Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Kennys Is Going, Now The Waste Land

Kennys Bookstore (to the right) is perhaps the most famous and eccentric independent book shop in Ireland - Brendam Behan read there, along with many other legends (every Irish author worth their salt has read there and some Yanks too) - and now the Galway institution is closing; or what may be worse, going all virtual.

I read at Kennys for the launch of one of my recent collections (the pints after blur the memory) - actually, it was, oddly, the day after my wedding. Flushed and well-dressed, I read for a good crowd.

Mr. Kenny himself sat there puffed up in a three-pice suit at a huge desk in the middle of one of the rooms where books were on sale - slitting open letters with a pen-knife and gruffly answering the old black phone as browsers shifted around him, like some Kubla Kane of Books.

I found a copy of Map-Maker's Colours, the first anthology I co-edited, when I was 19-20, with the Belfast poet Martin Mooney. The reading was fun - read with Kevin Higgins.

My photo was taken for the walls - those famous walls adorned with the photos of the great and the good in the literary world. I had hoped to have more than two years of infamy on that wall, which now comes, allegorically, down like those at Jericho. I wonder if the photos of Behan and Co. will go virtual, too?

In the meantime, we need to panic. If all such independents disappear, the waste land that will come after will not be suited to the life of poets and writers, who like the wine and cheese served in such places.
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