I picked this book up many months ago in a bookshop and only got around to reading it last week. Initially having read the blurb I thought that this seems somewhat different from the usually published drivel about stories set here during The Troubles ...... and it was.
I had several years ago been completely turned off not just by such novels written about here but also TV programmes and/or films, with specifics to the Troubles and love across the divide....absolute vomit material that tends to be hailed by the media for its courage and understanding.
Most, if not all of these demoralising, regurgitated irrational pretentious babble were written by people who having lived here throughout the Troubles remained not just immune, but totally bloody ignorant of what injustices Catholics faced and in response felt that they, the ignorant writers, were best placed to write about these injustices in terms of responsibility being with the Provos and no-one else!
Prattling on about love across the barricades and inflicting upon us their inane understanding of ‘The Troubles’, some even went on to earn international fame for repeating the State moralising view. A conflict where Catholics only married Protestants, they didn’t marry each other! Bateman and his ridiculous Divorcing Jack being one of the more infamous ones.
Now, back to Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith. This book didn’t disappoint at all. It stayed pretty much clear of the Troubles with only fleeting mentions of such from reports on radios or television. It did not moralise the reader in to another monotone melodramatic take on how wonderful it was here before the Provos and if only they’d gone away sooner.
No, rather the book focuses on two people in the 1980’s, Artie and Oliver, one Catholic and the other Protestant ~ well we can’t ever escape completely now can we ~ whose self-assurance, purposefulness and conviction in life has been slowly drained from them by their dependency on handouts from the State.....specifically the Art’s Council handouts.
The book opens with a discussion on the topic of ‘biscuits’ and from there the notion is set in the head of the reader that these two are wasters. Artie and Oliver, apparently poets and philosophers. Both refer to themselves as editors of an arts funded publication called the Lyre - and mostly composed of poetry selected from letters sent in by the general public and which in turn mostly tends to be of a poetic quality best described as crap.
Due to unforeseen events and the introduction of Mad Dog and Rosie, Artie and Oliver's bohemian lifestyle begins to wobble precariously, especially with the hideous threat of funding being pulled by the head of the Arts council, The Hawk, unless they produce something of significant quality and home grown in their next edition.
Due to a lack of viable poetic quality and to overcome this threat Artie and Oliver through deceit quickly scramble together a series of poems composed by themselves but published under a pseudonym. On reading their proposed copy before publication, The Hawk, ecstatic with this new raw and gritty work demands that this new poet be given full public exposure to bring poetry back to the masses. This is really where the proverbial hits the fan.
The book humorously follows their chaotic exploits in trying to sustain their languid lifestyle of handouts, and satirically introduces the reader to the obscure and surreal life of the arts and the characters who frequent it. A very witty and intelligently written book that is interlaced with poetic verse and entertains the reader throughout.
At this time of the year, it could be a filler for the auld Christmas stocking....or to appease rather than antagonise you atheists out there, a filler for your auld man’s sock!
Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith, 2016. Sandstone Press Ltd. ISBN-13: 978-1908737083