The President of the United States has been assassinated in Dublin Castle. His daughter is studying in her bomb-proofed rooms when she receives the news. The world is spinning with all manner of reports from all the usual commentators but our narrator is here to finally tell the real story.
That narrator is an 84 year old man named Monk, after Thelonius Monk. He’s got stacks of notebooks, photographs and cuttings in his abode, along with a bank of monitors that link him to the city and beyond. He’s keeping particular tabs on Schroeder, a failed novelist, recently sacked from Trinity College, fond of the sup, and obsessed with television reporter Paula Viola. He’s also keeping his eye on Walton, a man who spends his days indoors locked into the murky world of adult entertainment.
It hasn’t rained in months in Dublin. Electric and water supply is erratic and Monk showers for the thirty second legal max. He recounts a time when he found himself half asleep at his sink, putting toothpaste on the barrel of his gun, all set to scrub his teeth with a loaded weapon.
The future is not the one people would’ve expected, it’s a very rundown Dublin that’s presented here. Temeple Bar is rotten and full of danger and disease. Clubs and bars are now crack houses and the saloon deals in alcohol and handguns.
Monk keeps an obsessive eye on his neighbours. He knows every detail of their lives, who they’re with, what they’re doing and even what they’re thinking. The people of Dublin are all sleeping in a bed of intelligence and surveillance.
Monk is at pains to point out that the story may not play out the way the reader expects but this is what happens when you’re giving an honest account. John Kelly has really put together a brilliantly original narrative here, with the story turning in unexpected directions throughout. It’s wildly entertaining, with pretty much every page raising at least a smirk and often generating some big laughs. It’s a fiercely inventive novel and a total joy to read.
From Out Of The City will be published by Dalkey Archive Press on April 14.