Monday, March 06, 2006

Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men by Colin Bateman

I've been looking forward to returning to the crazy world of Dan Starkey, loveable loser journalist from Belfast, and this book did not disappoint me when it finally arrived on inter-library loan.

This time, Starkey, having failed to repair his marriage, finds himself accepting an offer to write a book about a boxer who has risen from obscurity to win a European title and is on his way to New York City to fight Mike Tyson. Along the way, our hero gets drunk an awful lot, is mugged twice, tries to save some whales, is saved by a whale, engages in an ill-conceived terrorist raid and eventually ends up with a heck of a story, much more than he had bargained for. The reality of life during the Terrors in Northern Ireland is still very much at the forefront in this book, even though most of it takes place in the United States; this time, Bateman manages to fit in some astute political commentary about Irish-Americans who donate copious amounts of money to Irish terrorist Groups.

What I found ironic, and rather stupid, really, is that while the story tries to both poke fun at and take a serious look at the bizarre, romanticized vision of Ireland that so many Americans have, and the various (mostly, in Starkey's opinion, misguided) reasons that they might donate money to a terrorist group "back home", the publisher chose to use little shamrocks as spacers in the story (you know, those symbols that are placed between paragraphs to show a change of scene or mood). Um, hello?

I will leave you with a few more choice quotes to give you a taste of the inimitable voice of Colin Bateman.

Once again I had foregone my chosen stance as the detached journalist; I wasn't even semidetached; I was a journalistic chalet bungalow, well built down below but with a lot of empty space up top.

"Fire! Fire!" I yelled.
"Everyone out! Everyone out!" shouted McLiam.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. An elderly nun.
"Is this the way to the elevator?" she asked.
"Fuck away off!" yelled McLiam.
"Sister," he added.

(What is it with this guy and nuns? Must be an Irish thing.)

I'd love to include, for your reading pleasure, an extensive scene wherein Starkey tries to prove to a bigoted friend that it's not a good idea to refer to gay people as "poofs" while they are eating dinner in a restaurant in a town that is a haven for gay people... but it's far too long to type out, and so you'll have to read this book yourself. :-)

No comments: