First novel by Irish writer Collins, of West Cork.
Novel? More like a verbal sketchpad of talented charcoal portraits in fast, minimalist banter that catch victims of sexual cannibalization at their most exposed. It often sounds like Mike Leigh’s actors improvising dialogue before it gets nailed down for his films. Here are perhaps eighty brief pieces of life, most of them touching on sex and adultery, some just touching on turns of speech, with people rattling off their sex problems, most at the kitchen-sink level of rapping. The majority are set in England, some in the States. Among the longer is the title piece, in which David, a cabinet minister, seems at first to be getting serviced orally by Lorraine, a girl who works for David and wants to marry him and have babies, while David wants only immediate gratification and so spins endless justifications around Lorraine, who finds that what David really wants is to have his toes sucked, not his peepee. Do all these pieces add up to a minor Dubliners? Well, they might never have been written had Joyce not developed the vignette to a fare-thee-well in Ulysses. Perhaps it’s too early to say what these do add up to. Here is the complete “Nora”: “I don’t think he quite appreciates how it is but just because we’re at it like a pair of demented bunnies doesn’t mean we’re a couple.” One wants to praise Collins for a fine ear at these improvisations, and it may be that younger readers—and writers—will take them with the seriousness they may deserve. When Collins does write a full-dress novel with the same verve he shows here, this sketchpad will grow in stature.
Unbearable burdens made no less unbearable.