Bloomsbury USA. Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781635574142. pap. $26. F
Rob is an Irish writer living a peripatetic existence. He never settles in one place for long, sometimes decamping to Paris or Berlin for a few months to work on a novel or visiting Zagreb or Blanes, Spain, on assignment. Wherever he goes, he beats the boundaries between traveling and tripping, drinking and experimenting with psychedelic drugs while reading and writing. Oftentimes, Rob’s journeys entail visiting the resting places of writers he admires, as well as museums and clubs, shadowing the pursuit of new experiences by honoring the dead. But what is this book? Memoir? Travelog? Fiction? It doesn’t matter. Rob observes that a novel is whatever he tells it to be, that it is, ultimately, something to read.
VERDICT Confidently told, this second long-form work from Doyle (after Here Are the Young Men) alternates 11 vignettes with letters to an anonymous correspondent as the masterly narrative pacing brilliantly counterbalances lurid episodes and sometimes terror with devastating wit and epiphany. As ever, Doyle’s prose is compulsively readable, and his insights always credible and occasionally astonishing.

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