Featured Editor: I Learned How to Write from the Irish

As a VICE writer, I’m always trying to tell the real story with no frills, no fiction, and no pretension.  That’s one of the reasons why Tullamore D.E.W.’s call for “Death to Dishonesty, Long live the Irish True” fits in with my writing style.  Believe it or not, I didn’t invent the idea of calling out the world’s nonsense with wit and sarcasm.  That was done a long time ago – by the Irish.

I wouldn’t be able to write the way I do now if it weren’t for the Irish authors who came before me.  There would be no satire without Swift; no bluntness without Burke; no wit without Wilde.  For this blog post, I wanted to talk about some of the heroes that embody that hardy notion of “Irish True” and how they’ve inspired my writing. 

Illustration of Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels'

First of all, you can’t talk about satire without mentioning Jonathon Swift.  His A Modest Proposal, which drew attention to poverty by sarcastically proposing that the Irish sell their children as food to rich people, is the first example of straight-faced satire that’s actually funny.  If I could employ irony as well as that, I’d be well on my way to being a successful and sought after humor columnist.  Oh wait - I can, I am, and I just did.  Oops.

Then, of course, there’s Oscar Wilde.  If any one guy should be remembered for being true to himself in the face of a dishonest society, it’s him.  His plays were denied licenses, his books were shut down for not being “manly” enough, and he was imprisoned for feeling “the love that dare not speak its name,” but throughout it all he just held up his middle finger and lived the fabulous life he was so famous for living.  “Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much,” he said.  Wilde taught me what I know about writing with that snappy wit and candour that the Irish are known for.

Wilde's statue in Dublin's Merrion Park - Wiki Commons

I don’t need to tell you why James Joyce was a hero since he pretty much revolutionised 20th century fiction with Ulysses, but he’s particularly important for me because he perfected and popularised the “stream of consciousness” style of writing.  That means I can write my thoughts the way they sound in my head.  Writing a blog post would be impossible without, like, basically just spilling my thoughts onto a piece of paper without any of the usual annoying narrative filters that pretentious Victorian writers suffered from like punctuation and a futile obsession with objectivity and stuff even if it does lead to me rambling a lot like I’m doing right now but hey at least it’s honest rambling anyway what were we talking about?

These are just a few, but the list goes on forever.  Irish literature has a history of using satire and wit to shake things up a bit, which is exactly what I try to do when I write.  When Tullamore D.E.W. launched their Death to Dishonesty campaign to "seek out the real and ignore the babble," it made sense to endorse it.  I may not be the next James Joyce, but I’ll jump at the opportunity to promote those Irish True values of realness, friendship, wit and rebellion any day.

Matt Shea started out as an Arts editor for a small magazine, but quickly moved to VICE. He got his foot in the door as an intern, which led to an opportunity to flex his editorial muscles. His first article was a hit, and they rest, as they say, is history.