: John the revelator (9780151014026) : Peter Murphy : Books
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John The Revelator

by Peter Murphy
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publishing date: 19/08/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780151014026
  • ISBN: 0151014027


Product Description
Already fast becoming a classic among coming-of-age tales, John the Revelator has garnered praise from Nick Laird, Colm T?ib?n, Roddy Doyle, and John Boyne, and is a critical darling in the U.K.

This is the story of John Devine--stuck in a small town in the otherworldly landscape of southeastern Ireland, worried over by his single, chain-smoking, Bible-quoting mother, Lily, and spied on by the "neighborly" Mrs. Nagle. When Jamey Corboy, a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder, arrives in town, John's life suddenly seems full of possibility. His loneliness dissipates. He is taken up by mischief and discovery, hiding in the world beyond as Lily's mysterious illness worsens. But Jamey and John's nose for trouble may be their undoing, and soon John will be faced with a terrible moral dilemma.

Joining the ranks of the great novels of friendship and betrayal--A Separate Peace, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha--John the Revelator grapples with the pull of the world and the hold of those we love.

Read a Q&A: Shirley Manson, Singer and Actress, Interviews Peter Murphy, Author of John the Revelator

John the Revelator author Peter Murphy first met Shirley Manson--Garbage singer, solo artist incumbent, and actress in Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles--in the spring of 1998. Back then Manson and her band mates were promoting Garbage's second album Version 2.0. Murphy had just turned pro as a music and arts journalist. The five bonded in a mutual melding of spiky Edinburgh wit, sardonic Mid-western drollery and southeastern Irish gallows humor.

The pair's paths are overlapping. Manson cut her journalistic teeth interviewing U2 several months ago, while Murphy has just completed an album-length spoken word/music adaptation of his novel entitled The Sounds of John the Revelator . On a warm evening in late June the tables were turned, as grand inquisitor became quivering quarry. No blood was shed. Well, not much anyway.

Shirley Manson: So Peter, you've been a music journalist for 13 years, and you've just released your debut novel. I want to know why it took you so long when we've all known for years that if anyone were going to write a book it would be you. What spurred you to take the plunge?

Peter Murphy: The spur I think was the oldest one in the book. My father died in 2000, and in the period of about a year after that I started to wake up in the middle of the night afflicted with what I call the Claw of Death, which was a sort of cold icy feeling that I hadn't achieved anything, that I was going to die having only written about other people's work and never having produced any of my own. I had ideas, stories that didn't yet exist and I wanted them to exist. And the only way they would exist was if I wrote them. And it took a long time because... It just takes a long time. It took me a long time to get even a paragraph or a page that I could stand over and read without flinching, never mind a chapter or a whole book.

Shirley Manson: When I read the book I knew your Mum was ill and struggling with dementia throughout the writing of it. I wonder if the fact that John's mother became a central figure was a result of that?

Peter Murphy: Without doubt. Actually, I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it, but the whole process was book-ended by my parents' deaths. And I didn't really get a handle on starting the next one until after my mother passed away in May. Y'know, this is the somewhat eerie thing about art and music and writing, its predictive nature. Before my mother fell sick or was diagnosed, I had written some of those scenes. I think what happens is your subconscious divines certain things that your daytime mind doesn't want to acknowledge, so it looks prophetic when you go back and see something that you've written is predicting something that later happened, but I don't think it's prophesy. I think it's that we absorb information or signs or auguries in ways that we don't even comprehend, and some part of us understands what's going to happen, but our conscious mind doesn't want to face up to it. And there's no doubt about it, the character of Lily was a catalyst. I believe it's her book. While the narrator is John, I think his purpose is to bear witness to his mother.

Shirley Manson: Why did you call it John The Revelator? I want to know that, even though it's a really moronic question.

Peter Murphy: Oh no, it's crucial. That song title, that aggregation of words was kind of like a talisman for me. What happened was I read Greil Marcus's book Invisible Republic, which was about The Basement Tapes and Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. And when I read it I was of course compelled to hear the Harry Smith Anthology. I remember I bought it in Amherst in Massachusetts and I was sitting on the porch as the crickets were chirping, drinking a beer in the really close heat and looking at the track listing, and I remember my eye just locking on this title. It was the Blind Willie Johnson version, and I just thought it was unbelievable. It was Biblical, it could have been from Moby Dick, it could have been a Nick Cave song or a Cormac McCarthy novel, it could have been a John Ford movie. And I couldn't believe that nobody had ascribed a story to it. And once I decided this would be the title, it became a kind of dare. It was like, "Well, can you write something good enough to stand up to this?" It became like a torch to follow.

Shirley Manson: Do you think your book will resonate with an American audience?

Peter Murphy: Absolutely. Because American stories resonated with me and were so similar to my upbringing. When I was 12 or 13 I started the Stephen King canon and just didn't stop until they were all devoured. That was my first obsessive reading of any one author. And then it moved onto Steinbeck. And it was quite late in life that I made the connection: Faulkner, McCullers, O'Connor: what do these names have in common?

Shirley Manson: What do you think is the purpose of fictional writing? Why do you want to write?

Peter Murphy: At a certain stage in my life I realized that this is what makes me feel useful and whole as a person. I'd be delighted if the book made people feel better than they felt before they started it, or if it made a bus journey shorter, or if it got them through a morning in the motor tax office. Beyond that, I've just surrendered to the fact that this is what I do, I live in language, the music of language. I discovered something through the reading of the work... I don't think of it as separate from the person I am, I think of it as integral to my own organs and breathing and walking around. It's just hardwired into my purpose. When I'm working well I'm a dream to be around, and if I'm not working...

Shirley Manson: You have a myspace page up that centers around a spoken word/music project. Was that inspired by the book or did it come before the book?

Peter Murphy: There was an open mike night here in Enniscorthy last November, and there was a lull between singer-songwriters doing their thing, so I got up and read a couple of passages. And afterwards an old friend of mine who I used to play in a band with and who was doing the sound said, 'Do you fancy recording some of that?' So he came out to the house and set up the mikes and we recorded some stuff. And he had a library of recordings by local musicians, and he almost randomly began to throw the readings at these pieces of music, and 60% of the time they just sat really well. That was a really effortless and pure experience.

(Photo © Sophie Muller)

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  • Irish Gothic
    From Amazon

    I happened upon this book by accident, and it caught my eye for two reasons, both of them having to do with modern music: I recognized the name Peter Murphy, though the Murphy I knew was the front man for the eighties gothic band Bauhaus (and currently a solo artist), and the title John the Revelator is a traditional Gospel song covered by Frank Black and by Depeche Mode (with altered lyrics). It was a happy accident. This novel reads like an introspective Irish biography, told from the perspective of a young boy dealing with his eccentric and rather morbid mother. Think a more gothic form of Angela's Ashes (yet less depressing, thank God). Take advantage of the access to the first chapter and get hooked.

  • Nice try...
    From Amazon

    There is some splendid writing in this book, and some very powerful scenes, but I found that the book didn't hold together for me, since there's no real narrative arc in this Irish coming of age novel. A number of storylines get set up, but few of them ever resolve or pay off. This is the kind of book whose language sets it up as being better than it truly is, and hoping that the verbal conjuring trick will work, so that the reader will think, ah, fine prose makes a fine story. But there's not much of a story here, and the writing, while fine in spots, becomes terribly self-conscious after a while, and the prose occasionally moves from purple to mauve. The separate episodes with the symbolic crow aren't well integrated into the rest of the story, and thematically the book is a bit of a mess. That said, the dialogue rings true, and I liked the relationships between the characters, but the plot is so episodic that the story doesn't work organically. Still, it'll be interesting to see what Murphy tries next. He's got great potential and shows much promise.

  • The Wierd and Wonderful Drew Me In
    From Amazon

    ...and the dark humor and captivating prose kept me enthralled. With John the Revelator, I was confronted with a coming of age novel (a genre I still enjoy in my early middle years) unlike any I'd ever read. I say confronted because, at times, reading of John Devine's travails was was almost like an assault on my senses. Murphy has a love of the written word that shines through, even when he's using them to slap the reader upside the face. John's boyhood was so very different from my experience, but I found myself relating to all of the steps along his journey. John's mother is the pillar of his life and her declining health effects him more than any other outside stimuli could. Other events batter poor John and push him further and further into himself as well. His interplay with the busybody Mrs. Nagel. The unsettling relationship with his friend Jamey. This is a book of relationships rather than of plot, and that is where Murphy shines. Some may find the prose flat, but after an initial "break in" period, I was hooked. John the Revelator was not always easy to follow and at times I was tempted to skip ahead, but in the end it was a rewarding read. Murphy has a voice that will hopefully continue to evolve in future novels.

  • What's Revealed?
    From Amazon

    Well for starters, in Murphy's John the Revelator, coming of age is not a matter of experience with sex, drugs, or even Rock and Roll. It isn't propelled by betrayal, madness, or corruption. That's not to say that the protagonist, John Devine, doesn't experience all of those things-- he does in some spectacular and horrifyingly human ways. However, they don't transform him so much as push him further and further into himself. For John, a world caught between the crows that fly to high to help, and the worms that start eating us while we're still alive, initiation comes only with death's attendant grief. It spurs him to pick-up his cross-bow and take a stand against petty evil's encroach.

  • Meandering
    From Amazon

    20 pages from the end, I couldn't describe what this book was about. I'm still not sure I know now that I'm finished, but I do know that the back cover text has virtually nothing to do with it - it's stuff that does take place in the story, but it's not what the story is about. The book is a bit hard to get into, at least for an American, as the first few pages throw around a whole lot of Irish slang without a lot of context. That quickly falls off, though, in favor of the story. I would have to say that this book is simply cutscenes from the life of a small-town Irish boy growing up with a single, working mother. He has a friend or two, some misadventures along the way, some seemingly prophetic dreams, and typical mom-relation issues, but in the end it's about him growing up and his relationship with his mother. No mini story inside the narrative is ever told in full; the most you get is hints, but it's enough to build the impression of some full characters with lives and stories of their own (and some not). In the end, I can't say that I'm _glad_ to have read it, and I probably won't seek out more by the author, but it was a pleasant enough way to pass the time.

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