Mondo Desperado: A Serial Novel

Mondo Desperado: A Serial Novel

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by Patrick McCabe

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Patrick McCabe has long been recognized as a writer of rare talent and unique voice, whose vision of the world is so distinctive that "McCabesque" has become an adjective with multiple meanings, including "exquisitely, beautifully, mad in the head!"

He was a Booker Prize finalist for The Butcher Boy, which won the Irish Times Aer Lingus/Irish Literature

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Patrick McCabe has long been recognized as a writer of rare talent and unique voice, whose vision of the world is so distinctive that "McCabesque" has become an adjective with multiple meanings, including "exquisitely, beautifully, mad in the head!"

He was a Booker Prize finalist for The Butcher Boy, which won the Irish Times Aer Lingus/Irish Literature Prize for Fiction and was made into a motion picture directed by Neil Jordan and cowritten by McCabe and Jordan. He was again a Booker Prize finalist for Breakfast on Pluto, which won the Spirit of Life Arts/Sunday Independent Irish Literature Award and was a number one international bestseller.

McCabe has been described as "the lodestone of new Irish fiction" (Wall Street Journal), "a dark. genius of incongruity and the grotesque" (Sunday Observer) and "one of Ireland's finest living writers" (New York Times Book Review).

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune commented on McCabe's "remarkable...ability to induce compassion for the unlikeliest people," and in Mondo Desperado: A Serial Novel, that ability and the full range of his "grotesque genius" (Marie Claire) combine to produce a brilliant, macabre' dementedly funny and surreally imagined fiction of intertwined narratives set in a small Irish town. McCabe himself has described Mondo Desperado as being "like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio -- on drugs."

In his mondo tales of the insular town of Barntrosna, McCabe assembles a distinctly Irish crew of odd and unusual inhabitants who live on and regularly cross, often unconsciously, the border between fantasy and reality. In "Hot Nights at the Go-Go Lounge," Larry Bunyan is certain his demure wife is secretly out at night with deadbeat swingers, shooting drugs and having wild sex, while in "I Ordained the Devil," the Bishop of Barntrosna confesses that his ordination of Father Packie Cooley was really an ordination of His Satanic Majesty.

Another Barntrosna resident, Dr. John Joe Parkes, discovers "The Valley of the Flying Jennets," the secret place in the mountains created by his Dr. Frankenstein -- type medical ancestor where his horrible, mutated genetic failures live. In the concluding "Forbidden Love of Noreen Tiernan," Noreen escapes Barntrosna, goes to London for nursing school, finds a lesbian lover, and teams up with her to rob and terrorize London until her mother, boyfriend and parish priest bring Noreen back home.

With sly wit, characteristic, brilliant blending of sadness and humor and macabre genius, Mondo Desperado is a wonderfully imagined work of fiction -- McCabe's most dazzling yet -- rom a truly original literary talent.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If you spliced Gualtiero Jacopetti's shockumentary Mondo films with the surreal clippings from the "Cruiskeen Lawn" newspaper column of Myles na Gopaleen (aka Flann O'Brien), the comic result might be this "serial novel" of short stories, shaggy dog tales and spoofs from the fictitious pen of McCabe's authorial desperado, Phildy Hackball, set in his crazy village of Barntrosna. Even stranger and campier than McCabe's recent Booker-shortlisted Breakfast on Pluto, these 10 intertwined stories mix loony subject matter culled from trashy paperbacks with Hibernian stereotypes and cliches. Like an Irish bull in a china shop, McCabe hilariously charges through yarns about genetically engineered winged donkeys ("The Valley of the Flying Jennets"), yokel farmers picked up in discotheques ("The Boils of Thomas Gully") and a pious schoolboy blown up not with a bomb but a tire pump ("The Bursted Priest"). The maniac citizens of Barntrosna somehow believe their wives are secret go-go dancers ("Hot Nights at the Go-Go Lounge"); the local Chinese takeaway is Bruce Lee's secret hangout ("My Friend Bruce Lee"); and the bishop's clerical protege was really Lucifer stirring up the swinging '60s ("I Ordained the Devil"). In a satire on McCabe's own career ("The Big Prize"), Barntrosna's unlikeliest novelist takes the mickey out of contemporary Irish writers and the award-lavishing British literary establishment. Only in the last, lengthy story, "The Forbidden Love of Noreen Tiernan," does this pulp fiction gag almost run aground, when Barntrosna's nicest student nurse goes to London, where she discovers lesbian love and drug racketeering before she is safely returned to the picturesque, demented town of McCabe's berserk imagination. 8-city author tour; 15-city NPR radio campaign. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
McCabe's latest (after Breakfast on Pluto, LJ 12/15/98) is the much-needed antidote to Angela's Ashes, which is riding yet another wave of popularity thanks to Alan Parker's movie. Americans like their Irish miserable, but McCabe's perverted, provincial Paddy's induce cackling and knee-slapping -not torrential tears. Instead of Limerick, the Booker Prize finalist has chosen fictitious Barntrosna as the setting for ten B-movie parables, imagined by local Phildy Hackball. A B-movie director himself, hackball exploits Catholicism and Irish quaintness in ways never thought possible-e.g., the Bishop of Barntrosna confesses to ordaining the Devil, and Noreen Tiernan, the golden-girl-next-door, goes to London for nursing school but becomes a black-leather-lovin' lesbian mugger. Cineastes beware: Hackball never neatly ties the ends of his narratives: he just screeches to a halt seconds before the bedget runs out. Unlike the Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto, this "serial novel" doesn't contain McCabe's "serious," understated macabre, but that's just fine in tehse post-post-millennial times. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/99.]-Heather McCormack, "Library Journal"

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Chapter One

Hot Nights At The Go-Go Lounge

It's hard to figure out how in a small town like this a mature woman of twenty-eight years could get herself mixed up with a bunch of deadbeat swingers, but that is exactly what happened to Cora Bunyan and I should know because she was my wife. It is now exactly a year since the nightmare began, when my good friend Walter Skelly first voiced his suspicions, taking me by the arm as we left Louie's Bar and Grill on our way back from lunch to the office of Barntrosna Insurance.

'Larry,' he said, 'look here. I don't want to alarm you but there's something I think you should know . . . it's women-Cora. They have needs, you know what I'm saying. You gotta pay them a little attention, that's all.'

When Walter had finished his story, I could just about stand up. I looked at him and barked: 'I can't believe you'd say such a thing! You-of all people, Walter! Why you oughta be ashamed of yourself!' He tried his best to apologize, but I had already turned away for I wanted to hear no more. 'Get your hands off me!' I snapped, and I completed my journey back to the office alone.

But all that afternoon, I couldn't get his words out of my mind. By three-thirty I could stand it no longer. I strode out of my office and stood in his doorway clutching a bottle of ink. 'Walter!' I snapped, and just as he raised his head, I shot the contents of it directly into his face. Before he had time to respond, I was already gone. I knew now why Skelly had tried to poison my mind against Cora. Sure I did-because he'd had his eye on her like every other man in this two-bit backwater. I swore to myself thatif he ever came near her I would kill him stone dead. With a .357 Magnum I'd put a hole in his head big enough to sleep in. 'You hear that, Skelly!' I snarled at the mirror in the rest room.

If only I'd known then one-tenth of what I know now, I would have seen that Walter was only trying to help me. That he was doing what any friend would have considered his duty. But I was blind. Blind! I only had eyes for Cora and she knew that. She'd known it all along.

That night, as I left the office, I had a few more words with Walter Skelly. I told him as long as I lived I never wanted to see him again. 'You got that, Skelly?' I growled and flipped a thumb and forefinger at the brim of my hat. He started into saying something about Cora but before he got too far I stopped him and told him that if he was figuring on finding another ink bottle heading his way then that was fine by me, and maybe a smack in the mouth for good measure.

I didn't know it, of course, but that was the last opportunity I was to have to do anything about the tragic chain of events about to be set in motion. And now, it was already too late.

As I drove home, I turned the events of the day over in my mind. Even the thought of what Walter had done was enough to sicken me right to my stomach. Sure, I knew Cora was a pretty gal and that there were guys in Barntrosna who had wanted me dead when I married her. But to stoop that low, to try and poison a guy's mind against his own wife? The more I thought about it, the more I thought: Walter Skelly is a very sick man.

That was what jealousy had done to him, you see-like 'em all! Hell, even the day we got married, they couldn't let up. Grown men crying! Crying because she'd married me-Larry Bunyan. Who would have ever believed it? The sweetest doll the town had ever seen and what does she do-hooks up with Bunyan! Poor old Larry! Who sits behind his desk all day threading paper clips!

But that was where they got it all wrong, you see! Way wrong! No sir, we Bunyans don't spend our lives threading paper clips. We spend it just like Pop Bunyan did, working our fingernails to the quick building up an insurance firm second to none in this country so that a man can take care of girls like Cora Myers the way they oughta be taken care of-jewels, mink coats, you name it! 'Larry,' she said to me that night by the pool out in Sandlefoot, 'I love you! I want to have your children!' If only she'd known the effect those coupla words had! Why, I guess I must have grown about ten feet tall right there and then! I could see old Pop standing in front of me, puffing on his pipe and resting his hand on my shoulder, saying: 'You see, son? You have amounted to something, after all! Son-let me say something! Hell, am I proud of you! Proud, my boy!'

You see, Cora, I want you to know the truth. Fact is, me and Pop-we didn't get along so well when I was a kid. I guess you could say I had disappointed him which was why he used to meet me coming from school and say: 'Well, son! What dumbfool thing you do in school today, you…

Meet the Author

Patrick McCabe was born in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1955. His other novels include The Butcher Boy, The Dead School, and Call Me the Breeze. With director Neil Jordan, he co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of The Butcher Boy.

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Mondo Desperado 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Irish writer, Patrick McCabe seems to be someone whose work you either love or hate with no in between. Anyone who has enjoyed his other books, such as The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto or The Dead School, is going to love Mondo Desperado. The uninitiated are going to be in for a surprise with McCabe's highly distinctive voice and style. It is black comedy with a capital 'B,' but it is black comedy of the highest order. In Mondo Desperado, McCabe builds on his earlier themes of life in the rural Irish borderlands. This book, set in the fictional town of Barntrosna, is the perfect vehicle for McCabe to showcase his ironic observations of the modern-day world. The narrator of Mondo Desperado, which is structured like a series of short stories, is Phildy Hackball who takes us on a tour of Barntrosna. Although Phildy describes his major interests as being the cinema and drinking with his friends, his real passion lies in writing weird and wonderful stories based on his own unique observations of the residents of Barntrosna. With Hackball as narrator, McCabe allows himself carte blanche to let his absurdly comic imagination run wild. The results are dark, surreal, hilarious and outrageous. The tone of Mondo Desperado is in perfect keeping with its absurd subject matter. Hackball is a narrator who is never afraid of taking the liberty of using ten adjectives to describe something when one would have done very nicely. He gives us a view of life that is nothing less than a surrealistic riot, a panoply of color and activity concealed beneath the facade of the average Irish town. It is this very absurdity of the mundane and the ordinary that gives McCabe his unique vision of the world and sets his work apart from that of other writers. Although the events described in Mondo Desperado are surrealistic in the extreme, each one is firmly rooted in reality. We begin by identifying with the characters so completely and then McCabe, in his genius, takes them to the blackest reaches of their soul and inflicts upon them the most terrible and bizarre of circumstances. These stories of a stifling, oppressive society, of overbearing mothers and hard drinking fathers, of hormonally-crazed young people driven slightly insane are, frighteningly, only a small step away from the world in which each of us lives our day-to-day life. This is McCabe's unique talent and it is a talent he has developed to the fullest. He can make us laugh out loud and, at the same time, make us take a serious look at our prejudices, our stereotypes, our beliefs, our lives. Mondo Desperado is a book that deserves to be read by lovers of black comedy, lovers of good literature and anyone with an interest in modern-day rural Ireland. It is a wild roller coaster ride to the very edge of consciousness through a desperate world, indeed.