Monday, 15 September 2008

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

4th Estate €14.99

CRICKET in New York? Irish-Turkish-Dutch-American writer Joseph O'Neill's voice rings the knell of nostalgia in this Booker-nominated story.
Hans van den Broek, abandoned by his wife, wilts through his days as an oil futures analyst, and his solitary nights in the Chelsea Hotel, and befriends dodgy Trinidadian cricket tycoon-wannabe Chuck Ramkissoon.
During the breakup the narrator asks, "disastrously" if there is anything he can say that might make her change her mind, then flees to the bathroom.
"When I picked up my toothbrush it was wet. She had used it with a wife's unthinking intimacy. A hooting sob rose up from my chest."
Alone, but for the strange strangers who haunt the Chelsea - one a man who dresses as an angel, with several changes of wings - he joins a cricket league of men from the Caribbean and the subcontinent.
O'Neill is superb on America's petty horrors - in one hideously funny scene, the apparatchiks of the DMV use their tiny power with raging glee to bully poor souls who need driving licences.
The unwieldy story begins with the announcement that Ramkissoon's bound and drowned body has been found, and wanders through the marriage breakup to a reunion.
It's a bit disappointing, despite the flashing brilliance, but its beautiful writing shows the sure signature of a writer set to do greater things.

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