Patrick Boyle Robert Taubman - Essay

Robert Taubman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Patrick Boyle uses Irish speech for exactitude, but English for effect—and all too often weakens the effect by exaggeration. 'Tap-tap-tap. Loud. Urgent. Imperative'—no one even knocks on a door without taking risks with his blood pressure. Pillows are sweat-sodden, eyeballs bulge. But this isn't only Mr Boyle's manner, it's a large part of his subject. The stories in his recent At Night All Cats Are Grey are about suddent death, savage animals, a collapse of human relations that ends in a cataleptic trance—though they calm down and have good moments when people talk their natural language. His novel Like Any Other Man … describes the agony of a man for whom physical force is the only measure. The title seems inappropriate; and since the hero is a bank manager he's surely in the wrong job At all events, Simpson begins by seeing spots before his eyes, discovers he has syphilis, murders his girlfriend, goes blind and pulls the wardrobe down on top of him. The ostensible parallel is with Samson and Delilah. The real one could be with Mr Boyle and the violence he does to his own talent.

Robert Taubman, "Last Straws," in New Statesman (© 1966 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 71, No. 1841, June 24, 1966, p. 934.∗