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Book reviews in brief: From a rehabilitation of Oliver St John Gogarty to the long-standing Irish love of imbibing

Oliver St John Gogarty: The Real Buck Mulligan by Guy St John Williams; Enjoying Claret in Georgian Ireland by Patricia McCarthy; and Hanging Out by Sheila Liming

Oliver St John Gogarty: The Real Buck Mulligan by Guy St John Williams

Somerville Press, €18

Gogarty’s grandson here seeks to redress what he regards as Joyce’s deliberate misrepresentation of his former friend and benefactor in Ulysses. He agrees with Kathleen Ferris that Joyce contacted syphilis and that Gogarty’s lighthearted mockery of Joyce’s condition was at the root of the subsequent antipathy that led to the creation of Buck Mulligan. Making fun of someone’s disability was a Gogarty weakness, according to Padraic Colum, and that was the Gogarty Joyce was to portray in his Buck Mulligan caricature. But there was a lot more to the extraordinary polymath that Gogarty was than that; ultimately, Joyce benefited far more from the relationship than Gogarty and, to the latter’s credit, he did not bear a grudge. The family link yields interesting insight but too much irrelevant material (houses, ancestry and so on). Brian Maye

Enjoying Claret in Georgian Ireland by Patricia McCarthy

Four Courts Press, €40

This account of 18th-century Ireland’s love affair with claret, taking off when Irish families (part of the Wild Geese exodus) became involved in the Bordeaux wine trade, is felicitously subtitled “a history of amiable excess”. It discusses, inter alia, the Irish penchant for claret; storing and sale of wine; how the gentry competed to outdo each other in hospitality (viceroys’ popularity depended on their hospitality, one dying of overeating and overdrinking at 33), and the central role of toasting, especially among men-only clubs and fraternities (including the notorious Hell Fire Club). Amusing and interesting stories abound, from Swift, Jonah Barrington and others, as do condemnations, from, for example, Samuel Madden and the Earl of Orrery, who called gout (an inevitable rampant side effect) “the Irish hospitality”. Beautifully illustrated; an imbiber’s delight. Brian Maye

Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time by Sheila Liming

Melville House, £22.59

This book attests to the social, political, creative and personal importance of “hanging out”. Less manifesto than exploration, Hanging Out is a perambulation of arts criticism, social commentary and personal anecdote that professes to the vitality of unstructured social time in a world consumed with productivity. The text contains moments of meaning, moments of insight and moments of meandering, padding and drifting off course, which I guess is the hallmark of hanging out. Some chapters are quite specific to the author – for example one detailing the artifice of hanging out on TV with a celebrity chef friend (I’m not sure how many can relate?) and a detailed chapter about hanging out at academic conferences. As to the importance of hanging out, for this reader, Liming is preaching to the converted, but had further convincing been required, some more relatable evidence may be necessary. Brigid O’Dea