Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bad Day at Blackrock

Kevin Power's debut novel, Bad Day at Blackrock, certainly pinpoints the zeitgeist - and specifically the rottenness in wealthy Ireland that has brought us to our current state. Power's pointed epigraph is from Hamlet : 'This is th'impostume of much wealth and peace, / That inward breaks, and shows no cause without / Why the man dies' (the reference is to Hamlet's thoughts on the apparent pointlessness of Fortinbras's aggression).

Bad Day in Blackrock is much the best literary response yet to the Celtic Tiger years, with echoes of The Great Gatsby and Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Ross O'Carroll Kelly has been on this territory for a while from a comic angle, but Power's controlled combination of the lyrical and the demotic is on an entirely different level in analysing pre-crash Ireland : this was a world in which, on any given evening, you could watch while a pyjamaed teenage girl with back-combed hair and furry boots jogged across the bleak forecourt of an all-night petrol station to buy a packet of safety razors to cut herself with.

Power's narrator is nameless and for the most of the novel it seems that he is also uninvolved, just an observer, but in fact in the final pages we learn that he is right at the heart of the story. The skill, control and narrative drive in this novel are very impressive, and the author is clearly at the start of an interesting career.

Power was interviewed last October by Vincent Woods in the Arts Show on Radio 1 - click here to listen. And his short story 'Wilderness Gothic', short-listed for the Francis MacManus award last year, can be heard here, read by Daragh Kelly. John Boyne's Irish Times review of the novel is here.

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