Frank Morgan was sitting in the corner playing the accordion music on the radio with his eyebrows.
If you look at that sentence with an educated eye, it is rubbish. If you look at it with your heart and your soul paying attention, it’s funny, descriptive, and captures the gentle spirit of this book beautifully.
I’d never heard of Dermot Healy ‘till I read an interview with him in The Guardian. He came over as a man really doing his thing, not caring much what others might think--just getting it done. So I bought his book.
This little bit of writing about Long Time No See, a novel that came out in 2011, contains no spoilers. I don’t want to talk about the plot much. I don’t want to talk about the ending much. I might not tell you much about the middle, either. You see, I want you to make your own mind up. I want you to buy this book, or get it from the library. Tomorrow, maybe today, if you have an hour to spare.
Healy presents us with a rare cast of characters. Each seems touched with madness, each one of them seems oddly isolated. Yet at the same time, they’re together, the lot of them, bouncing off each other, trying to figure each other out. And there’s love, and kindness, in places you might not expect to see it. Love is to be found in the dust of an old man’s fireplace, in the reclaimed rocks that make a wall, in the gentle cutting of hooves.
This kindness is not expressed in words. Not exactly. The characters in this book speak what I have learnt is known as Hiberno-English. English as spoken by the Irish. It is a different English, a different language, one that has poetry and simplicity in it, but is often terse and minimal. They might as well say, “Well, if you don’t know what I’m thinking, I certainly won’t be spelling it out for you.” There are, however, coded, real expressions of fraternal, maternal, and other sorts of love. There’s a curious thread of affection that winds its way through the book.
Healy’s language has a rhythm of its own that takes a little time to tune into, but once you do you’re carried away to an Ireland that is quite particular. An Ireland of close-knit communities with all the incestuous knowledge, shared history, and legends such places breed and thrive on.
I enjoyed my time spent in JoeJoe’s front room, I smelt the fire lit by Mister Psyche, and the Blackbird is never far from my thoughts. I’m left smiling.
And from then on whenever I put the kettle on and heard the drone of a plane I shot out and was there a plane?
The Blackbird studied the question.
There was none.
There was not.
I thought so.
And what was it do you think?
You have me there.
It was the kettle, I said.
The kettle, by God. That’s a sight.
Damn right, it was, said Granduncle JoeJoe.
It certainly was, agreed the Blackbird.
They bought me a fucking jet to make tay in.
They did. Are we finished the joking now?
Philip Dodd writes stories. Some are fact, some are fiction. His stories can be funny or they might be sad, and are often about memory and how we are shaped. Philip's stories and essay have been published in the literary magazines Toasted Cheese, Friction, and Pygmy Giant, among others. Find him at www.domesticatedbohemian.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @PhilipDodd.