Now that I finally dont feel like choking anymore whenever this novel crosses my mind, I've been thinking of all the gra- may contain light spoilers -
Now that I finally dont feel like choking anymore whenever this novel crosses my mind, I've been thinking of all the grandiose ways to open this review. The whole menu; rolling out the homeric quotes, the childhood anecdotes, all the ways in which I could link myself to O'Neill's work, the spinning of the proverbial red string of fate. Cop a part of the glory if you feel, add it to the epicurean cabinet of works I like to utilize to project my image of self.
I feel like this would do this book a disservice. It is a momentous occasion when you realize sincerity packs a harder punch than disillusioned postmodernist disdain and requires a good deal more courage (image the turn in the narrative's position in The Secret Society but like, on a grander scale) and At Swim, Two Boys is as honest a work as they get. In some way I feel this makes it deserving of the same honesty in return.
So let me tell you in all honesty that Two Boys made me cry like a babe. Multiple times. Make no mistake, easter 1916 is always approaching. It hangs over the novel like mist, sometimes barely recognizable and then on your heels like the Erlkönig stalking his destined prey. Here is the overwhelming dread that at times only that tired metaphor of drowning in the antarctic sea seemed applicable to. And here is the sweet, sweet sticky honey taste of first love. Here is two boys learning the other like a map, chapters in a book. Here is me, a mess at 2am in my Japanese dormitory. Here is the knowledge that as an observer you will always only experience that sincerity between Jim and Doyler tainted by your own expectations for the end of the book. And how glad you'll be that they never had to feel that dread.
Two Boys is both a novel about a gay romance and a novel about Ireland and it would not have worked as only one of them. When I asked my father about the assigned books they had in his school he said something relating to how Irish literature always seemed steeped in melancholy to him, way back from church manuscripts up to modern works like Angela's ashes. Something about insular isolation combined with English oppression and extreme poverty just brings out the sadness in a people I guess. O'Neill's novel feels to be in the same vein, though I would hesitate to call it a truly depressive one; there are many depressing things in here, but nonetheless there also moments of genuine joy and appreciation. Irish patriotism is unique in the way that it formed to encapsulate more a peoples believe that their culture and autonomy has a right to exist against opposing forces than any thought of superiority. Which is a conflict O'Neill mirrors perfectly on a microscale in the way our protagonists have to deal with not even really homophobic backlash but the pervasive fog of homophobia too many of us know too well. Two Boys succeeds in part in the grandiose way that it does because it understands its subject matter so well. I have no doubt that this was a deeply personal work for O'Neill.
There is so much I think of when reflecting on my reading experience with this book and so little ways in which I can express truly how deeply it touched me. This is an unsatisfying place to end my review and I know it, but I truly believe that the heart of this novel lies in its utter sincerity and I for the life of me cannot find a more compelling argument in favour of it. Please, please consider letting yourself be pulled along out to sea.
I like how this is less a story about taking action and more about reflection and observation. It raises somes interesting questions without necessariI like how this is less a story about taking action and more about reflection and observation. It raises somes interesting questions without necessarily answering any of them and sometimes there is even the notion that the act of questioning is in itself an answer though maybe not the one the characters are searching for.
This is certainly not something everyone would enjoy but I for one did greatly and was pleasantly surprised at how openended and kind of somber the author decided to leave it.
**spoiler alert** Boy, Mary Hooper sure does love her poor-orphaned-young-girl-gets-a-new-job-and-mysterious-shit-happens-but-it's-all-good-and-she's-**spoiler alert** Boy, Mary Hooper sure does love her poor-orphaned-young-girl-gets-a-new-job-and-mysterious-shit-happens-but-it's-all-good-and-she's-rich-in-the-end-stories.
Don't bother if you read any of her other books, it's just more of the same. Disappointing. ...more