Irish writers are reading their way to a world record


A total of 111 authors are reading for 28 hours in Dublin to set a new Guinness World Record

PUBLISHING HAS gone through many changes in recent years, but one tome that has stayed the course is the slab of esoteric statistics and stories that is the Guinness World Records book.

People still want to break records – and to make them.

At 10am yesterday in Dublin, the Irish Writers’ Centre (IWC) started its 28-hour attempt to set a new Guinness world record for the most authors reading consecutively from their books.

The current record is 75 writers reading. The IWC has lined up 111 writers, who are not due to finish until today at 2pm.

“It was my idea,” says Jack Harte, chairman of the board at the IWC. “I wanted to put on an event that would promote Irish writers and Irish writing, that would reach as many people as possible.

“With the internet now, you can do that, so we decided we’d do it and live-stream it to the world.”

To comply with the rules, all writers must read from one of their own books, which must have an ISBN number.

The person introducing the event was David Norris, who doesn’t yet have an ISBN number for his memoir, as it hasn’t been published yet.

He told the audience it was due out within a year or so and teasingly said that it would “tell all about all the people who were mean to me”.

The first writer of the 111 to read in the shuttered, candlelit room was John Boyne. Each writer gets a strict 15-minute slot.

Their lectern faces a giant clock and a traffic-light system of green, amber and red lights. As unforgiving as the Oscars, if you over-run your time, the red light flashes and whoever is in the chair will request you stop immediately.

Also present were invigilators from KPMG and the American College in Dublin to verify time-keeping and attendance.

In case someone doesn’t turn up, there are four standby writers. One of them is novelist Emer Martin, who was there yesterday and all set to step up to the mic if needed.

“Even after writing four novels, my kids were never really impressed until I mentioned I could be in the Guinness book of records,” she said.

Among the 111 writers participating were Kevin Barry, Ed O’Loughlin, Carlo Gebler, Catherine Foley, Roddy Doyle, Evelyn Conlon, Mike McCormack, Sarah Webb, Lucille Redmond, Peter Sirr, Paul Perry, Catherine Dunne, and Liam Carson.

At 10am this morning, Seamus Heaney, will read from Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996.

Harte gets the honour of being the final reader. Or, as he declared yesterday, “I’m going to lead the troops over the embankment.”

Over the embankment and, hopefully, into the Guinness World Records book.

Watch the live stream on