This ain’t an easy read, ya’check me? Irish tossers aren’t easy to comprehend as is, but author Kevin Barry mucks it up further with the concocted west Irish Klingon of dystopian Bohane. What is Bohane? Imagine the Five Points of New York City, but The Priest un-croaked returning to do who knows what to Bill the Butcher.
The book has won some prizes…not Man Booker, but quality awards. However, viewed for the International Space Station, the story is a standard gangster yarn. The protagonist, Bohane’s own Tony Soprano…The Long Fellow, The Albino, Leader of the Harnett Fancy, one Logan Harnett, is feeling it from all sides. Bohane’s old boss, Gant Broderik, is reported to be lurking about town, which is an obvious business and potential health problem on its own, but throw in the fact that Gant is Logan’s wife’s ex and now there are problems at home and the office. An ill-timed shanking also has rival gangs from the Northside Rises out for blood. Logan, short on options, makes a deal with some marginalized devils that want in on Bohane’s rackets, so he at least has a fighting chance. These are the external threats. Internally, there’s intrigue among Logan’s lieutenants and his still powerful 90-year old mother has gone full Uncle Jun by linking up with a female capo that plays every Fancy hardboy like a violin.
If you give it enough time to get down pat with the lingo, it’s a real page turner. If you don’t, you’ll hate it.
P.S. – Barry does rip-off Philip K. Dick’s wardrobe descriptions from Ubik.
And that brings up the new outfielder from our Triple A affiliate, Ethan Canin. The rookie is 4 for 4 in his major league debut and has hit for The Cycle.
Nope, never happens. Similar to when you pick-up a book of short stories, invariably a few strike out. If you bat .500, you’re happy. However, in this case the four stories that comprise The Palace Thief Stories are all hits. There maybe some variability in what each reader feels is the triple and the double in the set, but there are no sacrifices made in order to get the book to the publishers preferred heft. This is a quality collection.
If you think the upcoming Ben Affleck move The Accountant is based on the story of the same name in The Palace Thief Stories, it isn’t. If you think the Kevin Kline movie The Emperor’s Club is based on the title story, it is…complete with the absurdly simple Roman history questions.
Much like A Visit from the Goon Squad, you better pay attention to everyone in this act of knitting by Charles Baxter. The book’s ten virtue/vice titled chapters orbit with, once again, minimal degrees of separation from Minneapolis-based pediatrician Dr. Elijah Jones or the city’s Washington Avenue Bridge. Additionally, the book has two built-in sports: 1) finding how the action in the chapter relates to its title, e.g., where is the Chastity or Gluttony in their chapters, and 2) where did a character ask another about something they want them to do.
Games aside, the book a quiet accomplishment. Within the 221-pages are well drawn players, delicate details and always something that’s a little off. That off-ness lays anchor in the reader’s grey matter and persistently agitates. A worthwhile read, with enough diverse content to hook most. Examples being the straightforward introspection of Wes in Loyalty or the inspired breakthrough in Forbearance. Enjoy.