Art

Books

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Is being compared to James Joyce a bad thing? Not for American novelists Todd McEwen and Andrew Lewis Conn, praised for their “Ulyssean offerings” in last week’s issue. But for Irish writers, the Joycean tag is both laurel and millstone, as often imposed as deserved. Few can escape their ubiquitous forebear.


THE GREAT PINT-PULLING OLYMPIAD: A MOSTLY IRISH FARCE

By Roger Boylan,

Grove, 445 pp., $14

Boylan’s narrative resembles J. at his comically prolix best, with a similar appetite for vernacular nuance and pop allusion—here ceaselessly hindered by an oversexed Kinbotean annotator amid whose haughty jeremiads lie: (1) an allusion in which he unwittingly conflates the Aeolus chapter with a Joyce broadside, and (2) a pregnant remembrance of haddock-and-chips consumed “about ten P.M. on June fifteenth.”

DEAD I WELL MAY BE

By Adrian McKinty,

Scribner, 306 pp., $24

“Events, trapped by them, by history,” thinks Irish thug Michael Forsythe. Unlike Dedalus, he tries to escape through violence, but it is the Joycean motif that gives this penny dreadful the satisfying smack of black pudding.


CALL ME THE BREEZE

By Patrick McCabe,

HarperCollins, 352 pp., $24.95

McCabe professes great admiration for Joyce, but often his themes are antithetical. Here, his bad-trip prose is the ostensible work of neo-hippie Joey Tallon, who sleeps with an effigy of his dead surrogate mum (Dedalus: “No, mother! Let me be”), and tries to exhume his town’s Troubled past; but like Bloom, his fate turns on an “[Oh] yes!