QUINTESSE by Kevin Kiely


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Three love affairs, in quick succession, of a 21-year-old Irish adolescent--delivered in the lyrical, comical, fragmented style (heavy on cascades of dialogue) that's been a mad-Irish-poet standby ever since J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man. In the first section of this brief novel, student/poet/clown ""Goblo Ouintesse"" (not his real name, apparently) tells his newest love Mime about his recent love Nani Neary--a down-to-earth sort who enraged Quintesse when she led him into believing that she was on the pill when she wasn't: ""Oh no Nani can you not see it do you not realise what you look at it it is staring us do you realise what can be the outcome I have penetrated you we have had a perfect act that is how we have conceived a baby you have conceived but I will tell you missy you tricked me into it,"" etc. (And furthermore: ""Let me go Nani you have broken something in me and shown me a pit that I can not bear to look into."") Next comes the tale of Quintesse's subsequent summer fling, in England, with 28-year-old Lila Langione from Italy--who cuts off the affair matter-of-factly, pooh-poohing Quintesse's heaving romanticism. And the book's longest section then turns to the new involvement, back in Ireland, with worldly French au pair girl Mime Matisse, a ""beautiful lady of the dulcimer"" to Quintesse's ""renegade clown"": their passion is a ""symphony of ecstasy, of sensation, of stasis""; once again Quintesse goes overboard in his romantic outpourings--with Mime at first responding likewise. (""Take me to the sea and wash away my past and make the future inconceivable, he cried to her, and she cried to him in return: Take me to the sea and clean all my mistakes."") But once again Quintesse winds up feeling betrayed, punished for loving not wisely but too well--as memories of his three lost loves (Lila especially) flood in upon him. The uninvolving whimperings of a self-pitying Irish ladies' man--thickened by globs of quasi-poetic prose, periodically enlivened by ribald humor, zesty pub-talk, and a few genuinely lyrical flights.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's