More than 20 Irish speakers and readers gathered in Long Island City to have a raucous round-table talk together this past Saturday. The impressive turn-out had come to discuss the novel “Sobalsaol,” written by the popular author and screenwriter Pádraig Standún.
"Irish speakers make excellent use of the Internet," said Daithí MacLochlainn who organizes Club Leabhar for Irish language book-lovers (hence the name). It's how he explained the group's unexpected size. The club uses a Facebook page; while club member Séamus Blake described the reading material and has promoted the gathering on his bi-lingual Irish language radio program Míle Fáilte on WFUV -available on-line.
The Irish Center of Long Island City plays host to Club Leabhar and is also the home of Maura Mulligan's Irish language school, where she teaches the teanga using total immersion techniques in two classes divided according to different levels of introduction.
The Center is one stop, three minutes away (I timed it!) from Grand Central in Manhattan in a neighborhood that has sprouted boutiques, cafés and MoMa's PS1--proving that the boundary separating Queens is more psychological than physical.
The Club plans to meet at the Center again in March to discuss Biddy Jenkinson's hilariously written and uniquely conceived biography (in the form of surreal detective stories based on the life) of Patrick Dineen whose work as a linguist highly influenced the Gaelic Revival before independence. As always, members meet at LIC Bar after the book discussion, and continue the conversation in Irish well into the evening. The Gaeltacht is only a subway stop away from the middle of Manhattan, and there's a céad míle fáilte for anyone who wants to engage Irish culture through its first language.