Magazine article The Spectator

Too Many Shocks for Comfort

Magazine article The Spectator

Too Many Shocks for Comfort

Article excerpt

BANKS OF GREEN WILLOW by Kevin Myers Scribner, L12.99, pp. 276, ISBN 01903650127

The best-written newspaper in the Republic of Ireland is the Irish Times and one of its brightest ornaments is Kevin Myers. His urbane contributions to `An Irishman's Diary' appear in a place of honour on the leader page. He writes political commentary of historical depth for his own paper and the Sunday Telegraph. He is a journalist of irreproachable probity and competence.

As a writer of fiction, however, he is unexpectedly reproachable. In Banks of Green Willow, his first novel, there are grievous excesses. Like many other first novelists, he seems to strain to exhibit cleverness. He overloads the story with shocks. He sets forth his ambitious fictional prospectus in the very first line: `Seth and Osiris: alpha and omega.' From first to last, `the rule of Seth' cruelly dominates, though Osiris is resilient. It is not until page 214 that Myers's protagonist says what the dichotomy means, enlightening his beloved and any readers who may be vague about Egyptian mythology. Stefan/Stephen, an Irishman who long thought his father was Yugoslavian, explains:

Seth is the god of war and death. He kills Osiris, his brother, the god of the Nile and tides and harvests. Like Jesus Christ, after his death he was resurrected, and with each harvest is resurrected again.

The spirit of Osiris is embodied in Gina, a young American student who meets Stefan in Ireland, immediately falls in love with him, and, `silly with lust', pretends she is on the pill. …

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