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    By SAMANTHA PUCKETT

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


    On Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, put down that green beer and pick up one of the many available books about the Emerald Isle.

    For a frank, funny look at all things Irish, The Truth About the Irish, by literary and cultural critic Terry Eagleton (St. Martin's Griffin, $11.95) separates the myths from reality with humor: "It's a myth that it's a long way to Tipperary. Nowhere in Ireland is a long way from anywhere else."

    Speaking of debunking Irish myths: Disgusted with Irish-American stereotypes, Boston Globe reporter Maureen Dezell set out to write Irish America (Doubleday, $24.95), where she explores the fascinating and complex culture of contemporary Irish Americans.

    St. Patrick's day is thought to be a lucky day to get married. It may be too late to pull off this year, but you can start preparing for the next one with Irish Wedding Traditions, by Shannon McMahon Lichte (Hyperion, $20). Lichte explains the history of these traditions and offers suggestions on how to make your wedding a little (or a lot) Irish.

    Three hundred years of Ireland's greatest fiction is jammed into the 1000-page tome The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction, edited by Colm Toibin ($20). The comprehensive anthology features all writers Irish, from Jonathan Swift to Bram Stoker to James Joyce to Roddy Doyle. For the Love of Ireland: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers, edited by Susan Cahill (Ballantine, $14.95) is a travel-friendly collection that your suitcase (and arms) are more likely to agree with. It includes the writings of Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Frank McCourt and others.

    All of Ireland is reading McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in the West of Ireland, by Pete McCarthy (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95); it has sold over 50,000 copies and is the number one bestseller there. This comic travelogue points out the No. 1 rule for any traveler: "Never pass a bar with your name on it."

    St. Patrick's Day, of course, is not the only day to read things Irish. In June Knopf will be publishing the wickedly entertaining murder mystery, Yeats Is Dead!: A Mystery by Fifteen Irish Writers ($23). Each chapter was penned by a different writer from the Emerald Isle, including Roddy Doyle, Frank McCourt, Joseph O'Connor and Tom Humphries.

    - Samantha Puckett is a Times staff writer.

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