Yesterday at lunch I finished reading an amazing Irish novel, At Swim Two Boys, written over a ten-year period by openly gay author Jamie O’Neill, whom many critics are calling the successor to James Joyce and Roddy Doyle. Fortunately I was eating lunch late, when few other people were still around, because I was a little embarrassed sitting in the cafeteria trying unsuccessfully to fight back my tears as I read the final few pages.
I strongly recommend this new Irish epic, but one caution: I think of myself as a reasonably literate person, and have always taken some pride in my vocabulary. This was the first book I’ve read, though, where I really did have to keep a dictionary nearby. And even that wasn’t always helpful, as a fair amount of the words I didn’t recognize weren’t just obscure, or just Irish regionalisms, or even just early 20th century usage, but were simultaneously obscure, early 20th century Irish regionalisms. The language is so beautiful and so rhythmic, though, evocative of Joyce, in fact, and much of the unknown vocabulary was at least guessable from context.