Author(s): Kevin Barry
WINNER OF THE GOLDSMITHS PRIZE SHORTLISTED FOR THE IRISH BOOK AWARDS "John is so many miles from love now and home. This is the story of his strangest trip." A novel of family, ghosts, love, music and the quest for truth, Beatlebone recounts a wild journey through the west of Ireland in 1978. At its helm is John, a maddened genius fleeing fame and seeking peace. With his deadpan Irish driver, Cornelius, at his side, John is hellbent on reaching the Island of Dorinish, an assignment he arranged ten years before. Lyrical, freewheeling, quixotic and fun, Bealtlebone is a sad and beautiful comedy.
“The imagination is a very weak little bird. It flounders, Cornelius, and it flaps about a bit.” This remarkable book deals with the (fictional) 1978 visit of John Lennon to the west of Ireland in an attempt to reach the island he (actually) bought there in 1967. He intends to spend some time alone there, to do some screaming and cast off the weights that are stifling him both personally and creatively. As the epigraph from John McGahern suggests, the island he really seeks is the first person singular. In wonderfully fluid prose that slips in and out of John’s head, that concertinas time and clots and spreads itself over the landscape that is the dominant presence in the book, Barry describes John’s attempts to elude the press and reach his island with the help of his ‘fixer’ Cornelius O’Grady, an autochthonic foil for his mental slippages and ragged edges. The conversations between these two characters are a delight to read, perfectly nuanced and full of ironic resonance. One of the themes of the book is the effect of place upon the personalities, identities and trajectories of the people who live or visit there, and the extent to which memory and experience are properties of the physical, of objects and places, rather than of persons. Not every section of this book is equally successful – John’s visit to the self-actualisers in the Amethyst Hotel tries perhaps a little hard, though it makes convincing the experience that follows, and the section describing the author’s collation of material for the novel has something of the effect of turning the house lights up during a theatre performance (I haven’t decided yet whether this adds to or detracts from the overall effect) – but the novel is constantly playing with the possibilities of writing a novel, which is exciting, and the climaxes when John releases his voice, first at the press who appear in a boat as soon as he reaches his island (spoiler, sorry) and then as transcribed in the ‘Great Lost Beatlebone Tape’, share the liberating, unhinged transcendence of Lucky’s ‘thinking’ monologue in Waiting for Godot.
Winner of Goldsmiths Prize 2015. Shortlisted for James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Fiction) 2016 and Irish Book Awards 2015.
Kevin Barry is the author of the novel City of Bohane and two short story collections, Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. He was awarded the Rooney Prize in 2007 and won The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize in 2012. For City of Bohane he was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Irish Book Award, and won the Author's Club First Novel Prize, The European Prize for Literature and the IMPAC Prize. Beatlebone, his second novel, was the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Award.