The Holy City: A Novel
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In this hypnotic novel, Chris McCool, the dandyish, debonair playboy of a small and insulated community called the Happy Club, reflects on his two lives: the one he lives and the darker one he’s tried hard to forget. The illegitimate son of a rich Protestant landowner’s wife and a poor Catholic farmer, Chris wanted to be a sixties swinger—driving a Ford Cortina, owning a pair of purple velvet flares—but, despite his good intentions, could not overcome the mysteries and regrets of his own upbringing.
With a series of deftly Freudian flourishes, McCabe gives us a narrator whose own insecurities, and most importantly his obsession with a young Catholic Nigerian boy named Marcus Otoyo, prevent him from seeing the truth about what he is capable of. Are Chris’s inner struggles with his parentage and religion merely personal quests—or do they mask an angrier, more dangerous person beneath?
Tense, artful, and eerily compelling, The Holy City is a novel of faith, anxiety, and dark secrets, with a stunning and brilliant conclusion.
I went to the Mayflower Ballroom again that weekend. Tina & the Mexicans were playing but throughout the whole performance I didn’t hear a single note. Nothing but the bludgeoning thump of the bass. I went home early and tried to read but found it quite impossible. My most recent discovery was the work of James Joyce, a volume in particular that I had seen Marcus carrying beneath his arm on his way home from school. The prose, however, of A Portrait continued obstinately to swirl before my eyes,
coiffure. — Welcome to Dreamland, I said, as I kissed her. But as I was saying about that nightdress and Marcus. What continued to bother me as I observed him outside the shop was — why is his preoccupation with it of any importance to me? Why should I be even remotely interested? I turned the key in the tractor and, as the engine spurted into life, I found myself recalling a familiar phrase, a snatch I remembered from A Portrait: A trembling seized him and his eyes grew dim, for there
happy way of hers. It was at that point I realised just how far I had actually come. How far I had actually travelled — psychologically, I mean. And I felt proud, really. How could I not? You’ll often see Lulu on the TV these days — on daytime chat shows and the like, discussing her pop career and what it had been like to grow up in the rough-and-tumble Glasgow of the post-war era. And yes, her voice is as good as ever it was. Every bit as good. Relaxing there now, she didn’t seem a day over
as it slipped down finding myself returning to that final day in Cullymore. When I made my way across the fields, along the railway track that led to their little restored greenhouse. This was the evening of ‘the great performance’, a mere few hours after Marcus Otoyo had taken the town by storm, delivering a rendition of ‘The Holy City’ that would be talked about years hence in the town. Which was the reason, of course, that I’d waited in the main street for an opportunity to present to him the
had the bedclothes been seriously disturbed, but that Vesna, my wife, was nowhere to be seen. It was at that point I overheard the tinkle of suppressed laughter, intermittently drifting through the floorboards from downstairs. I steeled myself. But nothing could have prepared me for the scene I was about to encounter. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Marcus Otoyo — his jaws rotating as he chatted away casually, as if he’d known her all his life. Vesna, of course, was hanging on his every word.