As a teeny-tiny independent publisher with nobody shouting at me to ‘make more money, you bozo’, I get to do stuff that maybe some other publishers don’t – like publish a collection of humorous prose from a long-dead Canadian writer that most people will never have heard of and dedicate said collection to the memory of the English teacher who gave me my love of the written word.
Stephen Leacock was a rock star in his time. He inherited from Dickens and Twain and bequeathed his literary talents to Woody Allen, Douglas Adams, Monty Python. Spike Milligan and pretty much every humorous author that came after him. His mixture of social commentary and absurd parody stretched his reading public, readying the next generations for what was to come.
I first came across his short story ‘A,B &C’ in a secondary school English textbook. My teacher at the time was Dennis Dunning, who has since, sadly, passed. Dennis gave me more confidence, as a writer, than anyone in my life. One day, as I was packing to leave his class and a group of much older boys were arriving for their lesson, he stopped me and shushed the room. Addressing the older boys, he remarked – “If only you guys could write like him.” Me? He was talking about me? It is terribly vain to need such approval, such public approval but I’m a writer, and we do vain professionally. It wasn’t all roses and sunshine, though. He was capable of reproving red-pen comments too. But he showed me that, whatever it was, I had it. Time has yet to rule on whether that it I have is of any use to anyone, but that is by-the-by.
Dennis loved what he did and that came across in every lesson. He never tired of Yeats, of Shakespeare, of Dickens or of Kavanagh. He never grew weary of his student’s ham-fisted attempts at expression or analysis (mine included). He urged us on, demanding that we experience the text, that we meet the writer, that we connect with the age. Once a year he would bring us, his unwashed Christian Brothers’ students, en masse in a big dirty bus to the village of Prosperous in County Kildare, his hometown, where we would see the local Am-Dram production of Big Maggie or Doctor Fell. He’d be up there on that tiny stage, grease-painted, showing us that the words were alive and vigorous, that the language was real. Those nights will remain with me always.
I finished school and I guess I got lost in the demands of a noisy world. I forget about writing, I forgot about Dennis.
Many years later, during a casual conversation with old school friends, someone said, in passing, that Dennis Dunning had died. I felt sure I had misheard. No. It was repeated – Dennis Dunning had died. Maybe it was months previous, maybe a few years, I can’t remember. I do remember the feeling that something precious had been stolen from me. As a writer I do vain and selfish.
The unwritten plan, the unspoken promise was lost. I never met with Dennis in those years after school, I never shared a pint and a laugh. That I never will is a great sadness.
Today, then, I have this collection, this homage to Stephen Leacock and, by association, a gentle ‘Thank You’ to Dennis Dunning, the grey-haired, cursing pedagogue. Thank you, Dennis.
From the desk of Thaddeus Lovecraft, April 2015.
Click here to find out more about ‘The Essential Stephen Leacock’, published by Pillar International Publishing.Read More
Pillar has been quiet in January and February, recovering from a blistering 2014. Now that March is here, we are back up on the saddle and ready to take on 2015.
Here is a taster of what is to come in 2015:
The Essential Stephen Leacock
Probably the greatest short-story humourist of all time, Leacock’s prose is still ‘laugh-out-loud’ today. We love him and we want to share him with you. So, we have produced an epic collection of his short stories.
Dangerous Substance by Barry McKinley
On the subject of short-stories, McKinley’s work is funny, modern and dangerous. This collection is beautifully crafted, with tales spanning The Atlantic and The Irish Sea, looking at this wretch that is man and asking us to laugh at ourselves.
Sour by Alan Walsh
A debut novel from the Dubliner, this is a re-telling of Deirdre of the Sorrows with a modern twist and a very Irish vein of dark humour. To be savoured.
The Homecraft Book by Ann Hathaway
A re-issue of a book originally published by Pillar(Dublin) in 1945, this is a gem of a read, presenting 1001 ways to solve the household dilemmas of the post-war wife.
The Ready-Made Kids Quiz & The Ready-Made Schools Quiz
Very popular in 2014, we will be making these book available to a wider audience.
Keep your peepers peeled for upcoming launch dates.Read More
The Pillar Publishing Christmas Shop is now open!
Fill your stockings early with some of the best books for all of your friends and family. Click on the links to preview and order!
All book available in Paperback and eBook.
And we have a free Christmas gift for you! A Kindle version of our Ready-Made Quiz book. Click below to download!
For the Mummies, Daddies, Uncles, Aunts, Grannies and Grandads
For the Boys, Girls, Cousins, Cousines, Nieces, Nephews and Grandchildren
Fresh from the printing presses comes the latest addition to our ‘Ready-Made’ series of quiz books. Designed with more advanced young quizzers in mind, The Ready-Made Schools Quiz is now available to buy from Amazon in eBook and Paperback.
Suitable for children and quizzing delinquents aged 12-18, this book will be great for schools and families.
For families, it will be a great stocking filler and great for passing the time on long car journeys or when a Playstation ban is in force.
For schools, it is a great tool for training the school quiz team, for organising school quizzes or as a reward or prize in school competitions.
1000 questions organised into ten general knowledge quizzes! (Plus bags of tie-breaker questions)
Questions in Art, Science, Politics, History, Religion, Sport, Literature, Geography and Culture.
In what promised to be the Summer of Summers, Sean ‘Nod’ Hickey and his friends Dodge, Eyebrows and Pinhead Duffy begin their adventures with the levity that every 1970’s child remembers. Soon, though, the tensions of adolescent confusion, dysfunctional families and the deepest of tragedies – untimely death – tug at these boyish relationships, dragging them into the real world, the world of growing-up.
“Holden Caulfield comes to Limerick and makes himself at home.” – Mary Coll (Broadcaster and Critic)
“…a tender yet hilarious narrative.” – Irish Examiner
By Thaddeus Lovecraft
So you think you’re Irish, eh? Can you prove it with your library?
Here’s a list of the ten books we believe will prove your Irish provenance, wherever in the world you find yourself. How many have you tried to read? What others would you suggest?
(The titles are links, by the way)
Dubliners by James Joyce
Let’s be honest. You tried to read Ulysses and failed. You tried Finnegan’s Wake and failed. This you just managed.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
You cried so hard your eyeballs fell out.
Pinhead Duffy by Helena Close
You read this to overcome Frank McCourt Syndrome. Eyeballs firmly back in place.
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson
You’ve seen Waiting for Godot on TV or maybe at The Gate and your WTF moment led you to buy and read this book.
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
Bought when it featured in the TV series ‘Lost’, you hoped it would prove to be the key to the show’s convoluted riddles. Many years later, you still haven’t got past the first chapter and you’re still baffled by the last episode of ‘Lost’.
The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle
You remember watching The Commitments and thinking, ‘Yeah, we are the blacks of Europe.’
The Country Girls by Enda O’Brien
You found this in your mother’s room and had to sneak it back every day.
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Your mother found this in your room and had to sneak it back every day.
Anything by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
If you live in Dublin or are from Dublin, then you will have bought eleventeen Ross O’Carroll books in the last two days. If you are from outside The Pale, then you may not know who he is.
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney
After Soundings, this is the only poetry book that you own. It was a present from someone who thought that you are more sophisticated than you actually are. When the great man passed you picked up the book and read a few poems, resulting in a minor epiphany where you realised that you are a deal less sophisticated than you thought.
Thaddeus Lovecraft is a rogue, a scoundrel and a chronic lollygagger.Read More