“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Swan, Swan, Hummingbird – Hurrah!

Given that the ever-radiant Marsha Swan is the mastermind behind Hag’s Head Press, the original publisher of THE BIG O, it might seem like incestuous log-rolling for me to plug her forthcoming pair of interlocking novellas, THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC. But the story runs thusly …
  Marsha was the editor on my first novel, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, which was published by Sitric, a now defunct imprint of Lilliput. Given the – shall we say – idiosyncratic way Lilliput goes about its business, I still hadn’t even heard of Marsha Swan by the time her independently published debut novel, DIRTY SKY, appeared some years later. But I was hugely impressed, and said that it reminded me of a more dynamic Raymond Carver when I reviewed it. Later again, Marsha got in touch to promote another Hag’s Head Press offering, Sean Harnett’s AISLING LTD, and in passing asked if I was working on anything on the time. As it happened, I was sitting on a cushion stuffed with rejection slips for THE BIG O …
  So it’s with a crystal clear conscience that I thoroughly recommend to you THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC. Quoth the blurb elves:
In THE PUNCHING MAN, Remus, a young Roma boy adrift in Dublin, becomes intrigued by a man he sees punch a stranger on the street. When Remus and his friends begin following the man, it quickly becomes unclear who is following whom. But Remus has even less comprehension of the biggest things in his life: the family who will adopt him, the country he will live in, how he will make his way in a new and daunting city.
  In BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC, Ruth abandons her life and career in Chicago to move to Dublin. She marries a man she met on holiday there, even though she doesn’t fully understand why—at 46—she’s suddenly ready to gamble on romance. The life she might have had changes abruptly when she is diagnosed with breast cancer and decides to take a challenging job in the Christian Brothers school where Remus is now a student.
  These interlocking novellas, published in one edition, offer two foreigners’ perspectives on a city where they quickly find themselves fighting against shadows: a culture they don’t understand and don’t have access to; bullies on the schoolyard and in the staffroom; a mysterious stranger or a mysterious disease. In this finely observed portrait of Ireland at the turn of the 21st century, Marsha Swan writes with a stark lyricism, giving voice to two very different characters navigating enormous change with hope and dignity.
  So there you have it. For those of you interested in such things, Marsha will be launching THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC in Dublin next week, on Thursday, September 18, in Toner’s of Baggot Street. The evening kicks off at 6.30pm, and all are welcome. Oh, and I’ll be the guy at the bar mumbling about Ray Carver …

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