Overdue, but well welcome

The headline essay for this week’s New York Times Book Review supplement is by Pete Hamill. Nice graphic, too (as above) — if closer to the CTA than the County Clare. The topic is Kevin Barry’s superb City of Bohane. Just published in the US, a full year on from the UK and Ireland.

Hamill manages something between a litcrit gush and an entrant for Private Eye‘s Pseuds’ Corner:

“City of Bohane,” the extraordinary first novel by the Irish writer Kevin Barry, is full of marvels. They are all literary marvels, of course: marvels of language, invention, surprise. Savage brutality is here, but so is laughter. And humanity. And the abiding ache of tragedy.

The form resembles an Icelandic saga welded to a ballad of the American West, although the location is in a place somewhere in Ireland, around the year 2053. In prose that is both dense and flowing, Barry takes us on a roaring journey, among human beings who are trapped in life its own damned self. Nostalgiagrips many of them, even when they slash angrily at sentimentality. None of it is real, yet all of it feels true. This powerful, exuberant fiction is as true as the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, the Yoknapatawpha County of William Faulkner and, in a different way, even the Broadway of Damon Runyon. Those places were not real. The stories remain true.

However, Hamill probably does a better job than Malcolm did, months past.

Malcolm has hopes we haven’t visited Bohane for the once-and-only.

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Filed under fiction, Ireland, Literature, New York Times, reading

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