Patrick Boyle Clancy Sigal - Essay

Clancy Sigal

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "Like Any Other Man,"] Patrick Boyle has written a gem of a novel, limpid, sad and conceived on the dark side of the Irish soul. The protagonist, Simpson, is a lost Brian Boru, a civilized King Kong of pub and bed. His peace with the small, small-hearted town over which he officiates as fiscal priest is a terrible armistice of cunning and familiarity. He knows the foibles and weaknesses of each of his clients and considers himself exempt until syphilis strikes.

The novel deals almost entirely, over the span of a few weeks, with the quality of Simpson's terror.

[The author] has chosen his central image of descent, Simpson's retinal illness, with stark and frightening aptness. The right eyeball breaks with blood, flooding the noble man's vision with a sudden mushroom cloud, vaguely reminding him of God and shattering the buoyant will that has made him a champion weightlifter … and local good-time charlie. His roar of pain can be heard only by himself.

Because Mr. Boyle manages to hold his characters, especially the main one, with utmost, curt compassion, his book is funny, steady and unpretentious.

Clancy Sigal, "The Demise of Samson," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 28, 1968, p. 28.