Mired in Green Willow
In the interests of thoroughness and good research practice, I suppose I (or Copernicus) should have a crack at reading Myers's 2001 foray into the world of fiction Banks of Green Willow…but you know what they say about life being too short…
The handful of reviews I've found online prove that at least 3 or 4 people (not including members of the Myers family) have trawled their way through it, but impressions are decidedly mixed…(although no less a figure than John Banville - perhaps out of a dutiful chumminess - called it "As fresh as tomorrow’s headlines", and, "a moving and accurate portrait of our terrible age").
The Sunday Times dwelled on the modesty of Myers's advance, and its deleterious effect on the Colonel's plans for a new conservatory (or possibly not):
Unlike the six-figure deals that some of his Irish Times colleagues have enjoyed, Myers's advance was modest. Nuala O'Faolain sold her first novel to Penguin for £500,000 and John Connolly got almost £1m for Every Dead Thing, but Myers's advance was in four figures. "It was under £10,000. Obviously you hope for a £1m advance and £10m on the film rights, but I'm just happy to get it published," he said. [Sunday Times, August 26, 2001]
The Scotsman took a rather different approach, implying that Kev may have let his love of girls and guns overwhelm the romance at the book’s core:
What may linger longer in the mind, however, is Myers's approach to sex and war, both of which are written about in such a graphic style that an uncomfortable sense of vicarious thrills being played out looms over an otherwise classic tale of love across the barricadess. [The Scotsman, November 9, 2002]
The Telegraph (surprisingly) ticked off their boy for being excessively maudlin, while hinting at a potential post-Irishman's Diary career as a Fair City scribe:
This is a novel full of incident - far too full, in fact. Ironically, it is the account of the activities of a Serbian death squad that provides the story with its most understated and convincing narrative. Gina's life, by contrast, is ripe with climaxes straight out of a soap opera. Virtually everyone who comes into contact with her ends up suffering some appalling tragedy, from car crashes to cancer. It is all shamelessly tear-jerking. The worst of it is that, as the Bosnian sections demonstrate, Myers had no need to resort to such cheap tricks. He plays the melodramatist, but has the makings of a sensitive and intelligent novelist. [The Daily Telegraph]
The bizarrely monikered "Dr. Seamus Earwicker”, over at irishresistancebooks.com, undoubtedly launched the most ferocious attack on the Colonel's opus, being particualary scathing about the book's more 'steamy' passages. Mind you, in fairness to 'Dr. Earwicker', he didn’t exactly try and hide his disdain for Myers and all his works:
I once read a book worse than this – mind you, it was written by Barbara Cartland. However, in the interests of fairness I, should point out that since I, along with most right thinking sentient human beings, despise Kevin Myers, what I write must be taken with a dose of strychnine.
The last word on the subject goes to a reviewer who found himself so captivated by the novel that he was moved to explode rapturously thus:
Banks of Green Willow is the finest work in all of Western literature. Its author is an outrageously talented man. Anyone who doesn't buy at least 10 copies of this book so that there is one in every room in the house is a fool. I nominate the author for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The name of that passionate Myers fan? Why, Kevin Myers (in 'humourist' mode) of course...[The Irish Times, November 7, 2001]