Winterwood, Patrick McCabe, 2006
This novel is an ambitious experiment in indirection by the author of Breakfast on Pluto. The narrator is a full fledged psychopath, yet in the long traditions of Ireland, he is also a masterful, charming storyteller (lier). Yet somehow during the reading we are able to learn what has happened to him during childhood to create such a monster and to use our own imaginations to recreate his various crimes by reading between the lines of his own voice.
The narrator lives a full life, marrying twice, having a child, and working as a journalist, free lance writer, and television documentary director (where he wins a U.K. prize). Most of his career is in newly yuppified Dublin but he also has a stint as a journalist in London. Like the character in American Psycho a 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis (movie with Christian Bale) whose narrator is a fully accepted 80′s wall street operative, the Irish narrator is able to navigate the newly gentrified Dublin as a normal career worker. But unlike the Patrick Bateman character where we never know if the vividly described crimes are real or exist only in the Bateman ‘s imagination, there is never a doubt that the Irish narrator is performing never specified or described horrific acts even as his literal narration paints mythological pictures of happiness and utopia heavens where everything is perfect.
To allow the Irish narrator to escape capture and punishment, McCabe has him change identity and name several times during the book even though he always returns to Dublin. This devise is a little far fetched but allows the narrator to continue his long life of crime and McCabe to produce an unforgettable black work.
Finn, Jon Clinch, 2007
Speaking of Irish Psychos ever wonder about the mental health of Huckleberry Finn’s dad Papp Finn? OK, probably not, but just in case, here is a novel exploring that very subject. Oh, and did you know that Huck’s mom was black? Probably comes as a surprise to Sam Clemens as well. Clinch got this idea from a Shelley Fisher Fishkin monograph Was Huck Black which calls attention to Twain’s use of “signifying” speech, a complex rhetorical doubling characteristic of black speakers of Twain’s time and documented by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard Prof.), in The Signifying Monkey.