Book Reviews: WWN bid for global domination

The obsession with style in Kevin Barry's Beatlebone means that ultimately it doesn't quite cohere

Waterford Whispers News Takes Over The World, by Colm Williamson, published by Blackstaff Press

“THERE was more bad news today for people who frequently fall down in large clumps of nettles, after it was revealed that dock leaves would only be available with a prescription from September onwards.”

Welcome to Waterford in an alternate universe. Although the mere mention of crimes committed in a parallel world recently landed WWN in the sights of billionaire Denis O'Brien's lawyers, their fearless correspondents continue their dispatches from the nonsense dimension in the paper's second book.

This time Irish Water, ISIS and the gay marriage debate are among WWN's targets, but for me their best gags always lie in the most humdrum of headlines, like 'Neighbour can't believe the weather we're having' and 'Children running around playground will "sleep tonight" claims grandmother'.

Such tranquil headlines make you wonder what a wonderful place this parallel Waterford is. A place with 'Rent-A-Rosary', gritty puppet spin-off show Bosco Nights and where 'a large stack of cash' is running for US President.

If I only knew what sunny dimension Waterford Whispers came from, I'd go there.

Cathal McGuigan

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry, published in hardback by Canongate Books

IT IS 1978, and John, a world-famous musician in a fallow period, is making for a tiny island off the west of Ireland, trying to stay one step ahead of a childhood that haunts him and the pressmen that hound him wherever he turns.

Taken under the wing of Cornelius O'Grady, a local man with a van and a predilection for the magical, he begins a quixotic journey through the misfits that inhabit this forgotten, windswept coast.

Limerick-born Barry's language is mesmerising, luxuriant and vivid, but he is a little too aware of it, and at times that lyricism hampers the novel's progression and development.

There are passages that astound, and the whole book is shot through with humour and melancholy. But the tangle of ideas, and its obsession with style, means that ultimately it doesn't quite cohere, or go as deep as it could have.

Adam Weymouth

The Movie Doctors by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, published in hardback by Canongate Books

AS CO-PRESENTERS of the Sony award-winning Film Review programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode's light-hearted bickering has endeared them to a weekly audience of more than 500,000 cinephiles.

This tie-in book takes the premise of the show and extends it, promising tongue-in-cheek cinematic cures for readers' everyday woes. Stressed out? Watch The Big Lebowski. Tinnitus? Go and see Interstellar. (We kid you not.)

It's a list-maker's dream, though it's more for idle browsing than serious reference (we refer you to the chapter '10 Reasons Why "Local Hero" Will Cure All Your Ills').

While fans of the radio show will miss its fractious energy – clearly this was a bit of a concern, hence lots of scripted dialogue between the two 'doctors' – they might be appeased by the lavish illustrations and bountiful in-jokes.

Rachel Farrow


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