When Clowns Go Bad

'Banks of Green Willow'   by Kevin Myers
Scribner, London, hb, 275 pages, November 2001, £12.99

I once read a book worse than this – mind you, it was written by Barbara Cartland. However, in the interests of fairness I, should point out that since I, along with most right thinking sentient human beings, despise Kevin Myers, what I write must be taken with a dose of strychnine.

There are apparently those, such as that excellent novelist John Banville who apparently believe, at least according to the publicity blurb, that Myers has some modest talent. But then, Caligula felt that way about his horse Incitatus.

The story, for what it's worth, and that is precious little, concerns an American girl, Gina, who while in Dublin in the early 1970s is knocked up by someone claiming to be an Irish-Serb-Croat who doesn't speak the language (Serbo-Croat, that is) but speaks English with a lisp (which gets just a little wearisome). She doesn't tell him she's enceinte and goes back to the US. Since she's a Southern belle she and her beautiful child (Tom – remember this name, it is significant!), don't suffer from too much economic or social deprivation and she rebounds to a smitten swain (who is 'a good egg' and a friend of Noam Chomsky – who does not appear) and who marries her despite the Bosnian bastard kid. Back in Baile Atha Cliath the Bosnian boyo of course has been trying to contact her for years but her mad mother had stolen the letters. Star crossed lovers how are ye!

Along side these events in 1973 we have Myer's 'war reporting', written in the present tense and detailing the massacre by Kevin's Serb pals of a Muslim grandmother, mother, and daughter, whose heads they cut off. These atrocities occur in the war torn but beautiful Yugoslavian countryside which abounds with 'banks of green willows' (the Butterworth version, of course).

Friends (sic) and regular readers of Myers in his Irishman's Diary columns for the Irish Times have for some time worried that Myers is apparently reaching that certain period in middle-aged men's livers (sic) when they seemingly become obsessed with sex. In the Irish Times Kevin has recently revealed to his readers that he had had been in engaged in 'nude somnambulism' and woke up in an British army officer's bedroom in married quarters on the Curragh; how he wished he were a loofah if it meant that he could be held close to Geri Halliwell in her shower and, most disturbingly, that he had developed a boil on his neck 'the size of a poreen' (small potato). There was a rumour about a tumour and talk of 'How to get A Head in Advertising' but whatever it was/is it has inspired Kevin to 'write' this appalling waste of the diminishing resources of the rain forest, his sexual fantasies.

Each year the Literary Review awards a prize for 'this years bad sex writing novel'. T'is a shame that Myers 'opus' was published too late to be entered. He'd be a shoo-in.

"In delicate detail he soaped her vulva and that secret place between her buttocks."

"His erection was full, pulsing to the rhythm of his heart. She was greatly tempted to masturbate him there and then, to have him ejaculate over her face, her breasts, in his bath." "His penis on her buttocks went bone hard. She reached behind and squeezed his testicles." Caveat Emptor. There's pages of this crap.

Literally pages of this garbage and, worse still, they are 'interwoven' by the ramblings on French literature by an elderly American lesbian who suckles the wee babby to get her kicks. Conspicuous and irrelevant literary name dropping – Alain-Fournier, Apollinaire, Simone de Beauvoir, George Eliot – a tribute to woman's lib (as Myers sees it, including Lesbian masturbatory fantasies), and the most inauthentic and emetic inducing absurd 'dialogue', as Kevin perceives it to be spoken by quaint peasants. Trust me, no one, and I mean no one speaks like this. "Me wits are all over the place, like a madwoman's knickers." "Isn't she so clever-wever, so vewwy, vewwy, clever'wever." But everyone says 'fuck' a lot so it must be liberating.

But writers shall not live by lesbian love rites alone and so we have the macho Bosnia sections. There Kevin proves he's one of the boys by naming about every piece of ordinance he's ever read about in his beloved 'Jane's Defence'. "It's not a machine gun, it's a MG 42 which was a copy of a Polish machine-gun which had been developed from the American Browning Automatic Rifle and that was a development of them Lewis gun of WWI."

But there's a reason for all this. It is actually a subtle retelling of the 'Chronus & Zeus' myths'.

And then there's a rib-tickling scene at a dinner party where the crayfish is off and everyone spends the time farting and practising projectile vomiting. Lawdy, lawdy! I nearly wet me knickers!

There is, belatedly, some good news however. The American trollop gets the big C, her son runs off to Bosnia to fight for the Croats and she is reunited with his father – you remember, the Bosnian with the lisp – who reveals that he had a son who, quelle coincidence, has gone off to fight for the Serbs (believing that his grandfather was Serbian when he was really a SAS man) and turns into a right little Radavan, slaughtering civilians and then shooting poor Tom and an obnoxious Irishman called Noelly who had slept with Tommy's sluttish Ma – who's back in Dublin dying of cancer. But after the welcome and serendipitous loss of these banal stereotypes, the novel takes a turn for the worse, with the hint that the American heroine may make a miraculous recovery. Confused? Tune in to next week's Soap to hear Kevin tell us about his bloody piles. But enough. Mock not the afflicted or cerebrally challenged. Still, goshdarn, Kevin, verb sap and all that but haven't you thought it's time to hang up the old quill, for we fear you know as much about novel writing as a cow knows about having a holiday. Not so clever-wever.

Dr. Seamus Earwicker

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