By Sara Dinnen
Living in a small town, one has two options. My home town is in the Far North of New Zealand, so it could be considered the tip, the head, the apex of the country. Actually, Māori consider it the tail of the legendary fish Māui, so in that sense it could also be considered the arse end of the country.
Either way, there are no libraries in which to browse. But what this little resort town does have is a huge selection of second-hand, pre-loved, books from the St Johns’ Charity Shop on one corner of an arcade and, right next door, a book shop-cum-stationery store-cum post office with a table out front fairly creaking with already-read books cheaply available once again.
Some gems can be found like that from Irish writer, John Boyne. A History of Loneliness (Doubleday) was published in 2014 so it’s very newly second-hand and probably no older than any copies you’d find in the library. Who-ever dropped it off to be re-loved is to be congratulated.
This is one of those books one simply cannot put down. It traces the development of Odran Yates from childhood to his passionately chosen vocation as a Catholic priest, from his days at Clonliffe College seminary as a seventeen-year-old, to his teaching and pastoral duties in other parts of Ireland.
While Father Yates loves what he does, he has considerable and anguished moments of disquiet concerning his God, his church, his close friends and fellow priests. The narrative doesn’t resile from addressing the issue of priestly abuse within the church. Indeed, some of those abusers are those he went through college with and, in fact, one is his closest friend.
When he discovers what others saw as patently obvious, he is plagued by thoughts he should have known, clues he missed; tortured by the consequences of events he has failed, through his own innocent view of his professional and private life, to notice. He hints at, but doesn’t overtly say, there were cover-ups by the church hierarchy. In the end, he paid a professional price by association. The very first words of the book express his anguish graphically.
“I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life.”
The language Boyne employs is flowing, expressive, sublime. It’s a book that isn’t always comfortable to digest but at the remains of the day one was very glad one had the opportunity to read, absorb and to consider its striking implications.
Then there’s Deep Cover a novel by English cricketer, Ian Botham, written in conjunction with English television presenter, Dennis Coath and published by HarperCollins in 1994.
Deep it is not and its cover is crass. The story line (if you can call it that) centres on an England cricket team preparing for, and eventually arriving, in the fictional island of Karistan for a test series.
The conversations among the protagonists barely rise above that of school-boy-level banter; puerile, facile, and with nicknames like Dealer, Butty, Doc and Snatcher. It’s littered with tits and bum phraseology and, since it’s cricket, balls.
How two grown men could pen such garbage is beyond comprehension but even more appalling is the thought that’s how cricketers of the calibre of Botham and a sports television presenter from the Midlands must actually carry on in real life. God help us.
How HarperCollins saw fit to publish this crap is astonishing bordering on the ridiculous. But, when you read some of the tripe in some of the daily newspapers in Britain, you will understand the maturity level of not just the authors but certain readers as well. There was an audience one presumes.
If you see this book on a table outside the bookshop in a resort town in the Far North of New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, chuck it in the incinerator. Or use the paper as a bin liner.