that I've frequented in years past and the reaso I'm not schooled enough in Irish literature to comprehend much of the author's literary references (that's my failing), but I also found that the text jumps around a bit too much for my tastes, though the jacket blurb calls the book "seamless." A map would have been nice. I was left wishing Barich had gone back to M.D. Hickey for more insight there. Perhaps best of all, and why I liked the book, was that it got me to thinking of the watering holes that I've frequented in years past and the reasons that I may have found them so accommodating back then and for that, I'm grateful

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    It was slow and a little rambling, like a conversation over a pint with a friendly stranger. I really enjoyed the author's historical tidbits, particularly regarding which authors drank at which pubs, but the mourning and gnashing of teeth over the loss of "fairytale Ireland pubs" got old after several chapters. Is there anything so wrong with accepting that times change? To be fair, though, the book definitely changed my perspective on what makes an "authentic" Irish pub.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Padraic Rafter

    How this Bill Barich can live among Irish people and still look for "the quiet man" kind of Ireland is beyond me, I found this book condescending and almost judgmental. I can only assume it was meant for the u.s. market as it only talks about dollars, but still it is no excuses for trying to capture the heart of "Irishness" and only travel to pubs and bars, please come join Ireland in the present day!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    I admit - I didn't open this book with an open mind. Shame on me. A Pint of Plain How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World Hardcover is an excellent piece of new journalism. My full review will be posted on Green Man Review sometime in March.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eric Berry

    A melancholy-tinged account of the author's travels throughout the isle sampling pint after pint in isolated pubs in the wilds of the West, polished new establishments in the big cities, and the ever more rare traditional pub. In the end the book as much about changes in modern Irish life and the effects of the Celtic Tiger on centuries-old culture and tradition then the pubs themselves. Still, it leaves you thirsty for a pint of plain, an evening of improvised trad and great craic.

  19. 5 out of 5

    bookreader

    Yank, resident in Ireland, bemoans the death of the traditional Irish pub while failing to explore the profound structural changes in the Irish economy responsible for this phenomenon. This material is so dull that it practically extinguishes the nearly universal human desire to down a pint of Guinness at Mulligan's in Dublin.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    An interesting look at the status of Irish pubs in modern Ireland. Barich isolated his research to mainly Dublin pubs, though he did make it as far west as Cong. A more diverse sampling of pubs in the four provinces and Northern Ireland would have made it a better study. Still, you can't go wrong sipping a Guinness with this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

    I really wanted to like this book as I've enjoyed Barich's previous writing. However, I just couldn't get enough traction to continue much beyond halfway through this one - too much research and journalism (interviews), and not enough cultural obervation for me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Boston Book Bums

    Barich writes like he is participating on one of those pint fueled conversations that he is searching for. The conversation is free flowing, tangential, sometimes fascinating, sometimes a little dull, always welcomed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Willingham

    A search for the quintessential Irish pub. Part travelogue, part history and part eulogy to the dying traditional and rural pubs. Interesting and a quick read. Wish I'd had it before my last trip to Ireland

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I need to make an "abandoned" shelf for books that I start and never finish. I couldn't get into this one. I didn't like the writer's style, and maybe I know too much about the subject for his ramblings to interest me. Disappointing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This book staggers despite having the literary and cultural heft of a pint of Miller Lite; a more honest exploration of Irish pub culture would have sliced up the myths that Barich's readers want left intact

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    This was a great book for me to read right now, as I am leaving for Ireland in an hour or so. I now have a few ideas for pubs to visit while in Dublin.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Lots of humor and fun literary references.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Macke

    American dude goes looking for an Irish pub that lives up the true romantic notion; harder than he thought ... really fun journey

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam Northam

    This book makes me want to move to Ireland, and take up residence in the corner of the local pub with a pint of Guinness that is perpetually refilled.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I read about half of this book. It started out well, and if you are interested in the history of the Irish pub it is worth a read, but it didn't hold my attention.

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