Irish novelist Wilson's first book, published to considerable
critical acclaim in the UK in 1989, has waited almost a decade to
be issued here. Age has not treated this exuberant first-person
account by an Irish vagrant of his life on London's streets
particularly well. Ripley, a young man who has come to England
fleeing both the violence in Northern Ireland and his own demons,
is bright, angry, garrulous, and ultimately somewhat wearing. His
record of his childhood in Belfast, his disastrous career at
Cambridge, and his difficult, sometimes horrific, life in London is
vivid, moving, but finally too long, flawed by an expansiveness
(not uncommon to young novelists) that treats every event, even the
most minor, as being worthy of mention. Still, Wilson possesses an
infectious zest for language, and an unerring eye for the specifics
of life on the street. His more recent novel, Eureka Street (not
reviewed) demonstrated greater discipline with no diminution of
inventiveness. (Kirkus Reviews)
'I'm Ripley Bogle. I'm the prince of the pavements, I'm the
Parkbench King and the cold winds of the outside permanently fleck
my flesh. To come with me, you must brave the air and the wide,
bare boredom. The vast outdoors is my house and hall. It's with
purpose, fear and gratitude that I stalk the streets of the city.'
As the scene shifts from the streets of London, to Oxford and
Belfast, the tramp, Ripley Bogle, narrates his gripping and
alarming story in which it becomes increasingly difficult to tell
what is true and what is fiction.
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