"Knick Knack Paddy Whack"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark JAN 08, 2000)
Nineteen year old Patrick Scully is heading home for the weekend, something he normally does once a month, but he's feeling like he's tired of Dublin and probably will start coming home every weekend. He's also glad to be away from his girlfriend Francesca, not that he doesn't love her, it's just that, well it's hard to explain. Home for him is the wholesome smell of pig slurry and good "crack." In fact the main preoccupation of this small Irish town is sharing the crack with friends, neighbors and family. Crack, from what I gather, is gossip or talk and appears to be as addicting as the drug with the same name. Competition runs high to be the first with the crack on anyone else. There's a great scene when the mother and her nurse friend compete for worst stories, the nurse having the advantage, but the mother nevertheless catching her with at least one fresh nugget. Meanwhile, the brother, who should be doing his homework, finds more and more reason to come into the kitchen until he is also in the thick of it.
It is no wonder that Scully unconsciously judges himself by the way the town has talked about him, and his family, over the years. Even his desire to be accepted as a guard (police), goes beyond merely imitating his dad. He knows the local paper reports on the guards activities, which in turn becomes the latest crack. As his candid narration continues, he begins to hint that their might just be some crack on him for a long time to come, but not the proud kind. And this begins to explain why he's telling us his story, he wants it told right, at least once. He is the first with the crack.
O'Hanlon has Scully narrate most the story, but he interjects pages from Francesca's diary, which is an effective technique in providing depth to the story. Through each of their observations and opinions, we get a fairly clear picture about the true extent of their relationship and indeed all of Scully's relations. We even begin to suspect what he's done. No matter. The essence of Scully penetrates the nerves just below the skin; he is a twist to any adult's heart. Just when he's starting to reform, the famous Irish luck kicks in.
When asked about the book he was working on, Ardal O'Hanlon answered that it was nothing original. It really isn't and that's why it is so convincing. I don't know anyone who has grown up in the past fifty years (or worse, raising their own teenagers) that can't relate to Scully's youthful haphazardness - and cringe.
The novel is written in the local Irish dialect. Although it is English, the slang takes a few pages to get the gist. The wit and candor adds a perception of truth to the story, colors to the characters and gives a feel for the Irish small town lifestyle, at least as it was in the eighties.
I recommend that you don't wait for the crack, read Knick Knack Paddy Whack.
- Amazon readers rating: from 14 reviews
Read an excerpt from Knick Knack Paddy Whack at Henry Holt
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Knick Knack Paddy Whack (2000)
- Talk of the Town Audio Cassette (1998)
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- An interview with Ardal O'Hanlon
- The World of Ardal O'Hanlon
- Publisher's page on Knick Knack Paddy Whack
- The Knick Knack Paddy Whack nursery rhyme
- The Charlotte Austin Review of Knick Knack Paddy Whack
- San Francisco Chronicle review of Knick Knack Paddy Whack
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About the Author:
Ardal O'Hanlon was born in 1965 in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Irelan. He is a multi award-winning standup comedian and actor. He is best known for the British television show Father Ted and has also appeared in films including The Butcher Boy. Knick Knack Paddy Whack was originally published in Ireland as The Talk of the Town in 1998. O'Hanlon lives in Dublin and London.