“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“50 pages?”
“Including illustrations.”
“And this—what is it… Dalkey Archive—they want 14 bucks for a 50 page book?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s pretty short.”
“It is, but the book is good. What does it matter how long it is if it’s a good read?”
“I guess. So is it?”
“What?”
“A good read?”
“It is. Oh yeah.”
“Rambling, eh? Sounds like fun.”
“It’s not rambling like a romantic wayward hobo boxcar type of rambling, though.”
“No? Too bad.”
“But it’s good. Rambling, in this case, means rambling imagination.”
“Huh?”
“The protagonist. He’s an old guy and his mind rambles and we get to read about it.”
“Sounds confusing.”
“No, no, the prose is really crisp and clear.”
“What’s this other language?”
“Irish.”
“You mean Gaelic?”
“No, Irish. It’s 2015 for Christ’s sake.”
“And this Irish, that’s what it’s written in?”
“Yeah, but the translator, Katherine Duffy, she does a great job.”
“Alright, so this is an old Irish guy, this Rambling Jack.”
“Yes. Jack. He’s Irish. A gifted signer. Knows his old songs and all that.”
“Wait—there’s songs?”
“A few, but it’s mainly a story about an aisling.”
“A what?”
“Aisling. An Irish genre; a poetic technique from, like, the 17th century.”
“17th century… oh god.”
“No, it’s pretty amazing stuff. An aisling is a like a dream, a vision, usually of a girl.”
“Interesting.”
“And, in many cases, a young, beautiful girl.”
“Getting more interesting.”
“That’s what happens to Jack.”
“He meets a young girl?”
“Sort of—he has memories of a girl, but it might also be a woman he used to love.”
“Wait—this is a romance?”
“Well, it’s pretty sappy at times. Jack loved a woman and it didn’t end well.”
“Drama?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think we’re supposed to know the whole story.”
“Damn writers with their games.”
“Well, isn’t that better? I like not being spoon fed details. Makes me work a bit.”
“I guess.”
“Anyway, the young aisling could be the granddaughter of Jack’s old love.”
“Nice.”
“Or maybe she’s a dream of the woman he loved appearing as a young girl.”
“So it’s all a dream, like in a soap opera?”
“Sorta. It’s a dream and it’s strange and nothing seems concrete, but it works.”
“So this Jack… does he… you know. With the young girl?”
“Let’s not get into that—the book is really bigger than that.”
“Bigger? It’s all of 50 pages.”
“Including illustrations.”
“Doesn’t sound big.”
“Not long, but big. And strange. And, well, kinda beautiful.”
“I dunno… There’s a new Franzen book. That’s, like, 500 pages.”
“Sure, but there’s a lot to be said about a writer who can evoke something interesting in a small space as opposed to a large, bombastic novel with a lot of fat on it.”
“I guess. Still, sounds a little odd.”
“Yeah well—life’s too short to not read odd books.”


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Rambling Jack
By Micheál Ó Conghaile
Translated by Katherine Duffy
Reviewed by Vincent Francone
90 pages, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-56478-435-3
$13.95
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