Celtic Reader was born of my love for Irish literature and Celtic myths, as well as my Irish heritage. My family came to America in the 1880's from County Roscommon. We still have the sea trunk from the journey that they took so long ago.
When I was ten, I discovered the marvelous Chronicles of Prydain, a series of fantasy books written for children by Lloyd Alexander; the fascinating adventures and characters in these tales are based on the Mabinogion, the myths of ancient Wales. Out of this grew an enthusiasm for Arthurian legend, King Arthur and Merlin and strong women like Morgan Le Fay. I took to pirate adventures and Errol Flynn movies. It was a good diet of adventure and creativity for a youngster, and one encouraged wholeheartedly by my parents, who loved to read themselves. We took summer trips to Cape Cod which were reading fests on wind-swept back porches. I can still envision myself reading for the first time many of my favorite books, in that wild, sea side setting.
As I grew older I discovered James Joyce - with what joy did I perambulate around Dublin with Stephen Daedalus! And what horror did I feel at the depradations of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, as his picture grew to look more evil and disolute, hidden away behind its curtain. Then I discovered Yeats' love for Maud Gonne and I began to understand the man behind the nation "changed, changed utterly".
When I found the beautiful, lyric writing of James Stephens - the passionately funny words and plots of Flann O'Brien - the strong yet sensitive poetry of Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney - I knew that the Irish had taken a "foreign" language (English!) and danced circles around their conquerors by creating literary miracles with it. After all, it took an Irishman (the aforementioned Seamus Heaney) to truly translate the great English epic “Beowulf” properly. At this point, I was completely and totally smitten with Irish literature and culture.
In college, I had the pleasure of studying a semester at Maynooth College in County Kildare. There I took an Abbey Theatre course with the world-renowned Tomas MacAnna, who had worked closely with writer and playwright Brendan Behan. We went to numerous plays with Tomas, saw private recordings of Abbey Theatre productions, heard interesting stories of Ireland's artists from one who had known them personally. It was an experience I still think of with great joy.
One day I took a look at my overcrowded bookshelves and decided I wanted to share books like these with others. It was from this moment that Celtic Reader came into being.
For a while we took our Celtic bookshop on the road, setting up shop at Irish and Celtic events all over the east coast. We no longer “take our books for a walk”, but the festivals and the many book loving people we’ve met at them are very dear to us. Please see our festival list for events across the US. These festivals enlighten so many people to the rich and fascinating culture of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you have an event not listed here, please send us the details. If there’s one listed in your area, please attend and have a wonderful time!
I'd like to thank you personally for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy our selection of books, teas and gifts. You have many happy hours of reading ahead of you!
Janet McGrane Bennett