BOOK REIVEW / Bringing home the body: 'Desperadoes' - Joseph O'Connor: Flamingo, 14.99
Saturday 12 March 1994
A wild, dreaming youth, Johnny originally fled to Nicaragua to escape a Dublin life of grim struggle and sadness. It emerges that he played in a rock band, Los Desperadoes, whose other members, rather improbably, agree to accompany Eleanor and Frank on their long journey.
But the introduction of the band, with their preposterous names and desperately unfunny eccentricities, is a mistake. Rather than providing the spark to light the novel's fuse, their presence all but extinguishes it. And what, in the shadow of war, could have been a powerful meditation on loss, obsession and personal disintegration, quickly degenerates into an unenchanting adventure story, with the usual mix of drug- smuggling, gun-running and easy sentimentality.
The book's real failings, however, are stylistic. The dialogue, which, curiously, has been praised for its fizzing diversity, in fact has a bland uniformity, and every character uses the same limited vocabulary. The novel has no internal borders. When Frank writes to his girlfriend in Ireland, or the grieving Eleanor apostrophizes her dead daughter, we are not moved by what they have to say. They all speak with the voice of the narrator; their language is O'Connor's language - flat, loose, utterly without presence.
Nicaragua, this ravaged yet radiant land, is not animated. The prose, with its journalistic flourishes, crumbles under the weight of ready-made formulation and cliche: people are 'as white as milk'; smoke rises in 'plumes'; minutes 'pass like hours'.
Too eager to describe all that he sees and hears, as a narrator O'Connor has not yet learned to discriminate. He has too much material; the novel is feverishly overburdened with plots. Perhaps he should remember what H G Wells once said of Joseph Conrad: 'He has still to learn the great half of his art, the art of leaving things unwritten.'
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women