FABER & FABER £10.99 (302pp) £9.99 (plus free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
The Swing of Things by Sean O'Reilly
Hell on the streets of Dublin
Friday 27 February 2004
The central character of Sean O'Reilly's high-pressure but hard-to-stomach novel is a driven and rebarbative individual named Noel Boyle. Boyle, from Derry, is in Dublin trying to put his paramilitary past and prison sentence behind him by attaching himself half-heartedly to a degree course, working at a telephone call shop and drifting in and out of the company of the ne'er-do-wells who throng the streets. The image of a drowned girl, probably an illegal immigrant, whose corpse has been retrieved from the Liffey, keeps resurfacing as the darkness of corruption and incoherence closes around him.
In Boyle's past are a bungled IRA operation, the fear of retaliation, a pair of useless parents and a best mate called Dainty. In the present, Boyle is the object of amorous admiration by a dewy-eyed fellow student, victim of violent impulses and prop of a psychotic street-performer called Fada.
The action exemplifies what Martin Amis has called "the obscenification of everyday life". It takes place among the fetid odours of vomit, craziness and desperation. It moves in a drug-fuelled miasma through various scenes from hell. The busker Fada plays a prominent role, whether lying, beaten up, on the floor of a club toilet or slithering through an orgy in Phoenix Park, while Boyle fails to make good his self-regeneration.
This novel, with its hideous hallucinatory states, its misery and futility, catches the authentic tones of derangement and disaffection. It creates its own undeniably powerful universe; but it is a universe one might hesitate to be immersed in.
Patricia Craig's biography of Brian Moore is published by Bloomsbury
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils