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24 July 2010 @ 12:12 pm
At Swim, Two Boys, Jamie O'Neill

When I told Helen I was enjoying this, when about halfway through, she expressed surprise. Perhaps this book would be hard-going for non-Irish people to read in one sense, because it might come across as cod-Irish. In fact, it's the most genuine rendering of Dublinese that I've read since Roddy Doyle. So it has that in its favour.

The story revolves around two boys, Doyler and Jim, in the year leading up to and during the 1916 Rising. I was reluctant to read it for a long time simply because of the time period - faily Irish rebellions are so depressing, and I want happy endings - but I'm glad I got over that. You know that 'slasher' mentality? A certain way of writing character interaction, one that shows you really believe in the pairing above all else? O'Neill has that.

I was slightly disappointed by the ending. Obviously somebody had to die; there'd be no point setting it in this time period else. Still, it felt rather rushed and predictable.

I loved the cameos by Pearse and Connolly, and how I managed to recognise them by the personality traits for which they're famous (gullible flights of fancy/stoic bullheadedness) before they were named.

It was funny in a very Irish way:

Where were the authorities at all that they wouldn't take them in charge? Fennelly had no license for singing.

If work was in a bed, that man would sleep on the floor.

There were some heart-tugging slices of prose:

The touch charged through him like a spluttering tram wire until it wasn't Doyler he felt but what Doyler had touched, which was himself. This is my shoulder, this is my leg. And he did not think he had felt himself before, other than in pain or in sin.

Shrieks too, and sometimes, worst of all, that mad laughter that goes on too long and loud.

A marvel to picture tulips in such a place.

While the constables marched him away, he stared back up the road where the soldiers had gone, the first of thousands to come, thinking only, helplessly, Jim, my son James, my son, my Jim.

Best declaration of love ever?

I don't hate the English and I don't know do I love the Irish. But I love him. I'm sure of that now. And he's my country.

Oh man, I loved MacMurrough's aunt too, and her hopeless love for Casement. (Incidentally, there's a Roger Casement Place around the corner from me. And a bunch of streets named after Sean McDermott and James Connolly - not bad for a failed rebellion.)

One does not wish oneself changed. One wishes the world changed to accommodate one. Such is suffragism.

Probably the best writing was the dialogues between Scrotes and MacMurrough, because it shows O'Neill's scholarly eminence.

You despise yourself, and are proud of the despisal, regarding it a virtue. It is an arrogance of disgust

"You asked me earlier if there were many of us about. The question for my friend was, were there any of us at all. The world would say that we did not exist, that only our actions, our habits, were real, which the world called our crimes or our sins. But Scrotes began to think that we did indeed exist. That we had a nature our own, that was not another's perverted or turned to sin.

I got quite a shock when I realised that 'gay' was once upon a time not a description for a group of people whose sexual preferences were for those of the same sex. I'm glad I live in a time where that is such a thing.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov | I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates | Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides ♥ | The School for Husbands, Moliere | On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks | The Famished Road, Ben Okri | Lord of the Flies, William Golding | Moby Dick, Herman Melville | A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway | Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell ♥ | The Sea, the Sea, Irish Murdoch ♥ ♥ | Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad | Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy | The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman | The Sea, John Banville | paddy clarke ha ha ha, Roddy Doyle | The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough ♥ | The Godfather, Mario Puzo ♥ | The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman | Possession, A.S. Byatt ♥ ♥ ♥ | Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales | The Mysteries of Pittsburg, Michael Chabon | Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon ♥, Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby, Life of Pi, Yann Martel | Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: brand new colony // the postal service
like a discoravyn_ashling on July 24th, 2010 11:39 am (UTC)
I read this book a couple years ago, and truly loved it, although you were right about its predictability--at least I was able to brace myself and not get too depressed?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: japanese beautyscoradh on July 24th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
It was mainly because I was expecting it - time period + bloody revolution - that it didn't pack the emotional punch it could have. Oops?
the claw-foot Ladysoftlyforgotten on July 24th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC)
Oh man, this book. ♥ I agree about the ending, too, that it was rushed, although I confess I was so relieved that it wasn't a gay hate crime that I was more accepting than I would have been otherwise. Oh, original queer fiction and the expectations you raise in me /o\
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: parasolsscoradh on July 24th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
Not to sound smug, but I don't think there was such a thing as gay hate crime in Ireland until recently - but only because it was/is such a freaking repressed country that GAY didn't exist until recently. (Or divorce. Or Protestants.)
xoxo, Geralynnbuildyourwalls on July 24th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
This is by far my favorite book EVER. I sobbed for weeks over it, months even.

You were disappointed by the ending? I remember looking back on it months after reading it and sobbing all over again. Maybe it's because the book was read when I was about 19, and at the time I kept a dictionary near by at all times. I'm not as advanced of a reader as you, seriously. I will admit ignorance about Irish history - I knew of teh rebellion of that time, but nto in much detail. I also loved the way it was written, but remember it being very verbose and crazily hard at times.

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: rainbow girlscoradh on July 24th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
I think I was mainly annoyed that Jim didn't go on to have more of a life. He seemed to keep fighting that war, meaning he must have joined the IRA or something, and there was a time when it was Ireland not Iraq that was the terrorist threat, so.

It was certainly verbose, but like I said, maybe because the dialect was familiar to me I had it easier?
skull_bearerskull_bearer on July 24th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
What was this written, because until quite recently the rule was that you could write gay characters as long as one of them died at the end.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: winter of discontentscoradh on July 24th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
2001. Do you mean a rule like a law or a rule of thumb?
skull_bearerskull_bearer on July 24th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
Like a law. I think 2001 might be a bit late though, but the law was one of the reasons Brokeback Mountain has a sad ending.
scabbyfishscabbyfish on July 28th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Ohh, I read this book by chance a couple of years ago and totally fell in love with it; I'm not someone who tends to re-read (because let's face it, there's always many more books queueing up) but this made it onto my short list of exceptions...
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on August 3rd, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
I don't think I'd reread, but these days the only book on my reread list is The Blue Castle anyway...