Sunday, February 22, 2015

`That Was the Implication'

I read Roger Boylan’s first novel, Killoyle, An Irish Farce, shortly after it was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 1997. I recognized his Irish precursors – Sterne, Beckett and especially Flann O’Brien – and privately dubbed him “Blazes,” after the smooth operator who cuckolds Leopold Bloom. In the literary realm, Roger is himself a smooth operator, or at least one who perseveres.  He’s among the hardest working writers I know, almost masochistically so. I waited another six years for Grove Press to bring out Roger’s next novel, The Great Pint-Pulling Olympiad. With Joyce, Roger shares an embattled relationship with the world of publishing. At some point I started catching up with his reviews and essays, and one of us six or seven years ago contacted the other and we swapped links and commenced an irregular online exchange of notes, always encouraging on both sides. The only person I ever heard Roger disparage was himself.

Finally, almost three years ago, we met in person, in San Marcos, Texas, where he lives. Our talk was almost exclusively bookish. We must have sounded like boys comparing baseball card collections -- the obvious shared enthusiasms like Beckett, O’Brien and Nabokov, but also Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Solzhenitsyn and Theodore Dalrymple. 

Roger recently suffered a stroke. I don’t know precisely when or the severity of his illness. Coincidentally, I learned he was sick one day after I had sent him an amusing Beckett video I knew he would enjoy. Regardless, let’s honor Roger in the truest possible way we honor any writer – by reading him. After we met in 2012, I wrote: “We agreed that Beckett was a thoroughly humane writer, no nihilist, and that he is perhaps the writer each of us rereads most often.” At the time, Roger had just finished reading Stories and Texts for Nothing again. In “The End,” the third of the three stories in the collection, Beckett writes: I didn’t feel well, but they told me I was well enough. They didn’t say in so many words that I was as well as I would ever be, but that was the implication.” That would make Roger smile.

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