Conceived in a moment of mad passion by a randy Irish priest and his temporary housekeeper -- and abandoned on a doorstep in a Rinso box as an infant -- her ladyship "Pussy" (ne Patrick) Braden grew up fabulous and escaped tiny Tyreelin, Ireland, to start life anew in London. In blousy tops and satin miniskirts she plies her trade as a ...
Conceived in a moment of mad passion by a randy Irish priest and his temporary housekeeper -- and abandoned on a doorstep in a Rinso box as an infant -- her ladyship "Pussy" (ne Patrick) Braden grew up fabulous and escaped tiny Tyreelin, Ireland, to start life anew in London. In blousy tops and satin miniskirts she plies her trade as a transvestite rent boy on Picadilly's Meat Rack, risking life and limb among the city's flotsam and jetsam. But it is the 1970s, and fear haunts the streets of London and Belfast -- and as radioactive history approaches critical mass, the coming explosion of violence and tragedy may well blow Pussy's fragile soul asunder.
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Publishers Weekly, 1998-11-16 McCabe is a master ventriloquist. In The Butcher Boy he projects the voice of a brash, fast-talking, murderous boy in order to tell a story of divisive tension in a small Irish town. In The Dead School the liberalization of modern Dublin came to readers in the voice of a doddering headmaster. Here, in this Booker Prize finalist, McCabe walks far out on a limb: in the voice of Patrick "Pussy" Braden, a male transvestite fathered by a priest and brought up by foster parents, he tells of life in a violent Irish border town in the early 1970s and an exiled existence in London. (Imagine Ru Paul discoursing on "the Troubles" over a top-40 soundtrack.) Of course, they are more Pussy's troubles than his countrymen's, but Pussy is perhaps the most unabashed narrator in Irish writing since Beckett's Malone. He's nothing if not full of style: "And who was it within my darkened cellbox upon whom mine eyes did gladly fall as there I sat sky-high a-twiddle, ringed around by stars and planets?" Pussy's tale, brief but never boring, is structured as the story told to his doctor in 56 tiny chapters with theatrical asides. Stigmatized as the bastard son of the town priest whose "starched vestments... were partly responsible for his son's attraction to the airy apparel of the opposite sex," Pussy flees to England, where his transvestitism looks suspiciously like a disguise (his old IRA connections are of no help in this regard) as he moves bout Picadilly Circus, picking up men, falling in love and fantasizing various bombing schemes to avenge his own sufferings and that of his down-and-out friendsśCharlie, who falls prey to drink, and Irwin, killed by the IRA for informing. Comically self-absorbed, Pussy is nonetheless charming company, and McCabe manages adroitly to paint a tender portrait of lives destined to be lost to historyśapolitical folk welcome neither in Catholic Ireland nor in the U.K. while the sectarian war rages on. A recently penned preface reveals the author's hope that this time is over and that a new tolerance of difference will take hold. (Dec.) FYI: The title comes from a 1969 chart-making song in the U.K.
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