Remembering How We Stood: Bohemian Dublin at the Mid-Century

By: John Ryan

Rated 4.75 out of 5 based on 4 customer ratings
(4 customer reviews)


With a foreword by J.P. Donleavy

‘The best book about literary Dublin ever written’ – Frank Delaney

Edna O’Brien chose John Ryan’s memoirs as her Observer Book of the Year in 1975, describing it as ‘a fine and loving account of literary Dublin in the golden fifties, which purrs with life and anecdote’.

This classic evocation of the period 1945-55 celebrates a city and its personalities – Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O’Brien), as well as Pope’ O’Mahony, Gainor Crist the original Ginger Man, and others – a remarkable group who revitalized post-war literature in Ireland.

As friend, publisher, publican and fellow artist, Ryan paints a vivid picture of this ebullient, fertile milieu: ‘No more singular body of characters will ever rub shoulders again at any given time, or a city more uniquely bizarre than literary Dublin will ever be seen.’

As one reads his words, dressed in their wonderful finery of irony, the world he speaks of reblossoms to be back again awhile. To see, feel and smell the Dublin of that day; a masterpiece of reminiscence’ – from the foreword by J.P. Donleavy

JOHN RYAN was born in Dublin in 1925, and attended the National College of Art and Design. He enjoyed a varied life as a set designer, publisher, broadcaster and licensee. He was founder-editor of The Dublin Magazine and secretary of the James Joyce Society from 1970 to 1974. He died in 1992.

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4 reviews for Remembering How We Stood: Bohemian Dublin at the Mid-Century

  1. Rated 4 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “John Ryan, a publican, was one of the small crowd of literati we can credit (or blame) for the first Bloomsday commemorative walk, which bogged down into pub-crawling prematurely on the 50th anniversary of that June day, 1954. His memoirs won’t tell you much about himself, but lots about the milieu from which Donleavy’s “The Ginger Man” attained notoriety in decades past.

    Paddy Kavanagh comes off as especially waspish here; Flann O’Brien as clever as you’d expect; Brendan Behan’s responsible for some hilarious anecdotes–the cats and the steak my favorite–and also irritation and disgust, as we see through Ryan’s eyes how playing up to his reputation brought him low. “Pope” O’Mahony, a lesser-known character but equally deserving of fame, exasperates as an erudite, gnomic leg-puller. The only one whose aura seems too dim here–as Ryan admits, at least on paper–is the Ginger Man’s inspiration, the enigmatic Gainor Crist.

    I expected more about the infamous “catacombs” about which Behan’s recent biographer, Michael O’Sullivan, wrote, and about McDaids, but one understands the lack, given that Ryan ran his own pub! His take at the whole drinking and intellectual climate of 1945-55, considered the doldrums of Irish creative life, remains both serious and sardonic, muted and moving, in an inimitable prose open to irony, insight, and inspiration, but never cruelty, one-upsmanship, or false sentimentality.

    (Also recommended: fellow Bloomsday trekker Anthony Cronin. Fiction: Life of Riley. Fact? Dead as Doornails for this era.)” JOHN L MURPHY

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “A gorgeously written account of Dublin and its writers and its personalities in the mid-1900s. Memorably funny touching and insightful accounts of Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien, Padraic Column, and others including Gainor Crist the model for J.P. Donleavey’s wild Gingerman, and the whole tragicomedy of an era. Written by one of Ireland’s last great and true gentlemen, the instigator of the original Bloomsday.” TOM QUINN

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “I wasn’t familiar with John Ryan – he seems to be better known as a publisher – so I was surprised by what a good writer he is. With a book like this, the risk you run is that this is a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time but, luckily, Ryan turns out to be much more than arriviste or opportunist. If you are interested in the times and the characters – Myles, Behan, Kavanagh et al – then this is a book worth getting. If you enjoy a yarn, vibrant portraits of eccentric characters in full flight, you’ll find that here too.”

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. I had only seen references to John Ryan in JP Donleavy works so surprised to discover such an excellent artist in his own right with a fine embrace of the English language. He brings to life all those long departed legendary souls and recreates a Dublin we shall never see again. Very enjoyable.”

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Weight 0.5 kg

June 2008


210x150mm, 184pp