An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Shortest Ian Graye Review in the Cosmos
Bog Irish Lad Lit takes a turn for the better.
But Wait There’s More!
Yeats meets “Ulysses” meets “The Cherry Orchard”.
Paul Murray quotes Yeats liberally throughout.
I don’t know Yeats well enough to comment on the significance of his poetry to the themes of this novel.
That would require research rather than "sprezzatura". (1)
There is a subtle affinity with James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.
Just watch me make my case.
There are 18 Episodes in “Ulysses” and 15 in “An Evening of Long Goodbyes” (“AEOLG”). Put this difference down to the new Irish economy.
Both novels are set in Dublin (Aha, got you there!).
“Ulysses” is set in one 24 hour period. “AEOLG” is not.
Both novels allude extensively to mythology, “Ulysses” to classical mythology and “AEOLG” to Hollywood legend (in particular, that of the actress Gene Tierney).
The comically self-absorbed protagonist, Charles Hythloday, could be a latterday wastrel version of Stephen Dedalus.
The novel could almost be entitled "A Portrait of the Bullshit Artist as a Young Man" or "A Portrait of a Young Man as a Bullshit Artist ".
Both novels concern a return to house and family, i.e., a return home (for a house is not necessarily a home).
OK, that’s about all I can come up with, without having to think about it.
"The Cherry Orchard"
Paul Murray refers extensively to this play throughout the novel.
It is the favourite play of Charles’ sister, Bel, although she stuffed up her lines in a student production.
The novel concerns an ancestral home, Amaurot (you could call it the House of Hythloday), that is insolvent and under threat of foreclosure.
The home is a symbol of the oppression of the family and the expectations of each generation for those that follow.
In a sense, a toxic home gives rise to a toxic family.
At a personal level, a family that was once apparently independently wealthy has to accommodate the new economy and the need to make new money.
One generation can only achieve its potential by breaking free of the bonds of the previous one, even if it has to commit its own follies to acquire wisdom.
(1) According to Wiki:
"Sprezzatura is ‘a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it’.
"It is the ability of the courtier to display ‘an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them’.
"[It is] ‘a form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance’."
This reviewer will keep these characteristics in mind for the term of his natural life, in case they come in handy.
It’s Not Over Until the Fat Boy Slims
Beneath this fat boy of a novel is a slim athletic figure who knows his chops.
It comes across as all Lad Lit, but then reveals something more significant underneath.
Paul Murray writes with “sprezzatura”, so much so that it’s easy to infer that nothing much is going on beneath the surface.
I almost gave up on the novel numerous times, until I got to the last 100 pages, when I decided I was almost at the bottom of the slippery slide, so I might as well stay on and finish the ride.
I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I read it before “Skippy Dies”.
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