A chiasmus is a literary figure in which a phrase includes a list of concepts, and the following phrase repeats those concept in reverse order — the old A-B-B'-A' form (or A-B-C-D-D'-C'-B'-A' and so on). The Bible uses them all the time, and so did Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson. And Alexander Pope ("His time a moment, and a point his space," Essay on Man, Epistle I. ). And now Stuart Neville, too:
"`I've been called lots of things. Smith, Murphy, Tomalty, Meehan, Gorman, Maher, I could go on.' He leaned forward and whispered, `There's some people say I'm not even really a Pavee.'This lends the exchange weight and rhythm and a fair bit of grim humor, too. Most of all, it makes the reader sit up and pay attention, alert for what comes next.
"A dead mask covered O'Kane's face. `Don't get smart with me, son. I'm a serious man. Don't forget that. I'll only warn you the once.'
"The Traveler leaned back and nodded. `Fair enough. But I'm a serious man too, and I don't like answering questions. You'll know as much about me as I want you to know.'
"O'Kane studied him for a moment. `Fair enough. I don't care if you're a gypsy, a traveler, a knacker, a tinker, or whatever the fuck you lot call yourselves these days. All I care about is the job I need doing. Are you the boy for it?'"
Reviewers, readers and blurbsters have quite rightly praised Neville for the ends he achieves: the suspense, the haunted emotion, and so on. I just thought I'd throw him a bouquet for a means by which he achieves those ends.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010