Monday, June 28, 2010
Review of GUBU Nation by Damian Corless (Merlin, 2004)
GUBU is short for ‘Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented’, an acronym coined by the journalist Conor Cruise O'Brien in reference to a phrase by Charles Haughey, the then Taoiseach, in 1982 when describing the situation in which a double-murderer was found hiding in the house of Irish Attorney General: ‘It was a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance.’ The phrase entered the Irish lexicon to describe other such situations. Strangely, GUBU Nation doesn’t bother to tell the reader the origins of this phrase or to set out the rationale for the book or provide any contextual material as to why the book was written and the extent to which Ireland is any more of a GUBU Nation than anywhere else. Instead the book simply starts with the first of fifty or so Irish GUBU stories, some of which are GUBU stories, in that they are grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented, and some of which are simply ‘silly season’ stories. Each story is a few pages long and sets out the basic context and facts. The book itself constitutes what I would refer to as bathroom reading – relatively interesting and entertaining stories that each take a couple of minutes to read. The stories themselves are well written and engaging and cover a broad spectrum of Irish life since independence. Its hardly essential reading for those that want to understand Ireland and its people, but it’s informative and amusing and passes a few hours.