|Call Me the Breeze
By Patrick McCabe
Published by HarperCollins
November 2003; 0060523891; 352 pages
The End ...
... is the beginning -- that's what the ancients say. Well, we'll see. But first of all I want to get the rest of this stuff out of the way and leave it exactly as I found it for Bonehead.
'You can't be a famous writer and go throwing your papers around you like that,' he says.
And he's right, I guess. But he might as well be talking to the wall. I've always been that way. As soon as I was finished writing anything, I'd just shove it into a bag.
A Leatherette Holdall ...
... to be precise. That's where he found nearly all of the material. 'Give me that!' he says. 'Till I put some order on it once and for all!'
So I did. 'There you are!' I says. 'It's all yours, Bone! You can do what you like with it, for all the difference it makes to me!'
He spent about a month on it, beavering away in his room. When he was finished, he presented it to me: 'The magnificent Joey Tallon Archibe!' he says.
But there could be no doubt about it -- he really had done a terrific job. In place of the leatherette holdall, a neat little stack of marbled box files containing all my notebooks and ledgers.
I've had a really good time going through it. And if I was any kind of writer at all, I'd have made something worthwhile out of it, instead of just sitting here rambling half the night, filling up pages with discursive nonsense. I mean, it's not as if enough didn't happen!
Particularly during the seventies, when the old leatherette holdall found itself very much favoured -- particularly by anonymous men who had a predilection for leaving it behind them in crowded public houses.
Although somehow you always felt that in a small border town like Scotsfield nothing serious would ever really happen. That most of what you heard was talk and would never amount to anything much.
But that was before the 'Campbell Morris Incident'. Campbell was a salesman who happened to drop by for the Lady of the Lake festival but ended up getting himself killed. It's impossible to say who started the rumours about him.
Either way it ended with him being pulled out of the reservoir and the cops going apeshit, raiding pubs. It wasn't my business. I was too busy getting on with my life, pulling pints and thinking about Jacy. She was all I ever thought about in those days.
'He was a fucking spy! And that's it!' you'd hear them shouting late at night, full of guilt over what they had done. There had been six or seven of them involved, I think.
'How about we go out to The Ritzy?' they'd said, as the salesman drunkenly grinned. 'You'll see things out there that you'd never come across in Dublin or London.'
It was a ruse, to get him on his own. They used to show all these blue movies in a barn way out the country. They had dubbed it 'The Ritzy' and for a tenner you could watch the films and drink all you wanted. There was talk of Boyle Henry and the Provos being involved in its operation, but you'd never say that openly. 'I couldn't tell you anything about The Ritzy' was what you said if you were asked. 'I know nothing at all about any of that' -- that's what you were expected to say.
And did, if you had any sense.
The 'blues', as they called them, were very popular. Bennett had always liked them. 'The best of crack,' he used to say. 'I always make sure to go out every Saturday.' But not any more.
After the salesman's funeral, Bennett had driven out to the reservoir and sat there for a couple of hours thinking about it all, and his part in it, I guess. He was discovered there a few hours later, slumped over the dash and poisoned with carbon monoxide.
Whenever I heard things like that back in those days, my reaction would always be the same: finish up my work, head straight home to fall into Mona's arms.
I used to tell her everything. The only other person I had ever talked to in that kind of way was Eamon Byrne, The Seeker. We had been at school together but he'd gone off to travel the world. I used to love seeing him coming into Austie's with the big long beard and the hair flying around his shoulders. Especially when you knew the reaction he was going to get. He always wore this hooded brown robe, the djellaba, and knew that it drove them crazy. He'd sit at the bar and roll himself a joint, without, it seemed, a care in the world. Then the two of us would just sit there, rapping for ages, about Dylan and Carlos Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan) and Santana, the band. He was a big fan of their album Abraxas and had brought me home a tape of it. I used to put on 'Oye Como Va' and 'Singing Winds/Crying Beasts' in the pub just to drive Austie wild. 'Fucking jungle music!' he called it, flicking his dishcloth and kicking crates.
The Seeker (he took his name from a song by The Who) was living in a squat in Peckham and working on an adventure playground. Just listening to him there, you'd be kind of hypnotized.
'Did you ever read T. S. Eliot?' he said to me one day, and I had to admit that I hadn't. To be perfectly honest, up to that point I hadn't read much of anything. I'd read sweet fuck all, to tell you the God's honest truth. Not since Just William, Biggles and shit ...
| (back to top)
In a small town in Northern Ireland, in the troubling psychedelic-gone-wrong atmosphere of the late seventies, Joey Tallon embarks on a journey of selfhood, of redemption, and of rebirth. A man deranged by desire, and longing for belonging, with the words of T. S. Eliot as his guide -- "We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time" -- Tallon searches for his "place of peace," a spiritual landscape located somewhere between Ireland and Iowa, and maybe between heaven and hell.
Following the delusional, but also ultimately likable, Tallon on his quest, we unwittingly enter a world constructed by a character who is arguably more lucid during his acid trips than when he's sober. What begins as a baffling mystery in McCabe's hands becomes a raucous and ribald adventure. From Tallon's punk rock beginnings, to his stewardship of his prison's literary society, to his brief tenure as director of the Youth in Action Creative Arts Awareness Scheme, and finally to his bull-like charge into the political arena, Joey's journey toward enlightenment and deliverance takes readers into the innermost heart of a man at odds with himself and the violent, sometimes surreal world around him.
Hilarious, poignant, and unpredictable, Call Me the Breeze is a literary odyssey five years in the making. It is Patrick McCabe at his absolute best.(back to top)
He a novelist and playwright. In 1979 his short story The Call won the Irish Press Hennessy Award. His novels The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. The Butcher Boy was the winner of The Irish Times/Aer Lingus Literature Prize 1992. He has broadcast stories on RTÉ and several plays were broadcast by RTÉ and the BBC. His play Frank Pig Says Hello, based on The Butcher Boy, was first performed at The Dublin Theatre Festival in 1992.