Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Pogues

The Occasional Review, Volume I, Issue 1

An interesting thing about online literary magazines is that there’s no significant difference between a link to a certain short story or poem in the table of contents and a link from Twitter, or a blog, or the author’s home page—you click the link, you go there. I’ve always thought it would be cool to “edit” a “journal” from all the other journals. I envisioned giving my “journal” a distinctive color scheme, a signature font, etc.

Well, I never got around to doing all that. But I did collect a number of pieces I quite admired. So in the spirit of sharing, and pursuing goals no matter how half-assedly, I give you The Occasional Review, Volume I, Issue 1.


“A Good Deuce” by Jodi Angel

“Fairytale of New York: The story behind the Pogues’ classic Christmas anthem” by Dorian Lynskey

“2 Good 2 Be 4Gotten: An Oral History of Freaks and Geeksby Robert Lloyd

“How to Hack Chipotle” by William Hudson

Steve Albini integrates the history of music fads into his hate for Cher’s ‘Believe'” by Marah Eakin

Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America” by John Lingan

“The Forgotten Actress as Isadora Duncan in Russia” by Bridget Lowe

“Why white critics’ fear of engaging Tyler Perry is stifling honest debate” by Joshua Alston

“Confessions of a New Coffee Drinker” by John Friedman

“Haircut” by with Thousands of Internet Commenters

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

(That is, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

A pair of songs in honor of the day, both from The Pogues, one of my favorites. First, a nod to Irish folklore:

And next, an homage to the Irish immigrant experience (which I’d say St. Patrick’s Day is really about):

I find “Thousands Are Sailing” pretty powerful stuff. Particularly moving are the lines around the 4:28 mark: “Wherever we go, we celebrate / The land that makes us refugees / From fear of priests with empty plates / From guilt and weeping effigies.” It seems a nice summation of the Irish experience in leaving home for America.

Finally, name-checked in “Thousands Are Sailing” is the Irish writer Brendan Behan. (Pogues songs are fascinating to me in part because they are so densely referential; they could benefit from footnotes a lot of the time. Listen again to “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” and count all the names of people and places dropped in there. It’s staggering and adds a richness to the lyrics that more than offsets the occasional mystified feeling I get listening to the Pogues.) I’d thought Behan was an old-time Irish hero, a la Michael Collins or Wolfe Tone, but ah, not so. He’s a writer who wrote in English and Irish, and is the author, most famously, of Borstal Boy, a memoir.

I just started Borstal Boy yesterday, but man. It is already giving me chills. Here’s the opening:

Friday, in the evening, the landlady shouted up the stairs:

“Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart. Boy, there’s two gentlemen to see you.”

I knew by the screeches of her that these gentlemen were not calling to enquire after my health, or to know if I’d had a good trip. I grabbed my suitcase, containing Pot. Chlor, Sulph Ac, gelignite, detonators, electrical and ignition, and the rest of my Sinn Fein conjuror’s outfit, and carried it to the window. Then the gentlemen arrived.

Behan, 16, has just arrived in London with orders to carry out a terrorist bombing. He’s taken to prison, which is grim, and a lonely prospect for a 16-year-old:

As I stood, waiting over the lavatory, I heard a church bell peal in the frosty night, in some other part of the city. Cold and lonely it sounded, like the dreariest noise that ever defiled the ear of man. If you could call it a noise. It made misery mark time. (pg. 9)

Ah, there is nothing like Irish writing when it’s good. (On that point, see here.) I’m looking forward to the rest of the book more for the casual bits of poetic prose that are all but guaranteed, much more than the sure-to-be-dire story of Behan’s time in a “borstal”—an English reform school.

Anyway, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh, everybody. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh