At it Again! design and create pocket guides to classic literature. It all started with a romp in the Dublin mountains. Bloomsday was around the corner and we were ready for an adventure. The challenge was to take a big intimidating book and make it fun and accessible without losing its essence. We wanted to inspire people to learn to love Bloomsday and stop fearing Ulysses. Three months later the first little brown book with round edges was born. A playful summary of Joyce’s big book.
At it Again headquarters are in Block T in Smithfield. Each book is a team effort. On the design side, we have Niall the animator and James the fine artist. On the writing side, we have the multilingual Maite and the dexterous Jessica. It’s a melting pot of skills and experience. We use our passion and knowledge to distill the essence of Irish classics and present them in a quirky way through written word, design, illustration and events. We feed our creative machine with our love of books, vaudeville, carnival, cinema, art and design. Collaborations with like-minded Dublin folk take our adventures in unexpected directions. Here’s Maite presenting The James Joyce Centre’s closing episode of Ulyssesor check out the livelier Dirty Penelope on Story Map.
Romping through Dublin
Our works are inspired by our cheeky and creative city and its authors. We started with James Joyce’s Ulysses and then decided to sink our teeth into Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We play with the hidden treasures that we find in books and on the streets.
The aim of each pocket guide is to bring to life a classic work of literature, the author behind the book and the places that inspired it. We want the reader to feel immersed in the story. We compress the novel into bite-sized chunks and provide ideas of what to do and places to visit.Illustrations and maps help to animate the story and there are quirky quotes and titbits to bandy about.
Over the last year, we’ve been researching Dubliner Bram Stoker and his seminal vampire novel Dracula. Did you know that that Stoker was a northsider, from Clontarf ? He left Dublin in his early 30’s and lived most of his life as a theatre manager in London, prolifically writing when he got the chance.
We jumped on our bikes to explore Stoker’s old Dublin haunts. It is exciting to discover how many of the places still exist. The creepy ruins of the old church in Clontarf where he was baptised. The windswept Bull Island. St Michin’s crypt and its bizarre mummies – some of Stoker’s ancestors are buried there. Dublin Castle where he was employed as a civil servant. The suicide plot in Ballybough where corpses had stakes thrust through their hearts. As if they weren’t broken already, as one of Joyce’s characters in Ulysses would have it. There is so much to experience and feed the imagination.
In our creative process, we draw from various sources of inspiration. We delve into the chosen book and the biographical details of the author. We absorb documentaries, films, artwork and criticisms. Connections are made, references unearthed and jokes discovered. Did you know that Stoker married an old girlfriend of Oscar Wilde?
We ask ourselves: Are we capturing the essence of Dracula? Are the ideas playful? A bit naughty? When reviewing our manual, we feel there is a fifth person sitting at the table – Bram Stoker himself. He is the source. Stokers’ imagined world ignites a firework of ideas in our collective brains. Because of our varied cultural and professional backgrounds, all of those rockets explode into a multitude of colours and shapes.
Sinking our Teeth in
Dublin is a city brimming with literature. And people passionate about literature. When writing our Ulysses pocket guide, we were embraced by the Joyce community and delighted by their willingness to share and support. While delving into Dracula, we’ve been instructed by Dennis McIntyre from The Stoker Dracula Museum, entertained in Castle Dracula and informed by the Bram Stoker Festival. We’ve immersed ourselves in Stoker’s iconic vampire novel, gripped by plot twists, weird coincidences and the creepy crawly Count. We’ve imagined Stoker as a young man in Dublin, part of a vibrant cultural and literary scene. We’ve sat up late at night reading about vampire folklore, always with a crucifix to hand. With our playful imaginations fired, we set about crafting words and illustrations to summarise all that we have discovered.
Facing our Demons
Like a classic plot line, there are demons to face when creating a book. One of our major challenges is size. Because our books are pocket sized, every written word and every drawn line counts. We agonise over them for hours!
When it comes to the author, with James Joyce the self-publicist, you could say that too much is known about him. We had to chisel away at his life and his big book. It’s the opposite with Stoker, and we’ve had to dig deep to find out about the writer behind Count Dracula. Dracula is a deliciously slippery book with an enigmatic ending. We’ve argued for hours over interpretation and subtle plot lines.
Romping through Dracula is launched by At it Again! on Thursday 23rd October and will be available in retailers across Dublin. For details of your local stockists, or to order on line, check out www.atitagain.ie
(c) Jessica Peel-Yates from At it Again!
This weekend (24th-26th October 2014) sees Dublin transformed into a Gothic stage with the third Bram Stoker Festival – which includes some amazing literary events like The Literary Death Match on Saturday 25th (7.30pm Smock Alley Theatre) in which four authors pitch their words and wits in thrilling literary battle and comedic irreverence to a panel of all-star judges – specialists in literary merit, performance and the intangible. They will choose two finalists to compete in the Literary Death Match finale, a vaguely literary game, to decide the ultimate champion. A fantastic evening of fun, frivolity and fighting words!
Performed in 53 cities, over 330 times, this episode features bestselling authors Lynn Shepherd and Ian Flitcoft, poet Erin Fornoff and MFA grad and debut literary sensation David Rudden; with judgely comment from RTE Radio 2’s Rick O’Shea, actress Tara Flynn and the Stinging Fly’s Tom Morris. Click here to book!