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10 September 1998 Edition

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New in print

A book of rich Celtic exploration

Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
By James McKillop
Published by Oxford University Press
Price £30.00 hardback.

The cover of this book describes it as an accessible new work that explores the whole of Celtic mythology, legend, saga and folklore, and with something like 4,000 entries there is plenty of information.

Some of these entries range from brief definitions to extended essays on some of the key tales, themes, characters, concepts and creatures of Celtic mythology.

To me the book is a gold mine of information and one that I couldn't resist reviewing. However, I must point out that it was more of an exploration that a typical review.

I am not academically qualified to review the book but as someone who believes that Irish history, linked to its Celtic origins, is central to our experience as a nation then I was glad to take on the task.

The book, in my opinion, gives a respect to Irish language, culture and mythology that has been lost - or rather destroyed - through the centuries of British colonial occupation. And because this dictionary expands on so many of the themes of Celtic mythology and its legends it establishes the pedigree and authenticity of Irish culture that has been buried by centuries of colonialism and the collaboration of the gombeens who have tried to sell the lie that somehow the Irish were/are inferior.

Also as a Gaelgeoir the book gives me so much information about the language. As someone who looks forward to the day when Gaelige is our first language because it is spoken, then I think this book would a useful addition to the libraries of schools and colleges.

I can just imagine the teachers reading about Crom Dubh, the pagan chieftain defeated by St Patrick when he came to evangelise Ireland, and celebrating the richness and nature-based religion of our pre-Christian history instead of seeing that period as a ``dark age''.

By Peadar Whelan

Look - and think

Photojournalism, catastrophe and war
By John Taylor
Published by Manchester University Press

``Who is to say what is normal curiosity about death?''. John Taylor tries to answer this and other questions on the ethics of photographic exposure of violent and dead bodies through the pages of his book. But don't expect an exercise of journalist morality, because Taylor's attempt is just an analysis, and a very good one, of the use of the photojournalist material by British and North American newspapers, exposing the facts and allowing the readers to think over them.

Body Horror open the doors to the secretive world of editors' offices, where it is decided what readers should know and see. The insight touches home when in one of the chapters, Disaster Tragedy, he unveils for us the so called ``hierarchy of death'' in the British press when reporting the ``Troubles'': `` the first rank - getting the most prominent coverage - are British people killed in Britain; in the second, the security forces, whether army or RUC; in the third, civilian victims of republicans; and, in the fourth, garnering very little coverage indeed, the victims of loyalism.''

But it is not only sectarianism that prevail in the so called Fourth Estate rooms. Other methods of selection are based on racial discrimination and colonial hypocrisy. Taylor highlights how dead bodies of Britons are treated with more respect or restraint than foreigners, and in this way, the British press is inviting the readers to assume that life and death in foreign cultures are primitive and barbaric. ``Even in those stories which spark moral debate, the press uses stereotypes of alien life: they include refugees, corpses and even skeletons in the streets. These pictures contrast with an idealised British system of value, care and order. They imply that outside Britain chaos is the norm, and life is cheap.'' Well, no comment today on the British system of value, care and order...

So, summing up, a very commendable reading. Body Horror will make us think twice when looking at the front page of a newspaper.

By Soledad Galiana

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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