A Sort of Homecoming

Robert Cremins, Author
Robert Cremins, Author W. W. Norton & Company $13.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-393-32023-7
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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Smug, ""post-literary"" hipster Tom Iremonger cuts a dashing, pathetic figure as the kind of loathsome slug Bret Easton Ellis would invent, but with the maddening charm of the wittiest of Dubliners. Iremonger is a 22-year-old Trinity graduate who squandered his entire inheritance during a six-month international binge that he calls an ""anti-odyssey,"" a project to ""make the present moment a work of art."" Now coming home to Dublin to see his family at Christmas, he learns the hard way that his excesses have not only left him flat broke, but also reflect a radical denial of his own past and a self-destructive evasion of the future. With nothing to go on except an inflated ego, Iremonger suffers shock after shock as he stumbles through a holiday nightmare of tight-lipped relatives, college chums turned gangsters and his lost love Mainie, Doyle now engaged to his old grammar school rival. The failed jet-setter copes with these blows by snuggling deeper into his security blanket of drugs, self-worship and ever-changing ""First Rules of Cool,"" but even the Iremonger ego crumbles before the ghosts of his unhappy past, revealing the shy boy he once was, in love with books and Irish history. Cremins uses his protagonist's delusion as a kind of warped prism through which to view larger issues facing contemporary Ireland: the constant exodus of its youth, troubled Catholic/Protestant relations and the erosion of Irish culture by the nouveau-riches' fad-conscious consumerism. The Iremonger project itself is Cremins's illuminating, ruggedly textured parable for wayward modern youth who turn from tradition in favor of glitzy instant-gratification, and who end up, as the hero does, as so much human jetsam in the airports of the world. This is a gratifying, subtly stylized tale of hard-won humility, told with bracing humor. (May)
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