Two aging Irish raconteurs take an unexpected tumble through their halcyon days.
Best known for the 1966 metaphysical comedy Inish, Share (Slanguage, 2008, etc.) runs wild with an equally surrealist notion in this slight but whimsical tale about time travel and the perils of revisiting the past. The novel opens in an unnamed airport in the Middle East circa 1990. Two Irish expats meet during a bathroom run-in and immediately go looking for the closest spot to drink. The stouter of the two is a Latin-spouting rake who professes to using the performing name “A N Other”; his slimmer and decidedly more cautious companion recalls his writing pseudonym as Meniscus but is quickly dubbed “Rimmer” by Other. After downing an unusual bottle of Jordanian plonk, the unlikely duo find themselves transported back to the Dublin of their younger days, bounding back and forth from 1949 to 1950 and revisiting their younger selves at Trinity College in Dublin. Share’s prose, while economically literate and entrenched in the characteristics of Irish drama, borders on nonsensical much of the time. Yet his protagonists nevertheless convey a witty, antique charm as they mutter Beckett-like asides to themselves. “To travel is, hopefully, better than to arrive,” Other says as he tries to ferret out their whereabouts at their first tumultuous intersection. In a later chapter, Rimmer, who suddenly finds his elder mind couched inside his younger self, frantically tries to make sense of a moment from his own past: “If I was not here then I cannot be here now.” Ultimately, the men find their histories are far more connected than they first realized. “Two hands, perhaps, patting the same dog,” Other observes of their linked experience.
Students of Irish literature, Trinity College alumni and postmodernist playwrights will find a few small joys here and there, but more casual readers are likely to find themselves lost.