Guess who’s coming to dinner at the National Library?

‘Here I am, Aunt Kate!’ cried Gabriel, with sudden animation, ‘ready to carve a flock of geese, if necessary.’

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table, and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin, and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl of chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery sticks. In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting, and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes.

Gabriel took his seat boldly at the head of the table and, having looked to the edge of the carver, plunged his fork firmly into the goose.

…And so turns one of the pivotal moments in one of James Joyce’s masterpieces, ‘The Dead’, which is the final story of his utterly readable collection, Dubliners.

I read Dubliners in college (well it’d have been very rude not to as a post-graduate in Anglo-Irish Literature) but I’ve been really enjoying re-visiting the stories this last week. The book is the focus of this month’s One City, One Book campaign, which sets out to do what it says on the tin. There’s loads of events taking place around the city (that’d be Dublin) revolving around the book (that’d be… oh right, you are paying attention). You’ll find a list of them at www.dublinonecityonebook.ie.

The one I’m most excited about is taking in Cafe Joly in the National Library this Friday 20th from 7pm till about 10pm. It’s free in and there will be food and wine served (you’ll have to pay for that I’m afraid), with one or two hot dishes and lots of lovely grazing material such as smoked fish platters or Irish cheeses and the likes. The cafe is run by two of my best pals so I’m completely biased, but thankfully they’re also great cooks with fabulous taste so I don’t have to compromise myself in thoroughly recommending the cafe for a bit of honest Irish grub. (They do savage sandwiches, gorgeous salads and clever soups during normal opening hours too. Oh and cakes and scones and… you get the picture.)

Anyway this coming Friday there’s going to be a bit of live Irish music including some very special singing and some uilleann piping, and there’s going to be readings of some people’s favourite extracts from Dubliners. And I’m going to be there, hosting the evening. I’ll probably read one or two of my favourite bits. And you’re very welcome to come and read some of your favourite bits too, should you have any. Or just come and listen, and eat and drink, be merry and enjoy a Dublin night out with a difference.

I can’t promise roast goose, but you won’t leave hungry. And you might even leave inspired to get stuck into one of the best reads going too.

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