Books: Pick Of The Week

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"Regardless of what you're used to hearing about our fabled Celtic Tiger, very little has changed in Ireland. The old guard still rule our roost economically, politically and culturally," insists Donal Scannell in the introduction to Shenanigans, his new anthology of Irish short stories. "Whilst we have hordes of frequently praised and displayed `cultural ambassadors' those outside Ireland get a particularly distorted view of what's really making this new Ireland tick."

Co-edited by Scannell, a Dublin DJ and drum`n'bass record-label impresario, and Sarah Champion (above), who compiled the drugged-up anthologies Disco Biscuits and Disco 2000, Shenanigans brings together 19 young Irish writers with their own slant on what makes new Ireland tick, blather and twitch.

The hard-boiled selection of trippy fiction is launched this week with a couple of musically-enhanced readings in London and Bristol, featuring Lana Citron, Mike McCormack, Colin Carberry and Joe Ambrose.

Owing more to the Chemical Brothers than the Christian Brothers, the characters in these low-life tales have more to fear from a drug squad dawn raid than a guilt-racked confession with a moralising curate. Forget pulling London pints, or pounding the building sites; here working abroad means mega-bucks DJ-ing around the Berlin club scene, or a spot of dealing in the 'Dam.

There's plenty of mouthy geezers larging it, but even more opportunities for bleak disappointments - drifting no-marks conned into the hands of gangsters, or students who think they might be hard enough to pay off their overdrafts with some executive prostitution. Class As may be freely available in Tipperary, but home-town cabin fever still strikes with or without Lysergic encouragement, in the queue for Julian Gough's after- club chip van: "I looked around me at the town I'd been born in and it seemed so thin, so poor a version of the world."

Rich in humour, there's plenty of `divilment' here but the bizzarre imagination award has to go to McCormack, with a virtuoso immaculate conception caused by ingesting a stolen stained glass window.

Shenanigans is published by Sceptre, pounds 6.99

Filthy McNasty's, 68 Amwell St, London EC1 (0171-837 6067) Mon, 8pm, free

The Bristol Flyer, 96 Gloucester Rd, Bristol (0117-973 7596) Thur, 7.30pm, pounds 3.50/pounds 2.50 concs