Reading in Vienna, 2011. With Julian Gough<.
Reading in Vienna, 2011. With Harry Rowohlt<.
"Killoyle is a hilarious, passionate, caustic novel that parodies the great writers and contains a laugh in every footnote." Il Sole 24 Ore< < (Italy)
[Click covers to purchase]
"To jump in anywhere [in Boylan's work] is to be caught up in a totality, a dimension between Pynchon and the Pythons, though more accessible and coherent than that implies."
In the tradition of James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, and Samuel Beckett, this is a novel filled with hilarity and doom about the inhabitants of the Irish town of Killoyle: Milo Rogers, a headwaiter and would-be poet with a bit of a drinking problem and a bit of a sexual one; Kathy Hickman, a writer for the woman's fashion magazine Glam, as well as a former pin-up girl; Wolfetone Grey, who reads books only by or about God, and who also makes anonymous phone calls throughout the town in order to make people believe, among other things, that they have just won the lottery; and a host of other peculiar folks, all suffering from and tortured by problems with God, sex, the drink, and of course Ireland. Accompanying all of this is a nameless figure who bursts on the scene in the form of acerbic, opinionated, hilarious footnotes that rudely comment upon the characters and numerous other subjects.
"Killoyle ranks among the most impressive novels written by an American in recent years."
"A combination of the linguistic aptitude of James Joyce and the hilarious frolics of Flann O'Brien."
"This is a virtuoso performance, filled with truly funny turns of phrase and event."
"Back in its early days, one of the great joys of reading Spy magazine was wading
through the funny footnotes printed in the margins. That same pleasure awaits in
this hilarious Irish farce . . . that captures the absurdly comic
spirits of Joyce and Beckett in its depiction of an Emerald Isle town peopled by
some most peculiar folk, indeed. Wallowing in such gloomy, traditional Irish
concerns as religious angst and too much booze, Boylan's wacky tale is deftly
fleshed out with dense footnotes addressed directly to the reader, a clever
technique that, in the hands of this skillful writer, helps provide for heaps of
hearty laughter amid all the tears."
"Comparisons to James Joyce will come inevitably. . . . Boylan proves himself capable of spinning a fabulous yarn, as colorful as it is tangled." The Minnesota Daily
"Killoyle, An Irish Farce is a wonderful book following in [the] Anglo-Irish literary tradition. And like its Swiftian and Tristram Shandy forefathers, its characters all appear to be running low on luck, but the book is written with such humor and sympathy that their lives are a joy to participate in . . . Buy this book and read it."
Literary Society Review
This sequel to Killoyle follows the hapless inhabitants of that mythological town through the frenetic week of the Pint-Pulling Olympiad. After local lush Mick McCreek gets into a car crash with a cross-dressing church sexton, he enlists a lawyer, Tom O'Mallet. As it turns out, the lawyer's real gig is selling missiles to the IRA, and he plans to use his clueless client as a patsy. O'Mallet also hoodwinks Anil, an Indian waiter who has found himself the unlikely target of a manhunt. What Tom doesn't know is that his lucrative weapons are destined for a massive terrorist attack on the Pint-Pulling Olympiad, and that Anil's cousin Rashmi — a sweatshop worker turned intelligence operative — is hot on the bombers' trail, and the bombers may be hot on his.... "A splendid novel in every way: very funny, very inventive, and very insightful."
“Boylan's narrative resembles Joyce at his comically prolix best, with a similar appetite for vernacular nuance and pop allusion."
The Village Voice
"A grand Irish entertainment . . . Roger Boylan explores life’s absurdities with incomparably extravagant wordplay.”
The Financial Times
"You really feel yourself pulling for a rollicking Irish tale like The Great Pint-Pulling Olympiad . . Boylan’s satiric follow-up to [Killoyle] offers countless moments of lowbrow, lyrical mirth on the order of Roddy Doyle, Canadian satirist Robertson Davies or stories like Waking Ned Devine . . . Olympiad’s characters, having ‘stumbled a bit on the winding highway of life,’ leap off the page. You’ll really know their tendencies, fears and tastes . . . Boylan’s account of life in modern Ireland rings authentic, and his gifted ear (and pen) are self-evident.”
Austin American-Statesman “Boylan is great with dialogue and tone, and has a keen understanding of how Irish people are—or aren't—finding the delicate balance between their old customs and their (relatively) new place as a, for lack of a better term, buzz country. . . [he] knows the territory of the changing Ireland in his bones, and he's adept at weaving it into his fiction.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram“The Great Pint-Pulling Olympiad: A Mostly Irish Farce is a rollicking roller coaster of a novel by Roger Boylan, set in the days leading up to the Pint-Pulling Olympiad in the town of Killoyle, Ireland. A cross-dressing church sexton, a drunk who loses his job as a car tester and sues for wrongful termination, unemployment seminar hosts who sell missiles to the IRA on the side, and other memorable characters populate the pages of this engaging and topsy turvy tale with surprises hiding around every corner. ”
Midwest Book Review“Boylan both lampoons and pays homage to absurdist literary inspirations, including James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Monty Python's Flying Circus . . . The book sparkles because of the author's antic wordplay, especially the running commentary addressed to the reader in a hilarious sequence of lengthy footnotes.”
“An extraordinary sequence of episodes . . . highly entertaining . . . Boylan has produced a novel which reads like a mixture of [Flann O'Brien] and Tom Sharpe, with the odd Joycean aside added for good measure.”
The Irish Emigrant
"Boylan's magnum opus, moving like a fugue through the history of 20th-century Europe."
Why does the Archangel Michael recruit Gustave, a hard-drinking middle-aged atheist, into his legions of divine warriors? It's a total mystery to Gustave, who's nobody's idea of a mystic. He tries psychoanalysis to clear up the visions. That doesn't work, but a chance encounter in the therapist's waiting room with lovely Martine Jeanrenaud, a writer, changes his life. Here again is the mysterious hand of that Providence Gustave doesn't believe in: Martine has just published the biography of another reluctant mystic, an Austrian aristocrat and teacher in the early 1900s named Stefanie von Rothenberg, who had regular visions of Heaven and Hell as well as steady visits from a bizarre but tenacious swain named Adolf Hitler.
Meanwhile, Gustave contends in his daily life with further visits from the Archangel and sudden scrutiny from employers and colleagues. He becomes more and more convinced that Stefanie von Rothenberg's story is somehow his story, too, but wonders if he's losing his mind....
"Visited by the Archangel
Michael in a Dickensian vision, Gustave is mystified about why he is being
recruited into a legion of divine warriors. His bewilderment intensifies as the
visits recur, as his daily life as a middle-aged professor comes under increasing
scrutiny by his employers and the authorities. While reading a biography of an
early 20th-century Austrian aristocrat, teacher, and mystic Stefanie von
Rothenberg, Gustave comes face to face with the book's very attractive author
Martine Jeanrenaud in the waiting room of his psychiatrist's office.
of Martine's book alternate in their entirety among Gustave's first person
narrative in The Adorations. These chapters plunge
Gustave into the world of Stefanie von Rothenberg, who was as unlikely a mystic
as himself. With recurring visits from both heaven and hell, Stephanie is also
drawn into equally tenacious earthly visits from a young and ardent admirer
named Adolf Hitler, whom she first met in Linz, Austria in 1907. Gustav
experiences a growing concern that he is losing his mind, with the feeling that
Stefanie's story is becoming his story too. A novel in double time, The
Boylan's magnum opus, moving like a fugue through the history of 20th century
"The Adorations is set in Geneva, Vienna, Paris, and points in between. In time, it covers a century, ranging from before the First World War to the early 21st Century. Boylan knows the places he writes of intimately. Even though you know he cannot have known them during all the eras described, he gives the impression that he just might have been around then too. And known some of the characters he writes about. The descriptions of France under Nazi occupation are masterly; his delvings into the psychology of Adolf Hitler (he is one of the book's characters and the source of its might-have-been backdrop) intrigue; and he has put to very good use his considerable knowledge of the dying days of Austria-Hungary. Yet, for me, what gives the book its edge is the unbidden appearance of the supernatural and its (often comic) effect on the (quite secular) characters."
L. McG. on amazon.co.uk<
"It's not really a comic or ludicrous novel--it's a holding together of the brutality & uncanny aura of Nazism, and the ordinary lightness of human life (of which humor is a part). It's very much a book sui generis, though it's what people like to call a rollicking good read, with proficient momentum & jollity. The whole is an unlikely assemblage of extreme elements: booze, Catholicism, absurd academics, mysterious MILF, roadside assassinations, ecstatic Austrian theologians, religious visions, rape, Hitler (convincingly maniacal, charismatic, and drab), Gestapo beatings, pompous asses, food (in enormous detail), espionage, the old Europe, Citroens, whores, Calvin, knowingly dapper Jews, and so on. One of the few books I would buy as a gift for my friends, if it was available in paper & ink."
Elberry on amazon.co.uk<
Roger Boylan's Killoyle Trilogy
by Kevin Riordan
(This essay originally appeared in The Evergreen Review.)
reads a book to get to the middle."
- Mickey Spillane
the Mick should know a thing or two about books, but dropping into the middle
of Roger Boylan's three books about the quintessential Irish town of Killoyle
is a worthwhile immersion. (By the by, that town is all your granny, no such
place.) Alas, it is also as far as one can easily get at present, as the third
book, The Maladjusted Terrorist, has only been published in German so
far (twice), although excerpts can be glimpsed on the web. The first appeared
in 1997 from Dalkey Archive Press, and was highly praised by the late Harvey
Pekar, among others; The Great Pint Pulling Olympiad was put out in 2003
by Grove Press, but they evidently didn't see fit to take a chance on the next
installment. But, of course, once Rosset was no longer at the helm, Grove quickly
lost its taste for adventurous literature. It seems the bottom line is the
most important text you can read, even at that once fearless publisher. Their
loss and ours. To jump in anywhere though is to be caught up in a totality, a
dimension between Pynchon and the Pythons, though more accessible and coherent
than that implies.
A great admirer of Flann O'Brien
(disclaimer: as am I myself: I have a trellis named Dermot), who has reviewed
his complete works cogently, Boylan does not imitate him, or he would have
convoluted his tale with the paranormal and populated his trilogy with mythic
Hibernian creatures, and Killoyle, on the South coast of Ireland, is decidedly
not Middle Earth, it is all too human for that. The only unearthly creatures
here are "the elves of Hangover, armed with anvil and churn." Rather
he seems to stand in relation to him as O'Brien does to James Joyce, turned
memorably into a Jesuit-obsessed bartender in his novel The Dalkey Archive.
That author in turn is memorialized in The Great Pint Pulling Olympiad
with the radical splinter faction "The Soldiers of Brian O'Nolan," as
ill-advised a group of rebels as you could hope for; it is his incessant humor
amid hellishness that links them the most. Subsequent deaths, funerals,
shellings and incarceration are all more enjoyable than the last. In each
writer’s case, the shadow is too vast to escape, but one can have a lot of fun
in the shadows. Both writers at time transport their payloads with
Blarney-soaked blatherings that prove the axiom that the Irish tongue is pure
revenge on the Queen's English.
Killoyle, An Irish Farce
features Milo Rogers, Spudorgan Hall headwaiter, "something of a slum on
legs," and amateur poet, with a similar gift to the unseen Jasper Hoolihan
or At Swim Two Bird's character Jem Casey, whose doggerel ("A pint
of plain is your only man") is simply attributed to Flann O'Brien in
pub-decorating posters celebrating famous Irishmen (true, but, just…). As Joyce
said with his last breath, "Did no one understand?" Boylan's heroes
would be right at home with Donleavy's Sebastian Dangerfield of The Ginger
Man (motto: "Dignity in Debt") but these books are works for an
We are treated to an epic poem at
the conclusion of "Olympiad" that Rogers returns to deliver,
celebrating every major character in the manner of a Celtic bard, but when the
poet comes to his own place in the recitation, he is cut off summarily by the
contrarian voice behind a footnote. Ah, those footnotes, proliferating in
unprecedented profusion! (That line would have surely provoked one, for its
pomposity.) They run through the books straightening the reader out constantly
lest we should get the idea that the narrator is to be believed or allowed to
get away with foreshadowing, quaintness, blasphemy, or simply, impulsively, to
expound on anything that pops into the anonymous footnoter’s head: trenchcoats,
blokes named Derek, anything that reminds him of his cousin or an old
girlfriend. If a bit of foreign language slips in, there is a footnote to guess
helplessly at its meaning. Some are full encyclopedia entries, but to skip them
is to deny yourself their perverse pleasures. There is hardly a wasted word in
either case, the language is nimble, boisterous and daring. Even if the
personae are crashing bores to one another, the dialect is a wonder, and we are
told several times, after a few lines of someone's intense accent, that it will
henceforth be rendered "in a brand of standard, if oddly tuned,
The books abound with startling
characters, memorable even if they only appear in a few paragraphs, like Ewer
Burke, who "enjoyed nothing more than seeing quivers of embarrassment and
disapproval chase themselves up and down the gelatinous jowls of Dundreary's
Presbyterian notables like squirrels on tree trunks." Or take Killoyle's pickled Father Doyle, rising from
his bed like "Venus on the half shell, minus the beauty. His face was long
and pale, with a fringe of beard and sporadic hair; his limbs were stick-thin,
with liver spots stamped here and there on the chalky pallor like mud
bespattering snowdrifts; his chest varied from hollowness to concavity under
the on-and-off pressures of existence and the only bad habits he dared to
indulge." The danger in quoting is that it is very hard to stop. I must
venture one more though, about the dangers of the third pint: "It led
beyond the still habitable borderland of 'a couple of drinks' into the howling
wilderness of intoxication." The first book is concerned largely with guilt,
grog, gentrification, God-squadders and people whose names start with G. By the
second, the local church has become a disco, and other aspects of village life
have similarly gone sour.
Not since A Confederacy of Dunces
has a book been this hilarious to read aloud. Many shades of Irishmen and
immigrants from India are dissected, including the hapless Mick McCreek, who
fails brilliantly at a succession of jobs, and Anil Swain and family, late of
Mumbai, whose hyperactive involvement in the affairs of Killoyle explode events
like the ubiquitous Semtex. The cauliflower ear of a plot gets pounded into a
bruised mass by their attempts to seek justice, respect and decent television
watching. The second book is subtitled A Mostly Irish Farce, to
accommodate the international aspects of the cast.
Among contemporary Irish or Irish-American
writers (Boylan currently resides in Texas), the style is perhaps closest to
the somewhat tamer Ian Sansom, whose The Impartial Recorder and Mobile
Library mysteries give a likewise deadpan take on local culture, his set in
"the North of the North of Ireland," but librarians may take a less
friendly view of Boylan's work if they see what a scoundrel he has created in
his Library Manager, Mr. Finn. And the author could use a few friends. The
third leg of his trilogy has yet to appear in English, not for want of trying.
Unfortunately, this is another trait he seems to share with O'Brien. A section
of Boylan's blog The Snug is devoted to the art of dealing with literary
rejection, showing the excellent company he enjoys. Let's hope that some day
soon, we can read the Killoyle Trilogy to get to the end.
Below: RB with Anthony Cronin<, Vienna, July 2011.