DOUGLAS

BURGDORFF

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a time as a teacher, an experience that not only inspired his terrific 1994 novel, The Dead School, but also allowed him time to pen The Butcher Boy, that fiendish, borderlands Catcher in the Rye which won McCabe the first of two Booker nominations some 18 years ago.

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Caricatures not characters, one learns a lot of biographical information about the town's inhabitants but one never has a feeling of who they really are.

THE Stray Sod Country is a metaphor, a fable which the characters of Patrick McCabe's new novel continually fall back on. It describes being lost in what were once reassuring surroundings, being intimidated or deceived by the very things that used to make you feel secure. It is a way of explaining things, "frightening emotions, things like depression or extreme loneliness".

They refer to him by many names, from The Fetch of local legend to William Blake's Nobodaddy to the plain old devil. For his part, the narrator styles himself "the inscrutable director of souls and motivation", though beyond a few idle flirtations and a mad fit or two, he displays little in the way of follow through.

Along with Breakfast on Pluto, it was later filmed by his friend and collaborator Neil Jordan.

As such, the novel serves to tie up the small town and supernatural elements of McCabe's recent fiction, which may not be a bad thing as, in places, The Stray Sod Country feels like McCabe by numbers.

Born into a poorly schooled but highly educated family in Co Monaghan in 1955, McCabe worked for Nike Black And White Shoes 2018

from mass to confraternities to football matches like wide eyed pod people: "In Cullymore we're all the same! This is a great little community, so it is!"

It has most to say about tight knit, small town communities the notional opposite of Stray Sod Country and, of course, a world in inevitable decline. Flash forwards to the 1970s and the present day depict modernity's effects on this way of life, but these are further aberrations in a novel that already teeters on the edge of plotlessness. Though a prodigious, ingenious talent, McCabe's latest is a frustrating read.

´╗┐Back to the ould sod

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Yet where McCabe's earlier protagonists lived in imaginary worlds pieced together from comic books and pop music, the good Irishmen and women of The Stray Sod Country reject such modern impositions. As such, reality is their fantasy. They wander Nike Shoes Vans

A lot happens in The Stray Sod Country, but there is little in the way of a plot. The novel swings from one quaint melodrama to another but never coheres in a way that satisfies the expectations of McCabe's comical, horrifying best.

engaged in a one sided feud with a distant 'Hollywood priest', Golly Murray frets over the snobbish jabs of the patronising Blossom Foster, while James Aloysius Riley, former classics master, has become either a deluded malcontent or an agent of Satan.

It is rich material, and that's before one gets to the police informer, the evangelical schoolteacher, the teddy boy, or the dedicated Nike Shoes Dance racer of champion pigeons, all of them introduced in rapid fire succession as an emigrant returns from London with Brylcreem in his hair, a young man joins the IRA, the Redemptorists roll through town in a polished black sedan and the Legion of Mary call on Nikita Khrushchev to admit the error of his ways.

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The narrator too is problematic. Part succubus, part Mephistopheles, and with a Greek god's penchant for impersonating morals, Cullymore's inhabitants are only ever tangentially aware of his presence.

However, since the blood spattered, day glow heydays of the 1990s, the reception of McCabe's curious fiction has cooled. Emerald Germs of Ireland (1999) was drubbed heavily on publication while Call me the Breeze (2003) remains, in McCabe's own words, a novel 'no one has bloody read'. At times hilarious, the book was motivated by McCabe's dismay at the state of Irish short stories, "crippled by the weight of their own austerity".

One would have imagined the Devil to be a good fit for McCabe's trademark mischievousness but the expected savagery never materialises the way it did in, say, Winterwood (2006), a vile fairytale about the rot at the heart of a peasant class abruptly metamorphosed into a moneyed bourgeois nation. That book provided a prophetic analysis of Celtic Tiger Ireland while the point of this novel is nostalgia.

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In the town of Cullymore, Fr Augustus Hand is Nike Shoes White And Yellow

Variously described as a stone cold original, the king of bog gothic, and the Rolling Stones of Irish fiction (to Roddy Doyle's Beatles), McCabe sees his writing as a kind of "social fantastic", his mad, damaged characters a prism through which the feelings of society are reflected.

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