Recently, Galway’s wonderful Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop tweeted a picture of a display of their favourite indie books, and we were delighted to see plenty of And Other Stories books among their number. It made us realise we’d been neglecting what must be one of Ireland’s best bookshops, so we promptly got in touch to remedy the situation. Although we couldn’t cross the Irish Sea to go in person, it feels like we know them a lot better now, thanks to these excellent responses from the whole team (read to the end for the bonus dog)!
And Other Stories: What do you think is special about Charlie Byrne’s?
Charlie Byrne’s Booksellers: That is hard to say, although if we were pushed we would point to our sense of community and our wish to provide a cultural space as well as a place to buy books. We currently operate six book-clubs, three for adults and three for children, a weekly Saturday morning Storytime with Michaela and we have on average a book launch a week by local or national writers.
What we also think makes us special is our range and mix of books, with over a 100,000 new, discounted and second-hand books in store. We buy books from all over the world so there’s always plenty to choose from!
AOS: If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?
CBB: Vinny maintains that if money was no object he would love us to have every Irish title published anywhere in the world that is still in print, so that we can truly call ourselves THE national bookshop. For Clíona, Mike and John we would love to expand on that and say we would love to have every independent publisher’s book in store. Again, affirming us as the best independent bookshop out there.
AOS: How / why did you get into bookselling?
CBB: Well, for Charlie it all started with a love of books and a book cart 29 years ago. At that time, he was working as an archaeologist before packing it in and setting up a cart at a Saturday market in Galway City. Since then Charlie has moved shop/base twice in Galway before finally settling in our current home in the Corn Store Mall on Middle Street, where we hope to stay for many years to come.
As for the rest of us, well that is an easy question, we got into bookselling as we just love books!
AOS: What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?
CBB: Not sure if we can answer that given some of the colourful and funny things we have heard over the years. But Vinny remembers a customer who came in looking to sell or at least get the value of a Cliff Richard signature to which Vinny responded he wouldn’t really know much about the value of signatures only that Neil Armstrong’s signature is said to be worth a huge amount. The guy, obviously unhappy with this, preceded to exclaim to the whole store ‘sure them f#ckers were never on the moon!’ before storming off with his Cliff Richard signature.
AOS: What’s your favourite And Other Stories book?
CBB: Tough question! But we will go with Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy (tr. Tim Parks). Tomás says it is a gentle and atmospheric book. The emotions are subtly expressed, and Eve’s interest in Frederique is similar to the relationship between Sis and Unn in Tarjei Vesaas’ The Ice Palace. It takes the female friendships found in Enid Blyton’s school stories or shoujo-ai manga, and explores the ambiguities found in them. The prose is sparse and delicate, with secrets hidden between each line.
AOS: What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?
CBB: For Noreen, Michaela and Charlie it’s ITHACA by our old friend Alan McMonagle; for Mike and Emily The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers edited by Sinéad Gleeson; Vinny goes for The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton; Alan goes for Byung-Chul Han’s Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism & the New Technologies of Power; and finally the wonderful Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy for Tomás and Clíona.
AOS: What would be your desert island book?
CBB: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (tr. Michael Hofmann) for Mike; Michaela it’s The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; Charlie picks Mike McCormack’s instant classic Solar Bones; Vinny opts for the Collected Prose of Samuel Beckett; The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich for Clíona; Catch 22 by Joseph Heller for Brendan; Noreen picks the beautiful memoir Woodbrook by David Thomson and the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Tomás.
Bonus dog pic: