Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Julian Gough, _Jude: Level One_

THE BLURBS ON my copy compare Gough to Flann O'Brien and J. P. Donleavy, which comparisons I am guessing are meant to convey that he is male, Irish, and funny. He reminds me less of those two writers, though, than he does of a certain 1960s-ish vein of anarchic satire--Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Southern, Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man!--in his gleeful embrace of implausibilities and impossibilities as it skewers every pomposity that hoves into view.

Á la Rasselas or Candide, we follow a naïve, likeable, and luckless young man on a picaresque journey from Tipperary to Galway to Dublin (later installments will take him, I gather, to England and then to the United States), in the course of which he gets a series of upsetting (but hilarious) lessons in the idols of this world--wealth, power, love--in the peculiar manifestations they took on in Ireland during the real-estate bubble years of the mid-1990s.

Some familiarity with Ireland will help the reader, such as knowing about such personalities as Eamonn de Valera and Charles Haughey, and such entities as the Irish Times and Fianna Fail. It will help, as well, to be able to recognize the contours of Irish nationalist ideology, for Jude: Level 1is as incisively funny about that animal as are Martin McDonagh's Lieutenant of Inishmore and (going way back) Denis Johnston's The Old Lady Says No.

It may all be a little too Irish for many, but I laughed out loud a good dozen times reading this--and it takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud.

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