Ripley Bogle

Robert McLiam Wilson, Author
Robert McLiam Wilson, Author Trafalgar Square Publishing $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-233-98392-9
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-55970-424-3
Paperback - 325 pages - 978-0-7493-9465-3
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Winner of Britain's Betty Trask Prize, this first novel by a 26-year-old Belfast native is both a delight and a letdown. The eponymous narrator is a decrepit young vagrant who wanders the Dickensian night streets of contemporary London as he spouts this tale to You, the reader. His story, which parallels the author's history in some ways, explains his current circumstances. A child prodigy from Belfast slums who ascends to Cambridge before dropping out, Bogle is erudite yet deliberately crude. ``Two years ago I was munching pheasant in oaken chambers brimming with the gentry and now I'm licking the lichens off London's lavatory walls.'' Before the narrative is done, he has confessed to several deceptions, and leaves us, having provided more epigrams than explanations. Wilson's neo-Joycean language and word play can be effective, but are more often intrusive. This rowdy, boisterous and often vividly shocking story is above all a self-conscious mass of words. There is true brilliance here, and there are rewarding moments for the patient reader, but the author's self-indulgence and peacockish prose are ultimately distancing. (Dec.)
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