It doesn’t take much to excite me so when I say that this book has done that, it may not have the impact that I intend. I can only say this is an exceptional novel and that it really really really excites me.Beatlebone is about John Lennon and his fictional quest to revisit his actual island in Ireland. John Lennon owned a very small island there and visited it only a few times. Kevin Barry imagines what might have happened if John had gone back in 1978 on a sort of spiritual quest. John’s mantra is that he just wants to “get to his island,” but there are a slew of obstacles and false paths he must overcome before he can get there and get back. Believing himself too happy and thus unable to write, John wants to get to that uninhabited island, Scream his guts out, and return inspired.
The novel is strange and experimental, something that has earned Kevin Barry the Goldsmiths prize for original literature. But, as he himself has said at several of his readings, the novel is also a variation on a classic theme. John Lennon and his guide Cornelius O’Grady are ultimately playing out a variation of Don Quixote, riding around in a Mercedes and tilting at their own windmills. Barry has spoken many times about his belief that the novel form should be used for experimentation, something evident in his City of Bohane, which I reviewed earlier in the year. This novel is not like anything else you will read this year; it is wholly unique. No knowledge about John Lennon or the Beatles is required but if you are a fan of either or both, this will surely appeal to you. Contemporary Irish writing is in a sort of golden age right now. Everything I recommend these days seems to come from that corner of the world and this addition to it is well worth the read. I give it my highest recommendation and I hope you pick up a copy soon. Happy Monday! Nothing makes a Monday better than a good book 🙂
Back in March I sat in a classroom and heard Kevin Barry read one of his short stories aloud. I found myself quickly mesmerized by his deft juggling of the English language. By the end of the week I owned his two books of short stories and his novel, City of Bohane. It has taken me an unconscionable length of time to begin City of Bohane, but now that I have completed it, I must tell you about it immediately.I don’t know exactly how to describe the plot of this novel. It is set in the future, in Ireland. The city is controlled by gangs, most notably the Hartnett Fancy (what is a Fancy, you might ask). Logan Hartnett controls the Fancy (since it took me much of the book to really find out, I will let you discover for yourself) and much of the novel centers around him and those attached to him as they experience a year of life in the ever-changing city.
Stylistically, it’s part steampunk, part film noir, part American Western, part 20s gang flick. It could be some strange amalgamation of Sin City and Ulysses. And yet it is also not truly like any other novel I have ever read or heard of. Somewhat like A Clockwork Orange, you are dropped into a strange land of slang and reference to which you are provided no key other than your own interpretation of context. I encourage you to just read a few chapters. If you are not sucked in by the strangeness of the language and the intensity of the characters, then I will be a surprised woman. If at all possible, grab the audio book as well. Kevin Barry, as I have mentioned, is an amazing reader and listening to him read from this novel is sure to suck you in and send a shiver of pleasure down your spine. Let me show you what I mean:
Curl up and binge this one friends.
I have recently felt the need to fall in love with Boston again. Wandering the streets of Oxford, eating fish and chips in Dublin, gazing up at the Gherkin… these have made Boston seem a bit small and uninteresting to me of late. I have been combatting this by throwing myself back into the things I know are great about this city of mine. Thus, on a sunny Sunday I took a walk down to Fenway.That is probably my “why am I not in England” face. Regardless, I wandered down and began to rediscover some things I love. Then, there was this rose garden. I have lived in Boston for all of two years and never seen this beautiful spot. Looking for a place to sit and read my book (City of Bohane by Kevin Barry- absolutely fantabulous), I stumbled upon a circle of high shrubbery right near the MFA. (Naturally, I grammed it). Inside the little gate there are supposedly around 1500 rose bushes. For more info, go here. But certainly check it out next time you are in the area. It was the most fragrant and pleasant place to read imaginable.
After that little interlude, I walked over to the MFA. And here is where I began to remember one of the things I have always loved about Boston- the MFA. The MFA is such a great museum. I get lost in it every time and always stumble upon something weird and cool and often intensely beautiful. Such as their new contemporary exhibition, Crafts. The exhibition is so inventive and well-presented that I just sort of wandered about marveling at one artwork after another. Here are some of my favorites:
That last one is made by dragging molten glass across paper. The accompanying video is highly impressive. Be sure to check it out next time you are in the area. To close out the day I met a friend at Thaitaition, a thai restaurant right near the MFA as well. The menu is vast but everything was quite delicious. It is a bit pricey, but the portions were big enough that I had leftovers for last night. I would recommend a visit if you are with friends and looking for some well-done and creative thai food in the Fenway area.
It was really the perfect way to spend a quiet and contemplative Sunday in Boston and was exactly what I needed to start feeling the way I used to about the city. Hopefully you all had a great weekend as well and happy Wednesday 🙂