Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith
|Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: It's easy to empathise with Artie McCann – he's a pleasure and a joy. I'm just pleased he's not one of my sons. Quirky… funny… loved it!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: August 2012|
|Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd|
It's 1980s Belfast and Artie McCann has it sorted. Having left uni with a literature degree, a love of poetry and no real urge for hard work, he and his mate Oliver discover the joy of Art Council grants. All they need to do is establish a literary magazine and bring out an issue (very) occasionally. This frees them up for reliving the best bits of their former student lifestyle and discussing the comparable merits of biscuit varieties. However things start to go awry; not all the magazine's would-be contributors are happy (or unarmed) and life begins to appear more unsettled. There is a way out but it will take some hard work, an actor and a remedy for that smell of rotting milk.
Writer and debut novelist Kevin Smith writes here about what he knows. I'm not suggesting he had a friend who collected entire rotting milk containers to collect competition tokens that couldn’t be cut out due to lack of scissors, just that he grew up and lived in Northern Ireland like Artie. However this isn't a novel about death and destruction. The 1980s Belfast of the news footage is there; bombs explode, people are shot and Orange Day parades are organised but it's in the background. 'The Troubles' are the soundtrack to Artie's and Oliver's existence, not something at the forefront of their minds on a daily basis. Despite the devastation, Artie and Oliver normality exists. There is a sense of danger and jeopardy but it's the result of the lads being who they are and knowing who they know so could happen anywhere, not just Ireland.
Artie is constantly reminded of poetry, quotes naturally peppering his thoughts and progress. Please don't misunderstand me though: this is a blokey book as much as it's one for the more robust form of lady (more on her later). Our hero isn't genteelly sensitive or a wanna-be-Byron. Jammy Dodger is High Fidelity for verse, reclaiming it from the congenitally pale and wan. Artie may have devised a list of his favourite Irish poets, but, along with Oliver he also has an eye for the lasses and a good party and a very close eye on Rosie McCann.
Speaking of Artie's attempts to woo Rosie, Kevin Smith has a better idea of how to give a woman a good time than his creation. Laugh? Indeed, I'm afraid I did the coffee-down-nose thing again. My excuse is that the guy has a natural comedic turn of phrase. For hilarity check out their autographing-classics get rich quick plan (the second passage in which it's mentioned). For cleverness, read Artie's comparison of his parents' relationship to 'Battleships' and also the description of someone using the bathroom to have a 'three act bowel movement' was pretty priceless. (Here you see the necessity of being a robust lady reader while you also watch my reputation as 'demure and delicate' disappear entirely.) I won't spoil any more of the fun; let's just say that this is more than worth the book's price.
In a nutshell, Jammy Dodger is a coming of age novel of sorts, recapturing that magical time between riotous student-hood and adult responsibility as the latter slowly envelops the former, leaving only a warm patch in which the memories reside. In fact a warm patch of memories is what you'll be left with when you finish reading it; that and the warm patch where the coffee hit your shirt. (Or was that just me?)
If you've enjoyed this and would like to read more about Ireland past and present, we recommend Joseph O'Connor's short stories. However, if it was the humour that attracted you to Kevin Smith, we just as heartily suggest Three Jumpers by Michael Marr.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith at Amazon.com.
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