Book Review: Irish Bitches Be Crazy – Emma Comerford


Posted November 30, 2015 in Print

Taphouse september 2019

Irish Bitches Be Crazy

Emma Comerford

[New Island]

 

There’s something very untimely about this book, a field guide to Irish women and their ‘crazy’ behaviour. Lately the Irish feminists are at the gates: they’re protesting, petitioning, threatening to derail 1916 commemorations with demands for more female writers. They’re driving cross-country in an abortion pill bus. That shit cray, or so this book would claim. I realise I’m refusing to get the joke here. But this is a book which compares wool jumpers to burqas, and speaks of ‘the awkward progress of Irish women from extreme virginism to present day sluttishness’. The frame of reference is fecklessly broad, outlining a kind of feminine-neurosis-as-jingoism which we’re all apparently doomed to, along with a fetish for household cleaning.
The author, Emma Comerford, can be apt and funny – many of us *are* neurotic and superstitious, scarred by the idea of Original Sin fed to us in school assemblies. But the guide turns irritatingly backward with Comerford’s depiction of the ‘Fabulous Irish Mammy’, a fretting, germ-phobic, son-loving creature. It’s hard to know which is more troubling: that this woman might exist, or that the author thought this grim, belittling caricature was funny. Irish Bitches reads half as a heartfelt training manual for future Irish mammies, and half as an extended off-colour Christmas dad joke. At one point Comerford notes that an Irish woman’s ‘favourite pastime is complete character assassination’: this is exactly what her book attempts (as does, unfortunately, this review).

Words: Roisin Kiberd

Image: New Island Books

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