Erik Martiny, The Pleasures of Queueing, Mastodon, 2018.
He aspires to solitude and sobriety. His parents thrive on exuberance and the production of babies on an industrial scale.
When Olaf Montcocq emerges from the plush seclusion of his mother’s uterus in the early 1970s, his parents turn out to be a good deal more than he bargained for. His mother Anne is an ultra-Catholic, alt-feminist Irishwoman and Martin his father a disturbingly eccentric Frenchman convinced that the Second World War is a moveable feast. But Olaf’s predicament doesn’t stop there. Anne’s beliefs make her staunchly anti-contraception and Martin happens to be unstoppably oversexed. Before long, Olaf is surrounded by a horde of bickering siblings that make queueing for basic amenities an inescapable feature of his life. By the time he starts to compose the Great Franco-Irish Family Chronicle, Olaf discovers that attempting to put pen to paper in a household of twenty plus children is about as easy as trying to concentrate with your head in a beehive. Seeking to find relief from overcrowding and parental eccentricity, Olaf encounters a series of disconcerting young women who will drive him to even greater distraction. Will he and his siblings be able to inhibit his parents’ procreative frenzy in time to save the household from mayhem? Can he juggle his increasingly outlandish relationships without losing his marbles? Erik Martiny’s madcap comedy takes the reader on a whirligig of a ride through a post-hippy world of bicultural collisions.
“A raunchy, gargantuan, irreverent dash through the fields of ripeness and desire, spiced by history with a lightly borne trail of cultural baggage. (Reads like fun).” –George Szirtes, critic for The Times, winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize
“With The Pleasures of Queuing Erik Martiny joins Aidan Higgins, Julian Gough, Kevin Barry, on the more exuberant wing of the Irish comic novel. His is a frothy mix of cosmopolitanism and theologico-sexual intrigue, but echoing with an unmistakable steel behind the ribald laughs.”
–David Wheatley, critic for The Guardian, winner of Rooney Prize for Irish Literature
“Hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure, Erik Martiny’s story of bohemia and bountiful creation has the verve and nerve and verbal inventiveness of early Philip Roth.” –Lee Jenkins, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry
“The Pleasures of Queuing is an irresistible addition to the distinguished recent annals of the Irish comic novel. The breathless eloquence of Martiny’s narrative sweep through the eccentricities of his version of Cork doesn’t allow the reader a moment’s pause.” –Bernard O’Donoghue, Oxford University, winner of the Whitbread Prize
“Shot through with devastating humour, audacity and an unfettered imagination redolent of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Erik Martiny’s fiction carries the reader through a stunning, hilarious epic, chiselled in the goldsmith’s language of wild virtuoso.”
–Nicole Ollier, Professor of Literature and Gender Studies, University of Bordeaux
“The hyper-vivid prose rocks on from start to end, channeling the jesting tone of Tom Jones in a modern idiom.” –Peter Harris, poet published in The Atlantic and Ploughshares
“With its playful, manic prose and delightful self-referentiality, The Pleasures of Queueing is a caffeinated Tristram Shandy for the globalist era. Erik Martiny has concocted an intelligent, irreverent romp of a bildungsroman.” –Todd Nathan Thompson, author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire
“Erik Martiny’s The Pleasure of Queueing is a scabrously funny, pungently corporeal comedy of (bad) manners that reminds us not only of the bodily co-ordinates of Irish writers such as Beckett and Donleavy, and the visceral emphases of French Surrealism, but of the work of William Burroughs and his rendition of ‘the copulating universe’, all packed into the trials and tribulations of one family. Hold on tight.” –Geoff Ward
In chapter 13 of his very funny and entirely absorbing novel, Erik Martiny has his narrator and protagonist Olaf Montcocq describe his family thus: “All in all, we are the happiest and most fully functional dysfunctional family I know. Totally and felicitously dysfunctional.” Olaf is right on every level, and the prose here (with its sound effects and repetitions) reveals the brio and affection with which he talks of them throughout.
Olaf recounts the first twenty years or so of his life. He is born to an Irish mother and a French father and spends much of this period in Cork, where he attends school and university. The novel begins with his conception and ends with his departure on the ferry from Cork to Roscoff. The shades of Sterne and Joyce are implicitly invoked at these points in the narrative. Joyce is, to a degree, an abiding presence in the novel, and one evoked in a surprising and endearing encounter with the dead in the sauna on the ferry to Brittany at the novel’s end. For this is a first-person account of growing up in Ireland. (A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man is, of course, a third-person narration, but the point of view is Stephen’s throughout.) It involves an eccentric and problem-ridden family, youthful experiences of school and sex, a protagonist with literary ambitions, a depiction of Irish society, life, and mentalités, and ultimately a departure from the country. (Stephen Dedalus never gets away; Olaf does.) Flann O’Brien is present in the novel, too, in the inconsequentiality of dialogue and the vivacious interplay of English, Irish-informal, and French.
But, in fact, Martiny’s novel is not Joycean at all, but something richer, more accessible, and much funnier. The narrative is linear, beginning with conception and birth and proceeding logically and (largely) chronologically to provisional maturity. Most of the novel is given in present tenses, which gives it an engagingly racy and informal immediacy. The passage of years is marked by brief news items related to the year in question – drawn we learn from French radio broadcasts that Olaf’s father insists on filling the family home with – so the reader always knows more or less when he/she is. These snippets of news have – as Olaf himself points out – several functions, but they constantly counterpoint and perhaps darken the personal events the narrator recounts. They also, however, alert the reader to the social contexts of the personal – for example, Irish religiosity, and Montcocq père’s complex French and historical identity.
The novel is very funny, irreverent (for example, the contrast of the Church of Ireland priest and service at Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral with that of the local Catholic Church of the Real Pleasure), bawdy (the episode at the fallen and be-holed Berlin Wall is an outrageous romp), and event-filled (Olaf’s attempt to persuade his young twin siblings that incest is not a good idea spirals like a crazy punctured, wet-farting balloon zig-zagging among Hiberno-demotic, Standard English, and French). In addition, Martiny – or Olaf – writes magnificently resourceful driving sentences. The verve with which the young Olaf describes his impulses to masturbate and ejaculate is, indeed, impressive.
I even try banging a drawer, a wardrobe, a shutter, a lighted lamp, a table, a chair and the sofa. I try quenching my quince against the window, the floor, mouldy cellar walls, the dishwasher, the fridge. I would try choking Kojak against the ceiling if I could reach it.
Olaf and his family are at the centre of the novel. Olaf grows up in the course of events, but the novel is written from a much later period, and, thus, his voice and sensibility do not really change. But he experiences a lot in and with his family. Anne Montcocq is Irish, Catholic, and has twenty-seven children. She claims to be a feminist and is certainly no doormat or wet dishrag. Olaf’s father, however, plays a larger role in the story – a Frenchman of high national and social principles, a child of 1939 and 1968 simultaneously, a linguistic tyrant, a monster of eccentric thrift and generosity, and driven (he claims) by satyriasis (nomen omen indeed). Both mother and father are – despite several of their children’s best efforts – hugely philoprogenitive. Olaf can barely keep his siblings apart in his head at the end of the novel, let alone find a place to sit and write. Despite eccentricity, over-crowding, squalor, Olaf is very clear about his affection for his parents – and even the other children. The family is near insanity in its weirdness, but, on the whole, his parents do a reasonable job.
Ireland, too – with its awful weather, its sexual mores, its religiosity, its hypocrisy, its adolescent aggression – is finally a likeable place, or at least comic. Olaf describes his Irish childhood as “really rather happy” and Ireland itself “as by no means an entirely dystopian location.” John McGahern’s and Seán O’Faolaín’s poisoned and crabbed provinciality is somewhere else. Certainly, the vicissitudes of the Montcocq family are as nothing compared to the other news from Ireland in the snippets of events that begin and end each chapter. The encounter with a Biafran student in chapter 6 certainly puts even Ireland in perspective.
Apart from the family and Ireland, Olaf writes of the everyday, but an everyday that is exalted and magnified just this side of credibility. This is, of course, the source of much humour. I am particularly struck by Olaf’s father’s authoritarian and well-meant attempts to maintain French in his home and among his children, his policy as regards refrigerator use, Olaf’s defecation in a school lavatory cubicle that is without toilet paper and the grisly solution required, his parents’ disturbingly decorated Citroëns, Olaf’s thoughts on school uniforms, and his mother’s trap-filled instructions to find things in the kitchen. Many readers will surely murmur that they’ve been there, seen that, done that – if not exactly to that degree.
Young Olaf ends the novel going off to France to be a writer. Indeed, a concern with writing has been present in the novel from the start – in the literary echoes and revisions, in the tumblingly vivid language, in the comic exaggeration, in Olaf’s grousing about there being no place to write at home. However, the novel ends with a splendid comic conceit. The spirits of dead writers whom Olaf respects (and the reader can have fun guessing who’s who, for they are not all clearly identified) turn up in the sauna on the ferry to France. The idea of Hemingway in the sauna is funny enough, but Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett as well, in the buff in the steam! Now, that’s very funny.
This is a novel to enjoy and appreciate – for its language, its humour (bawdy and irreverent in equal measure, sometimes affectionate, and always inventive), its version of growing up in Ireland, its obiter dicta on Ireland, and its capturing of the strangeness of the everyday. Stephen Dedalus’s Irish nets are there (194), but Olaf Montcocq holds good to be able to fly by them. - David Malcolm
Erik Martiny, author of this hilarious and vividly written first novel was, like his narrator, born in Cork, Ireland and grew up speaking French at home. This dual heritage inscribes itself on every page of this Bildungsroman. It may be that Martiny’s bilingualism in both language and culture allows him a more than ordinary awareness of the potential playfulness and variety of English as spoken in Ireland. He may also just be inordinately gifted. In any case, the novel abounds in verbal play with choice renderings of the speech patterns and pronunciations of Corkonian school kids, interspersed with diction that ranges high and astonishingly low. Martiny plays all 88 keys of his piano with gusto.
The Pleasures of Queuing is not for those who adhere to what the aptly named narrator, Olaf Montcocq, calls “the standards of the gentility principle.” Gentility rarely appears in the novel; it is an almost-Rabelaisian romp that trades in the grotesque-made-normal. A witty self-conscious distance allows Martiny to contextualise the bizarre into familial banality. Olaf recounts his life chronologically, as if it were a memoir. Almost everything in the house involves queuing, not surprising since Olaf’s mother Anne gives birth, by one count, 27 times. The dominating presence in the novel, other than its narrator, is Olaf’s ultra-French father, Martin Montcocq. Spending his youth in both occupied France and a state of satyrisis, with marriage he becomes monogamous. While he is a loving, brilliant, highly creative father, M. Montcocq veers between grandiose gestures of generosity and the austerity he inherited from his wartime childhood. One year he buys toothbrushes for all his students and in another gives them bicycles. At the same time, he forces his children to eat cheese made from his wife’s breast milk and to eat burgers cooked out of her offspring’s placenta. No bodily function or fluid fails to make a visceral appearance.
Olaf’s own excesses do not so much match as mirror his father’s. Sex obsessively possesses him, His polymorphous masturbation engages walls, wallets, furniture, and beyond. In college he finds himself in two successive relationships with women who harbor and eventually reveal some major-league kinks (sex with eggs and vegetables is a minor example.) Martiny makes all of these graphic descriptions enjoyable rather than just gross by maintaining both a comic distance and linguistic virtuosity.
This is a literary novel, complete with post-modern meta-textual self-commentary. Olaf loves to collapse hierarchies, so we encounter allusions to hosts of writers and texts from Sterne’s Tristram Shandy to Joyce and the Joycean. At the same time, the novel alludes to dozens of pop icons, many movies and their stars, often in very funny ways. The narrative mainly focuses on deviant domesticity and as such is largely apolitical. As counterbalance, each chapter begins and ends with a brief selection of highlights from the year it covers, which range from the tragic to the farcical, often tongue-in-cheek. The round up from 1987 reads in part
“Iraqi war planes drop mustard-gas bombs on Iranian residential areas. . . 11 people are killed by the Provisional IRA at a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen . . . Starbucks coffee begins to spread across America.”He then skips into births and deaths of the creative and famous, such as Andy Warhol. Olaf surmises that readers may take his annual summaries as a “postmodernist whim, a contextualizing advice, self-aggrandizement, self-belittling statement of relativity, or the author trying to look globally committed.” Disarmingly, the narrator agrees, in part, with all surmises. In fact, the novel, in a very lighthearted way, follows Wordsworth’s practice in the 1805 Preface to the Lyrical Ballads by trying to simultaneously create the terms and to highlight the themes by which the work will be judged, both positively and negatively. This works well because Martiny acknowledges his own literary conceits.
While wildness continues throughout, the final chapters slow the previously frenetic pace as Olaf reflects on his goal to be a writer. The essence is that he can find no physical or psychic space in his teeming home. He opts to go to Paris, intending to sleep under bridges while learning his craft. His mother is appalled at his plans to be a literary bum, but his father is joyous at his son’s bold adventure.
One lovely quality of the novel is its generosity and compassion towards almost everyone. In retrospect, Olaf judges his parenting, despite and because of its extravagant eccentricity, as “better than good enough.” One might say the same for Mr. Martiny ‘s own fostering of his first unruly but highly literary offspring. - Peter Harris
Just a little over halfway through Erik Martiny’s debut novel, the protagonist-narrator, Olaf Montcocq, deep in the throes of adolescent literary self-emergence, explains how he welcomed the prospect of being sent abroad for a year as a teenager “to experience another school system, get a fresh perspective on things and learn to be more autonomous.” While he is “not too eager to leave Ireland just yet”, he says, “the prospect of being able to write an entire short story in peace, of having a whole room to [himself] and not having to queue makes [him] finally agree to set off for France”.
By the time the reader gets to this point in Martiny’s highly entertaining and fast-paced narrative, one realises that it is, for all of its comic high jinks, an intellectually engaged and engaging work. This is to be expected given Olaf’s immediate family background – his father is a professor at University College Cork in the south of Ireland – but Olaf is himself also an academic in the making. He is a literary scholar, to be precise, though he is also tormented (as many literary scholars are) by the desire to make art. So we encounter Olaf, towards the end of the work, in a situation where he has “read so many articles, gargled so much jargon, that there’s a knot in [his] tongue and a crumpling in [his] soul.” In a sense, then, The Pleasures of Queuing is a book about what happens when one attempts to untie this “knot”: to unravel and tease out the strings that bind and sometimes restrain the discourses of “literature” and “criticism” as they relate to each other.
There are many ways in which this project could have been undertaken. From Terry Eagleton’s The Function of Criticism (1984) to Rónán MacDonald’s The Death of the Critic (2007), many influential literary critics have sought to critique the institutions and practices of criticism from inside the academy. Writers have done it too, of course, and the list of novels in which academia provides both setting and theme is a long one, including some of the best novelists of recent decades, such as Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Julie Schumacher, Donna Tartt, and John Williams. Martiny’s book, from its opening pages, is an uproarious and irreverent exposure of male literary self-consciousness, not just within the academy but within the home. Olaf’s desire to find “a whole room to [himself]” is a clear allusion to Virginia Woolf, for example, who wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” in A Room of One’s Own (1929). Olaf desires a room because he cannot find space to write in the house he shares with his parents and several siblings, but his need to have “a whole room to himself” reflects a hilarious lack of self-understanding on the part of the protagonist. In the character of Olaf, in other words, Martiny satirises the male academic author for whom the ghosts of Woolf, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and many others, are conjured as reassuring presences in a personal pantheon that serves no other purpose than to boost the protagonist’s ego.
What we have here, in other words, is a seriously funny novel that wants us to take seriously the fact that it is funny – without being too serious about it. It could be an error, but at one point in the text the narrator imagines the reader wondering “[w]here, if anywhere, is this factional memoir even going?” (emphasis added). If The Pleasures of Queuing is “factional” – not “fictional” – then it is one of the most candid literary autobiographies ever written. Whether it is a work of pure fiction or not, however, it is undoubtedly one of the funniest narratives to be written in recent years about growing up and coming-of-age in the south of Ireland in the last few decades of the twentieth century. It has parallels with the works of contemporary Irish writers such as Kevin Barry and Julian Gough, but its world ultimately extends beyond Cork, out into the broader Irish and, indeed, Franco-Irish cultural and social sphere of reference and beyond – and back again, into the “small republic” of the family. That term (“small republic”) belongs to John McGahern, whose work provides one of the epigraphs to The Pleasures of Queuing, but it is given new life here in a novel that seems destined to become some kind of cult classic. - Philip Coleman
Toward the end of Erik Martiny's The Pleasures of Queuing its narrator writes, “There should really be a literary prize for the best novel ever written by a writer afflicted with ADD who has radios broadcasting from every room in the house, every area of the brain, an exponential, incremental number of siblings, a hawk-watchful mother, and an increasingly eccentric and money-stinting father.” This sentence describes some of the most appealing qualities of the novel. It can hardly be said to have a sequential plot; nor can it, despite one chapter being devoted to each of its narrator’s first twenty-four years, exactly be described as a Bildungsroman. Each chapter plunges into a different topic—infestation by fleas, dismantling and rebuilding a 2CV in the house, a kleptomaniac girlfriend who urinates in every receptacle in the house, infantile incest. It coheres mainly by virtue of its exaggerated, Rabelaisian portrayal of family life: this is the novel’s warm, pulsing heart. The sentence also tells us that this is a highly self-conscious, self-referential, literary novel. It opens with an account of the narrator’s conception, and the allusion of Tristram Shandy is characteristic. Each chapter opens and closes with a list of world events in the year in question; the narrator correctly guesses that the reader will interpret this as “a postmodernist whim,” which he half concedes but claims it also represents the French radio news bulletins that pervaded the family home.
French because the father is “a Frenchman of archetypal proportions,” a hypersexual but uxorious soixant-huitard whose marriage to a devout but equally sexually enthusiastic Irishwoman produces approximately twenty-four children. The evocation of the increasingly thronging household, with its consequent forced intimacy and plethora of bodily fluids, is what gives the novel life. It is grotesque in the Bakhtinian sense, its most memorable episode being the father’s way of coping with his wife’s breast-milk, too abundant even for her many offspring. Being a hoarder, an environmentalist, and obsessively hostile to waste, he manufactures yogurt and cheese out of the excess—not to mention feeding his children placenta burgers. At its best, the novel’s language, inventive and exuberant, echoes this abundance. The title refers ironically to the necessity of waiting one’s turn for everything in such a household, especially the toilet. The emphasis is on the inconveniences, discomforts, and squabbles inevitably generated in a large family, and grotesquely magnified in this one, but the dominant feeling is nevertheless one of love and vitality: “the happiest and most fully functional dysfunctional family I know.”
It may be that the book’s soft center, its overflow of fertility, milk, semen, urine, and every imaginable fluid, and the emotional equivalent, made it need a carapace of postmodern smartness. By the same token, halfway through it I was inwardly congratulating the author on not writing a Bildungsroman but allowing his narrator to take second place to the family which is normally left behind in such narratives. Later chapters do take more conventional form, with episodes devoted to the hero’s education, foreign travel, and, of course, experiences with women. The dominant mode of these however is still Rabelaisian—the performance-artist girlfriend who manipulates eggs and vegetables in her vagina, the one who urinates in his mother’s handbag, or, most memorably, his capture by a group of German skinheads who get him drunk and persuade him to join in a protest against the half-demolished Berlin Wall that I will leave the reader to discover.
The tendency of the novel to drift into a kind of Bildungsroman, and its postmodern literariness, come together in the disappointing last chapter where, on a ferry to France with intention of writing a novel while living on the roof of a building or under a bridge, he encounters his literary heroes and heroines enjoying a kind of Olympian afterlife in the form of a sauna. This is so knowing that it almost turns itself inside out, and this reader is left returning to what the hero is leaving behind, and to the insistence that “love is a greasy, blissfully smelly thing . . . Don’t forget that, poor brain-washed reader, you know it in your heart.” - Neil Robertshttps://iowareview.org/blog/erik-martinys-pleasures-queuing
Named after a poem by e e cummings, birthed by a devout and fertile Irish mother and fathered by a priapic Frenchman of ‘archetypal proportions’ Olaf Montcocq screams into existence at Erinville Hospital in 1971.
J’accuse writer Erik Martiny – notice his Scandinavian prénom and his Gallic nom de famille –of indulging in exaggerated semi-autobiography. But he specifies, in the subtitle, that it is a novel and notes that any person resembling the entirely fictitious characters should flee to Brazil.
The parameters are set. The world is built. And it is a world familiar to many of this paper’s readers. A house in suburban Cork, a large number of children, regular attendance at mass, local day schools followed by a sojourn at University College Cork. Indeed it is a world, very familiar, to Dr. Martiny himself – he even chooses to quote Lee Jenkins, his erstwhile Professor of English and Head of School at UCC, on the back cover.
Perhaps Jenkins, joint editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry, supervised Martiny’s doctorate on Contemporary Poetry but, at any rate, she loves this novel saying that it is ‘hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure’ and that it is a ‘story of bohemia and bountiful creation with the verve and verbal inventiveness of early Philip Roth’. Some accolade. But hers is a brilliant assessment of the novel. Jenkins shows appreciation of Martiny by emulating his style using poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, repetition and word patterns to produce something as bouncy as a blown-up condom.
Written in the first person The Pleasures of Queueing begins, like Tristram Shandy, with its protagonist getting conceived, in this case after three hours in the missionary position. It ends with a surreal scene on the Irish Sea in which Olaf meets a number of dead writers in a cross channel ferry sauna. Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen and George Orwell, along with a chorus of self-styled Anglo-Irish writers, join forces to give him succour and encouragement.
Lurking in the background of this novel I can see a putative doctorate in which a widely read, disciplined graduate might plough each chapter for clues to its inspirational muse. Olaf Montcocq, Erik Martiny’s alter-ego, could have delved into the likelihood of James Joyce or Samuel Beckett. But, no, of course not. Olaf Montcocq, like Erik Martiny, is writing this novel, The Pleasures of Queueing. Maybe I should write the thesis myself?
Queueing in the Montcocq house often, as in Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, involves the bathroom but also the dining/kitchen/sitting room tables. The 25 siblings need space to do their homework. Girls outnumber boys. Singletons outnumber twins, but only just. Martiny presents the home as a madhouse, describing it as ‘totally and felicitously dysfunctional’.
Anna Montcocq is a goddess of fecundity lactating an endless supply of breast milk for her endless supply of children but so prolific that there is plenty remaining to be pumped out and manufactured into soft cheese by their thrifty father, Martin. He turns out a type of Roquefort as well as Irish Cheddar. These delicacies are stored in the fridge and placed between doorstep slices of bread for packed lunches.
Other secretions, as can be expected, seep or spurt. The second brother is nicknamed Brian de Sperm and at one point the pages of the Norton Anthology of Poetry in English get stuck together after an in-lecture mutual masturbation session. After that Robert Herrick’s famous lyric ‘Corinna’s Going a-Maying’ is ‘forever inaccessible’.
Martiny tops and tails each chapter with a list of selected world events and births and deaths. In this way he provides cultural context for his bildungsroman. But for unfortunates who were not brought up in the city of Cork The Pleasures of Queueing, like Lisa McInerney’s Ryan Cusak novels, provides an intriguing insight into what it must be like. - Josephine Fenton
Erik Martiny’s debut novel is a witty account of the trials and tribulations of a Franco-Irish family living in Cork from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s. It is chronicles the sexual escapades of the parents, which result in the mother giving birth to no less than 27 children, which causes mayhem in the morning and at meal times. With all these people around privacy is impossible: in fact, even gaining access to a toilet in such a highly populated home is problematic.
Martiny can definitely spin a yarn and has a gift for comedy. He begins each chapter with a short summary of what is happening in the world in the year about to be covered. Incidents that occur within the family assume some of the epic qualities of the big news stories of the time. The father, a French academic working in University College Cork, is described as someone who jealously holds on to his “Frenchitude”. The mother is a pious Irish Catholic who goes to Mass three times on week days and twice on Sunday. What distinguishes her from other traditional Catholics is “the almost unreserved pagan relish she has for sexual intercourse”, only with her husband, of course!
The Pleasures of Queueing could well be remembered as the first published work of a famous artist. Equally, its author might never make the difficult breakthrough in the literary world. Although the stylistic pyrotechnics and gargantuan exaggeration can grate at times, there is nonetheless a quality that draws one to the text and indicates that Martiny may well be a force to be reckoned with. - EAMON MAHER