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A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub Hardcover – February 3, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Shhhhhh. . . . Don’t tell, but this is really a book about globalization, not about “yer only man” (i.e., the well-pulled pint of porter). With “Oirish” pubs cropping up in every burg and burb, what has happened to the originals? American emigrant Barich starts looking around his new neighborhood in Dublin for the pub of his dreams, where the pints are frothy and the conversation lofty. He finds the locals, both the pubs and their patrons, displaced by glamorous versions of themselves, and he discovers that he has unwittingly become part of a global plot to replace the real with the faux. He finally does find a few remaining magical places (once he gets out of Dublin, which for some readers will not be soon enough), but they are hanging-on-by-the-thumbnails operations in danger of going poof or pouf. Most browsers will pick this up because they want to read about Irish pubs, but they will get much, much more than they expected. An excellent, however sneaky, addition to the literature of globalization. --Patricia Monaghan


“With scholarly rigor, he surveys the literature on the history of drinking, drunkenness and pubs before rewarding himself with the grueling and perilous fieldwork of sampling deeply from the 12,000 outposts in Ireland where alcohol is sold by the glass…Mr. Barich's picaresque meander through the Irish bloodstream is an entertaining survey of the culture and commerce of Ireland at a tremulous moment in its history…Fascinating.” ―William Birdthistle, Wall Street Journal

“Barich weaves a never-ending stream of oddly engaging historical and literary references into every dead end…Barich's passion for boozy subjects is broad and undeniable. He's equally at ease covering the effects of the temperance movement and introducing regional slang terms for being drunk.” ―James Oliver Cury, New York Times Book Review

“The American writer Bill Barich moved to Ranelagh, on Dublin's south side, some time ago and set out to find the perfect Irish pub. A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub is an engaging account of his quest and investigations.” ―Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

“Nicely researched, intelligently written, his book is a fun read tinged with melancholy at the thought of time passing and things changing; appropriately Irish, I think.” ―Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717016
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,855,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Drink is a good man's weakness." Proverbial wisdom Barich passes along during his personal and historical tour of Irish pubs. "Fairytale Ireland" may be marketed under the "Irish Pub Concept" pre-fab faux-antique corporate chains, as traditional pubs decline and decay under stricter drunk-driving laws. These in turn necessitated by the commuters ripping along (Barich estimates a fifteen-fold increase) rural roads as tract homes tear up fields for the Celtic Tiger's rapacious tail. And, such new residents don't frequent the "local," preferring their Carlsberg or Coors in cans from the logoed franchises that replace the family-run stores in the market towns overwhelmed by the blow-ins from the cities and all over the world.

So the cycle continues, and Long Island-born, California-residing Barich, now moved himself to Dublin, tells the tale of a slow death to civility, custom, and charm. About half his book takes place in Dublin, and he tells each chapter set there with grace and pace. He knows how to veer from his main story into anecdotes and byways before returning to his narrative, and this relation of his saga reflects well how a tale's told by a teller in a pub. He classifies the remaining pubs into trophy bars, pitched for tourists more than the neighbors and often based on their venerable status; pleasant but less distinguished corner houses; and corporate chains, which in Ireland appear to erase their "tradition" for a streamlined gentrification, even as abroad you find such enterprises as a hundred "Harrington & Sons" fake pubs saturating the Italian consumer.

Such globalization leads to Irish rejection of Guinness as an old man's heavy stout.
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Format: Hardcover
A PINT OF PLAIN: TRADITION, CHANGE AND THE FATE OF THE IRISH PUB arrived too late for St. Patrick's Day feature in our March issue but deserves a place in any general lending library strong in Irish history, culture and food and drink. After meeting an Irishwoman in London and moving to Dublin the author began seeking a traditional Irish pub to be 'his'. His search offers views of a bygone Ireland, modern Irish culture, blends in literary references, and offers a warm glimpse into Irish drink and daily living. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a Pint of Plain, Bill Barich takes the reader with him as he searches for the "traditional" Irish pub in post Celtic Tiger Ireland. Weaving tales of some of Ireland's more colorful and notable pub dwellers and a discussion of the evolution of Ireland's pub culture into his urban and rural jaunt, the author is clearly disppointed with what he sees as an Ireland embracing a modernity that replaces what to him might have been a more charming past. At the end of the day, who's to say what defines "traditional"? I'm confident that Barich didn't draft his manuscript with a quill and that his search was not executed on horseback. So, as slick and contempory as it may have become, why begrudge an Ireland eager to embrace a higher standrard of living and an Ireland that is not content to be someone's museum piece? Why condemn smart and business savvy publicans who understand and respond to the wants and expectations of a changing clientele?

Shunning anything that runs afoul (read: television and recorded music) of his pub ideal and dismissing those shops that flirt with an atmosphere that might be defined as "traditional" by most standards as prepackaged, prefabricated, Ireland-by-Disney shlock, Barich seems more interested in simply finding a pub that suits him.

Opining on how Ireland's culture is being exported while concurrently being diluted at home, the author's search seems to be more a quixotic quest that has no more chance of success than a search for Waltons Mountain or Walnut Grove. Ultimately, what he is nostalgic for in the Irish pub is rooted in a time when Ireland suffered poverty, economic stagnation and an oppressive theocracy. Would he be content to assume that baggage as part of his desire for "tradition"?
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Format: Paperback
This book follows the author's attempt to come to terms with his search for the true Irish pub in the midst of globalization and the massive changes that have happened in Ireland since the 1960s. Barich is aware that the authentic isn't always easy to find and at some level may even be an illusion. However, he doesn't want to give up looking.

He's in love with the movie The Quiet Man (not one of my favorites, but OK) and the chapter on the horrible disappointment that he experiences in going to Cong, where it was set, is poignant. Personally, I'm all for bars/pubs/taverns/whatever without TVs. I can appreciate that part of his search and his disappointment in finding more Americanized pubs wherever he goes. At the same time, he notes that his Irish friends don't want to go back to their childhoods of repressed, depressed 1960s and earlier Ireland either.

I'd thought that the book would be a cozy read about "fairytale Ireland," as he calls it. It was more interesting and insightful than that because he tries to figure out what to do when an ideal is receding but still present.
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