By Kevin Barry
People in most all of life’s endeavors find the subject of creativity—what it is, how to get it, how to keep it, how to revive it when it fades—fascinating, even vital to achieving their goals, be they in the arts, sciences, government, religion, or business. Enterprising people have created an industry devoted to exploring and teaching creativity, the debate of which it can or can’t be taught is left to others to argue. An Amazon book search turns up 32,000 tomes on the topic. In short, forever fascinating.
And so here we have the truly creative Irish writer Kevin Barry (author of the highly recommended City of Bohane) weighing in with a book that feels like a psychological quest novel, that reads like a fantasy, that crackles with Barry’s clever language, and that detours into the practicality of creating for one brilliant chapter, “Eleven, Eleven. Eleven—Dakota,” a swerve serving to focus the entire affair.
The bare bones of the novel blend in some real aspects of John Lennon’s life (his house husbanding, his island off the West coast of Ireland, his use of Scream therapy, his youth and family in Liverpool) with a fictional escape in search of his Irish isle wherein to rediscover the spark for reviving his creative juices and the new imaginary album resulting from his odyssey.
Everybody needs a guide when plumbing the depths of his mind and soul, fishing for inspiration, and Lennon has his in the form of Cornelius O’ Grady, a truly lovely Barry fabrication of fluidity and glib tongue, a speaker of the Irish who forever delights and mesmerizes.
Perhaps O’Grady, in the pedestrian terms of creative workshops, self-help sessions, or psychoanalytic couch excursions, is Lennon’s facilitator. But a devilish one, indeed. Since Lennon finds himself in Ireland in the hands of fellow who constantly plays with Lennon, tossing obstacles before him, shunting him into Scream seasons, bars, and caves, a mischief making leprechaun of grand portion who steers John to his personal pot of gold. This last perhaps florid, but Barry casts that kind of spell over readers.
In the end, then, what you have here is a speculative exploration of Lennon’s creative struggles, a meditation on being creative and all the internal pain and external work it involves, and word weaving that’s as good as it gets. w/c