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Dog Days.

Aidan Higgins. Dog Days. Secker & Warburg, 1998. 286 pp. 15.99 [pounds sterling].

This middle volume of a trilogy which began with Donkey's Years (1995) and will conclude with The Whole Hog dwells mainly on the winters of 1985 and 1986, which the author, or Rory O'Hills, as he calls himself, spent at Ballymona Lodge, outside the town of Wicklow, thirty miles or so south of Dublin. There are interruptions--a sojourn in Connemara; there are digressions--reminiscences of Spain, as ever, and material on the death of his father, and some more Berlin background for the novel Lions of the Grunewald (1993). The opening sequence recounts an unconsummated affair between the inordinately horny Rory, age twenty-two, and a woman nearly twice his age, the no-longer-summery landscape of which is just a train-stop away from his present lodgings. He's homeless (his assumed name ironically echoes Ned of the Hills, the archetypal Dispossessed One in eighteenth-century poetry in Irish). He's in the country. Everybody has a dog, except Rory. What Rory has is difficult to describe. It certainly has bite. And it's kind of a mongrel--an album, a rant, a confession, a history, a book of (decayed) hours ... I suppose the best name for it is a life.

Apart from the novel Bornholm Night-Ferry (1983) and two collections of mostly already available material--Ronda Gorge and Other Precipices and Helsingor Station and Other Departures (both 1989)--Higgins published little in the '80s. He tells a local nosy parker here that he's writing for radio, but he often refers to his set's poor reception. Too bad his radio pieces haven't seen book form, though. And the same must be said of his American publishing fate: he hasn't had a book published in this country since Balcony of Europe (1973). One of the most interesting--that is, penetrating, literate, infuriating, sardonic, gossipy, stylish--Irish writers around surely deserves better.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:O'Brien, George
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1998
Previous Article:The Automatic Message.
Next Article:Mary Butts: Scenes From the Life.

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