Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cycle of Violence

I'm going to quote at even greater length than usual from Colin Bateman's early novel Cycle of Violence because this bit is funny and, in its way, touching:

"Crossmaheart still had a Cripples Institute. There were no special people in Crossmaheart. There were no intellectually or physically challenged people. There were mentals and cripples. There were no single-parent families, there were bastards and sluts. There were natural-born mentals and mental cases, nuts who had made themselves crazy through wielding a gun in the name of one military faction or another. There were natural-born cripples and those who had brought it on themselves, gunmen who had been shot, gunmen who had shot themselves, bombers who had blown their hands off, thieves who had been shot in the legs by terrorists because they (the thieves) were a menace to society, and you could see them hopping down the streets, wearing their disability with pride like it was some red badge of courage."
Crossmaheart is the town to which the protagonist, a reporter and newspaper columnist named Miller, has been exiled, and that passage gives a vivid picture of just what kind of a town it is. It also uses parentheses to good effect.

***
I have read that a collection of Bateman's early newspaper columns was published under the title Bar Stool Boy. I bow in awe.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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30 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

Unbelievable!

I shall have to look around for him. I hadn't heard of him before. Thanks for the post.


vw-potylo hmmmmm.....

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That'S quite something, isn't it? I'd had the idea that Bateman's stuff was all relentless yuk-yuks, but this passage indicates a sympathetic point of view, I think,

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Crossmaheart sounds suspiciously like Crossmaglen, notorious border town deep in the heart of County Armagh's 'bandit country'.

Their gaelic football club's ground was commandeered for much of 'The Troubles' for heliport purposes.
I was there for post-funeral drinks and meal after my aunt died about 5 years ago, but even as a 'Pape' I steered clear of the place during 'The Troubles'

July 10, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Bateman's really good. I haven't read this one. Did either of you read Divorcing Jack?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

CB is spoofing Crossmaglen - the capital of what used to be called "Bandit Country" in Northern Ireland, in the 70's and 80's one of the scariest towns in Ireland.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger colin bateman said...

What a surprise to see my old cover suddenly after all these years! Thanks for the mention. I think my books have taken a more comedic turn recently (a post-Troubles high!) but if you get the chance to check out 'Mohammed Maguire', which is a satire on the Troubles and my favourite book you might enjoy. I think most of them come from a dark place, with black humour, which is pretty much what it was (and still is, sometimes) like here. But cheers!

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Their gaelic football club's ground was commandeered for much of 'The Troubles' for heliport purposes.

That does not sound like a move calculated to win the sympathy of the local population.

I was there for post-funeral drinks and meal after my aunt died about 5 years ago, but even as a 'Pape' I steered clear of the place during 'The Troubles'

Scary for everyone, I guess -- a strange idea to those who live in peace-wracked enclaves.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I haven't read "Divorcing Jack," but I might try that next; I seem to like Bateman's early work, if "Cycle of Violence" is any guide.

I haven't mentioned what the title refers to by the way. The cycle in question only adds to my enjoyment of the book.

And yep, that bit I quoted is not just funny, but funny, scary and touching. Maybe Bateman is right when he says comic crime fiction does not get the respect it deserves.

July 11, 2010  
Anonymous Adrian McKinty said...

The octopus was right. Of course.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

CB is spoofing Crossmaglen - the capital of what used to be called "Bandit Country" in Northern Ireland, in the 70's and 80's one of the scariest towns in Ireland.

That comic/scary spoof is probably a lot more effective than most straightforward descriptions scarred streets and hard men are. I don't just like what Bateman did in that passage, I like what he tried to do. What a way to get at the essence of a town.

I read Stuart Neville's "Ghosts of Belfast" and "Collusion" last week. I think I'm learning a hell of a lot more about Northern Ireland than I could from a lifetime of news stories and television reports.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Colin, it's always interesting for we auslanders, especially from countries far from war zones and thus all the more eager for tales of blood and violence, to see that troubles, lowercase or upper, can produce humor. That dark place gives a real edge. You should get professors ot modern Irish history to include your books on their course lists.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Paul the Octopus was right again," notes Kenn Fong [on the Guardian's minute-by-minute]. "Put away the olive oil and garlic!"

Adrian, I read a trenchant octopus-related observation last night in a New Zealand crime novel. I don't have the book at hand, but I will reproduce the comment here later. All World Cup fans will nod sagely when they read it.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Peter,
Great post. The CB example is a fine piece of writing. I enjoyed Divorcing Jack very much and plan to read more of his novels. 'Mohammed Maguire' sounds interesting as does 'Cylcle of Violence".

July 11, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Octopuses are the most intelligent invertebrates, are more intelligent than many lower vertebrates. They just don't live long enough to learn much and thereby demonstrate their intelligence to scientists. I don't eat intelligent invertebrates (the cephalopods) so put, yes, please away the olive oil and garlic.

July 12, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

"this passage indicates a sympathetic point of view, I think,"

I'm not sure about sympathetic, but satiric seems clear.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean: Yep, it's a nice bit, proof that good comedy is more than just laughs. After this book, I, too, plan to read more Bateman.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I stay away from cephalopods and crustaceans, so anyone here is welcome to them. I'll keep the olive oil and garlic, though. They're good for dipping.

The octopus reference was in "Cut & Run," if I have my recent reading straight, to a character referred to as Mr. Octopus not because he has a hand in everything, but because he knows or sees everything.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

It's odd that there's no YouTube of that Octopus escaping it's tank video, but I did see it, probably on either Nature or National Geographic.

However, here are a couple of pieces of corroborating evidence.

Tokyo street market

<a href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4007016107763801953#>Houdini escape</a>

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, the gap between satirical and sympathetic is narrow in this case. That passage certainly indicates a bitingly satirical attitude, but also a certain understanding and a feeling for the population of Crossmaheart. Characters often refer to the town as a hole, but Bateman is never condescending toward the natives.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, a creature making a break for the wide-open spaces touches something deep inside all of us. Still, the makers of "Free Willy" are fortunate that they chose a whale rather than an octopus as their star. Paul is probably lucky that he does not have to rely on his looks.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I'm not sure about that. Whales aren't exactly the handsomest creatures in the sea either. Octopi probably just need to hire a good public relations consultant.

Actually, they probably don't care all that much.

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's it. If I were an octopus's image consultant, I'd go for the smart-is-sexy angle. Maybe I'd use the slogan Ugly is the New Sexy.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I think I'd go with the flexibility factor.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In today's competitive business environment, flexibility is important. Flexibility and brains. And slimy tentacles with lots of suckers.

Paul the Octopus -- Your Cephalopod Solution
©

July 14, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Send that to Paul. Send it to him pronto. I think he's probably got a little time on his, uh, hands at the moment.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If tentacles are arms, how come an octopus is a cephalopod, or foot?

July 14, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Actually, in my search for the missing video of the night raid, I noticed that experts had recently discovered that the octopus actually has six arms and only two legs. I don't know how to say arm, leg or hand in Latin though. I strongly suspect that neither does Paul.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Does this help:

cephalopod

1826, from Fr. cephalopode , from Mod.L. cephalopoda , from Gk. kephale "head" + pod- , stem of pous "foot" (see foot).


I think the Greek for hand is chiros, hence chiromancy, or the laying on of hands. What this has to do with chiropodists, I don't know.

But what really intrigues me is why, after all these years, biologists have only now discovered that octopuses have six arms and two legs. Perhaps they knew all along but were too embarrassed to say anything.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,
I wonder if the sympathetic POV is more obvious once one has read the novel.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Possibly, though I had not finished reading the novel when I made the post. I still say the passage is full of rueful compassion, which is reasonably close to sympathy.

July 14, 2010  

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