Readings: Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

First of all, something I’ve been waiting for years now has happened – LibraryThing has an app now. There goes my evening. You can take a look at my currently catalogued books here (I used to have a different account there, but had to switch due to separation and library division, and so I am quite behind on book scanning. C’est la vie.). What I like about LibraryThing is the overwhelming amount of tagging and classifying one can do. It’s so nerdy.
VKBB9317.jpgBut let’s move on to recent reads. My affair with strange and weird is in full swing, and Beatlebone is so strange and weird, it’s in its own category. First of all, Kevin Barry is a wizard and I want to eat his words with a spoon. Let’s look at few examples:

A street gang of sheep appear — like teddy boys bedraggled in rain, dequiffed in mist…

Or how about this one:

He’s been coming loose of himself.

And finally this:

… and he saw at once an island in his mind.

Windfucked, seabeaten.

WINDFUCKED. Yes. I’ve been to one part of the world described in this book, and it is windfucked indeed. One gets the feeling that Barry is on his own language planet, but he can communicate with us in a way that tricks us into thinking we speak his language. The City of Bohane is even more of a mindbender in this way. Try it if you’re brave.

Second, this is historical fiction about John Lennon. How many novels with John fucking Lennon as a main character do you know? And such perfect ones, where he is so alive and so, well, John. I’m sorry, my Beatles fan roots are showing, but this book just fills me with nostalgic glee. Barry hits so many right, um, notes.

There is an odd interlude in the midst of it, and it tells the story of Barry’s own researches into Lennon buying a small island off the coast of Ireland and going there via Achill Island. I’ve seen some people complain how this interlude ruins the pacing, but for me it was just an amazing bit of geeking out on Barry’s part.

And so in short, it is brilliant, but much like The City of Bohane, it is a hard sell. It’s largely stream-of-consciousness, there is no particular plot (the entire plot is that Lennon bought this tiny island in the 60s and is now trying to get to it in 1978 without a retinue of paparazzi), everything is windfucked and cold and kind of bleak and at times just plain psychotic. Have I sold you on it yet? You see my problem.

But the language, the language. I just can’t get over it. That alone is worth the price of admission. And if you’re familiar with Beatles/Lennon lyrics, you will find some delightful bits inside.

 

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