Review: Humour: Stuff Irish People Love by Colin Murphy and Donal O'Dea
The O’Brien Press, €9.99
As book covers go, this one is either heavenly or hellish, depending on your point of view. It's the Sacred Heart alright, the same picture that's in thousands of Irish homes, the one that often has the little red light below in the shape of a cross.
The garments are the same. The divine hands are in position for a blessing. But look closer. One hand is holding a pint and the other has a cigarette between the fingers.
This Sacred Heart looks like he is having a pint and a smoke outside his local and the amused expression suggests he is enjoying the chat rather than saying his prayers. In fact this Sacred Heart is enough to give a traditional Catholic a heart attack.
The pint-swilling, cigarette-smoking Jesus adorns the cover of a new book of humour from O'Brien Press. For those lacking in the humour department, it could be the most controversial cover to hit the shelves for some time.
The Catholic Church may be less popular than it used to be, but is Ireland ready to poke fun at the country's most sacred image? Not that a little controversy will bother either the publisher or the authors.
The book is called Stuff Irish People Love and it's subtitled The Definitive Guide to the Unique Passions of the Paddies.
It's a tongue-in-cheek compendium of almost 100 of the iconic objects and habits that make us uniquely Irish, like Tayto Crisp Sandwiches, Red Lemonade or Being Drunk at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Number 48 on the list is the Picture of the Sacred Heart, the one still on the wall in so many Irish kitchens.
The book is the work of Colin Murphy and Donal O'Dea, the team responsible for the bestselling Feckin' series of books about Irish culture. O'Dea is the illustrator and according to O'Brien Press he must take full responsibility for the Sacred Heart cover.
All of the objects or habits are described and analysed over a page or two and the humour is in the glorious absurdity of it all. It's very much in the same irreverent vein as the authors' Feckin' books (The Feckin' book of Irish Slang, The Feckin' book of Irish History etc) which now have 13 in the series.
This is the same idea, with knowing cultural pretensions, and will probably be a huge hit with tourists, like the Feckin' books. Although the tourists may miss some of the subtleties.
Some of the other uniquely Irish items or habits that are featured in the book are:
•Marietta Biscuit Butter Sandwiches (with the butter squeezed through the holes).
•Unmarried couples sleeping in separate bedrooms when visiting their parents even though they've been living together for years.
•Culchies doing their Christmas shopping in Dublin on December 8.
•Seeing England being beaten by anybody at anything.
•Eejits with no teeth appearing on game shows like Winning Streak.
•Having 12 children.
•Shouting Yeeeeow in the middle of a traditional. Irish tune
•Leaving Mass during communion.
•Saying Ah No I Won't three. times before accepting the offer of a drink.
•Pretending you think U2 are crap.
•Remedying every situation by putting the kettle on.
•Miming the National Anthem at matches.