Patrick Boyle David Dempsey - Essay

David Dempsey

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Like Any Other Man] is a retelling, in a modern idiom, of the Samson and Delilah story; by taking a pagan theme that fits nicely into biblical sanction, the author has been able to smuggle an outrageously funny, frank, and terrifying book into his own country. Patrick Boyle is the best thing that has happened to literary Ireland in a long time.

Because he relates the modern obsession with sex to a vanishing sense of guilt, he is also something of an out of season Jansenist, a man who can make sin still seem Original. This is a disturbing novel, dealing with the shattering calamity of a man who is destroyed by his own strength, and by implication it challenges much of the new theology, with its emphasis on secular redemption. I don't mean to suggest that the author is grinding an axe for religion…. [If] anything Boyle sees the church as having lost its hold on the individual sinner. He is dealing here with what might properly be called the Masculine Mystique, the prideful obtuseness by which some modern Celts (Behan? Dylan Thomas?) fulfill their natures, and shatter their careers, through alcohol, sex and—in the protagonist at hand—the lifting of heavy weights.

This, at least, would seem to be the case with James Simpson (Samson)…. Given to drink and carnality, Simpson meets Delia (Delilah) Clifden, a local barmaid who is more than willing to share her couch with him. Simpson's vulnerability is lust...

(The entire section is 416 words.)