John the Revelator

by Peter Murphy

I’ve got a soft spot in my soul for Irish literature — hats off to you, At Swim, Two Boys — but this one didn’t really do it for me. Cool writing, some passages (especially the italicized dreams) are really breathtaking, the way the words sound together. But two pretty big gripes with the thing: first, the setting is totally protean and ambiguous, one chapter sounding like it’s from the 60’s and the next from the late 2000’s. It’s disconcerting. And second, there’s very little emotional resonance from any of the events on the characters (and therefore on the readers, too). Things happen, and there’s no real follow-up, no introspection, no actual relevance. Bad shit happens, and I’m mostly like, “Meh. Go to sleep and dream again!” That’s not a good sign. And everything was so pregnant with symbolism… it was a bit much. It really wanted to Mean Something, but it never did… at least not for me.

Disclaimer: I have no idea who Peter Murphy is, other than the author of this novel, and I’ve never heard the song “John the Revelator,” which is mentioned a few times in the novel. My bad?