In his newest and most complex novel to date, McCabe gives the reader another disturbed young main character, trying to survive alone in a hostile world. Joseph Mary Tallon, the main character here, uses his personal journal to reveal his life in a small town on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The journals begin in 1976, with brief narratives about a Provo murder and a suicide, suddenly shifting without transition to Joey's revelations about The Seeker, a deceased friend with whom he discussed Carlos Castaneda and listened to Santana. Again without transition, he describes his long-time relationship with someone named Mona, with whom he lives in a trailer at a sometime gypsy camp, though we also discover that he worships someone named Jacy from afar.
Because Joey does not always explain background or identify characters, the reader is not always sure who the characters are, their roles in his life, or how events are connected. He is "scattered," shifting quickly from Provo activity, to a priest's plan for a peace rally, and to his own search for nirvana, all of which keep the reader constantly energized and involved in deciding what is real and what is fantasy. Clearly unstable, he is an unreliable narrator who tells us about the world from his very limited perspective.
Unlike McCabe's earlier characters, Joey is intellectually curious, reading Hesse, T.S. Eliot, Gogol, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, and he is a compulsive writer. Despite his delusions, and his impulsive actions, resulting at one point in a jail sentence of several years, he achieves considerable success, writing stories, plays, screenplays, and even a novel. This allows McCabe to expand his scope beyond that of dramatic plot twists to show how one becomes a writer, how writing attempts to bring order to the world, and how writing, ultimately, can be misunderstood. When Joey eventually uses his writing in a bid for public office, the sympathetic reader roots for his success.
Fully-developed and fascinating, Joey, like earlier McCabe "heroes," is a prisoner of circumstance and victim of fate. Through him, McCabe illustrates T.S. Eliot's point that "the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time." By the time Joey and the reader have reached the end of this circular journey of exploration, both will have been on a wild ride in which dreams collide with realities, hopes bloom and are crushed in defeat, and tragedies exist within triumphs. Enlightenment, as we see here, sometimes comes at a huge cost. Mary Whipple