The last book I read in 2015 and the first of 2016 were both Christmas gifts, and both wonderful reads in their own way.
I loved DeWItt’s previous offering, The Sisters Brothers, so was very excited to begin Undermajordomo Minor.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t what I got. The story is one of the seemingly hapless Lucien ‘Lucy’ Minor off to take up the role of Undermajordomo in the Castle Von Aux. We meet a variety of characters, all flawed, none of them terrible. The setting is a gothic, fairytale world (Princess Bride type of world maybe?) We are treated to romance, sex, violence and absurdity in different measures, all laced with a healthy dose of pythonesque humour.
The story is simple enough, with a few surprise along the way. I enjoyed the humour, but most particularly the use of language.
Beatlebone on the other hand features real life John Lennon, in real world West of Ireland, but occassionally forays into the whimsical, the melencholy and the troubled psyche of Lennon (and author Barry) and their creative process with its doubts and struggles.
John Lennon purchased a small Island off the coast of Mayo in the West of Ireland. The simple premise of the book is that he wants to travel to his Island in order to spend a few days alone.
Very different books, but with some similarities, in so much as they both have humour, and much of that humour stems from the writing and use of language more than the situations. Undermajordomo Minor is the lighter book, with more laugh out loud moments and comic moments. Beatlebone has a melancholic undercurrent, but the humuor comes from use of words, observations, or acerbic dialogue.
“Do you have a reservation? she says.
I have severe ones, he says, but I need a room”
Both are short enough novels, in fact such is the structure of Beatlebone it could be a novella. Short as Beatlebone is, it demands to be read slowly. I get the impression that Barry has worked carefully on each word in each sentence. I loved all of the conversation between John and the wise Cornelius O’Grady.
If you’re looking for a biography of John Lennon, you’ll be disappointed. If you are looking for an insight into the turmoil that an artist might experience during fallow periods, then look no further.
Christmas brought me some wonderful options to finish my reading year, and begin my new one. I hope the rest of my reading year gives me as much pleasure. The bar has been set high.