KILLOYLE, subtitled “an Irish Farce,” reflects the literary tradition of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Flann O’Brien. The author, Roger Boylan, raised in Ireland and now an American citizen, presents a panoply of characters ranging from the colorful to the bizarre. Father Doyle of North Killoyle parish struggles to conceal his drinking problem and to outwit his housekeeper, who regularly roots out and drains his stash; the devout Wolfetone Grey makes prank telephone calls to residents of Killoyle and believes that he, along with 103,999 others whose surnames begin with G, have been chosen by God to find the 452 gaps in the curtain concealing enlightenment; nonbeliever Emmet Power is a guilt-ridden moralist undergoing a spiritual crisis—he keeps discovering incipient signs of faith in his thinking; Milos Rogers, aspiring poet and headwaiter, learns that the woman of his dreams is a former centerfold. The most interesting character, however, is the unnamed octogenarian reader who enters the text through footnotes; the Reader comments on the quality of the novel and supplies background information which is sometimes factual, sometimes absurd, and frequently digresses. While Boylan’s literary predecessors, Beckett and O’Brien, used footnotes to great effect in their respective novels WATT (1959) and THE THIRD POLICEMAN (1967), Boylan’s footnotes, sometimes extending for pages, create a rival manuscript rather than a subtext, and the real readers must decide which text to follow, a process that is sometimes distracting.
The plot takes improbably twists, relying often on the unlikeliest of coincidences, but the joy of the novel lies in the language. Boylan’s style is rich in “Irishisms” yet clever and original. All in all, KILLOYLE is a raucous romp of a read.