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Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers Hardcover – May 29, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st American ed edition (May 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412974
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,330,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Yeats Is Dead doesn't seem like a book so much as a protracted pub crawl in the company of 15 hyper-articulate potty-mouths. Roddy Doyle, Frank McCourt, Anthony Cronin, and a dozen of their lesser-known compatriots have written a literary mystery that isn't terribly literary and doesn't really hang together as a mystery. It is, however, a showcase for riffing by some very clever writers. The novel commences with a chapter from Doyle, wherein a couple of cops on the take raid the trailer of a down-and-outer. They've been instructed to sack the joint by the all-knowing underworld crime boss Mrs. Bloom (much given to crying "O yes" in proper Joycean fashion). Unfortunately, the two policemen accidentally kill the resident hobo, and in doing so set off a whirlwind of brutality, inner-city intrigue, and unlikely romance.

Each chapter is written by a different writer, and each writer seems eager to outdo the last by killing off as many characters as possible. This can be good, bloody fun. It can also lead to some creaky exposition along the lines of this passage from Cronin's chapter: "The guard that got shot. What did he think he was up to? And what was his connection, if any, with the Tommy Reynolds murder?" More successful are the writers who altogether give up the ghost of creating a cohesive mystery, and instead wallow around in literary references and ridiculously purple prose. Here novelist Joseph O'Connor tries his hand at an action scene: "Gravity and Mrs. Roberts had entered into conflict, and, as devotees of the late Sir Isaac will confirm, out of such a negotiation may emerge one victor." Not exactly Tom Clancy, and a good thing, too.

The Irish must be a genial race, for they keep turning out these collaborative efforts, the most recent being Finbar's Hotel and Ladies' Night at Finbar's Hotel. (By the way, all royalties from the sale of this particular round robin will go to Amnesty International.) In any case, the format can be tough on the writer who must bundle it all up in the final chapter. Here the task falls to honorary Irishman Frank McCourt, and let it be said, he does his salty, saucy best. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Sponsored by Amnesty International to help raise funds for its work, this round-robin mystery, coauthored by 15 esteemed Irish writers, including Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle and Conor McPherson, is more a literary curiosity than a compelling read. After one of two policemen who are moonlighting as ruffians accidentally shoots a man they've been questioning, Nestor and Roberts find themselves on the body-strewn trail of the mysterious symbol Y8S=+ (no rewards for puzzling it out), a miraculous skin cream and a previously unknown last novel by James Joyce. Nods to Ulysses abound. A copy of the book figures prominently in the plot, while Nestor and Roberts work for a mobster named Mrs. Bloom. Though some lilting Irish prose and notably bawdy passages will appeal, the novel proceeds by fits and starts to a preordained conclusion. There are some keen observations and an understated wit that verges on the epigrammatic ("Her blue eyes glittered with the absence of mental health"). But the eccentricity grows mechanical and a little bit of the blarney goes a long way; consequently the braggadocio becomes forced. ("He hated Bewley's, hated its claustrophobic mahogany interior, its slow black-clad waitresses with their big culchie faces. And yet he always seemed to end up here whenever the black dog of depression was pissing down his back.") Thus, while this mulligan stew of a mystery is sometimes tasty, it's hardly nit picking to point out that the porridge contains more than a few lumps. (June 16)Forecast: With a 75,000-copy first printing set for Bloomsday, plus some big-name contributors, this should attract plenty of initial attention, but may be too quirky for lasting appeal.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Austin on May 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Fifteen Irish writers take their turn (one chapter each) at ratcheting up the silliness while developing a story centered on the discovery of James Joyce's final unpublished work. Organized crime, organized crime fighters, and Irish society in general take on a generous helping of ribbing while each author does his or her best to out do the previous. What is funny is how many of the authors take what was written before and then throw in a bizarre twist. Or just simply kill off a character nurtured and developed by a previous writer. One poor soul about halfway through makes some attempt at stabilizing the story, only to be completely blown out of the water by the next. And yet at the same time, a couple of gags presented near the beginning of the book find their way into every chapter up to the end.
All in all it is a very fun collection of work, and edifying as well in the sense that the reader may find a new author or two to try out after putting this one down. Because of the nature of this type of work, naturally the writing styles and quality vary greatly from one chapter to the next. This fact in itself will disturb the reader that attempts to take the novel too seriously. Although why this feat is even attempted when you are reading about a ginger haired young Irishman who likes to speak in American ghetto slang is beyond me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jessie Clavin on December 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
i read this while living in Dublin, and loved it, the writers have a great time with it and the reader can't help but be brought along for the ride. some knowledge of irish slang is really helpful though. and at times the plot gets a bit... fantastic. too many cooks make for a crazy stew. but as long as you aren't expecting a tightly crafted novel and are only out for a quick read (it works well chapter by chapter, so it's good for travel) and a laugh.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was written by a couple of Irish writers out to have a little fun. There were some minor but obvious editorial errors which only adds to the true nature of this book - that it wasn't meant to be a literary masterpiece, it was meant to entertain and make people chuckle. I loved it and it can be read in a few hours. . so enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hassan Galadari on December 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was recommended this book by amazon.com. I just can't recall why, but I had it put on my wish list when my brother decided to give it to me for a birthday gift last summer. After going through a long horrendous, yet exciting read of another Irishman John Connolly's "Every Dead Thing", I welcomed the change to the light hearted when my fiance thought it would be cool to go ahead with a story as witty as this one. Witty is one thing, but there were some parts that was truly laugh out loud.(...)
Yeats is Dead is a story without being a story itself. Written loosley by 15 Irish authors just out there to have some good old fashioned fun. Theyd o an excellent job with the idea and all, but fall extrememly short when it comes to ending the whole story. Under each author, the characters just seem to be suffering from some sort of schizophrenia with their feeling jumping from one point to another. It's just unbelievable to conceive, unbeliveable to believe, but truly enjoyable to go through it along through the end.
The book is an excellent read at just any setting. The beauty of it being not truly knowing how the tory is going to twist and turn so that you come out with the final chapter. I think Frank McCourt just didn't know what to do with it and hastily ended it. All in all, this is a funny book that deserves all the attention. You just love reading an Irishman's (or woman) tale. When they're drunk and in the tell tale mode they're funny and when they're sober, you still can't take anything they say seriously. And that's exactly how it is with this very one book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By swankyjoe on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very entertaining read about murder and mayhem delivered in the fantastic style typical of good Irish writers. Each chapter written by another author, one never knows how many twists it will take...the story line rather like a thrashing slippery fish..you just never know where its going to end up! If you've got a good sense of humour this one will bring more than a smirk!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mar-vic cagurangan on November 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The first few pages almost turned me off because I thought it was a run-of-the mill mystery. But then, after leafing through the succeeding pages, I got a glimpse of Kafkaesque characters in the two stupid cops, who are arguing, philosophically and pathetically, whether the dead man, Tommy Reynolds, was already dead before one of them shot him. I got hooked. I couldn't stop turning the pages until I got acquianted with a network of psychotics and maniacs. Although each author kills more people in every succeeding chapter, the taste of violence is somehow offset by the authors' wits and creativity that revealed the authors' intention to turn Yeats is Dead into a literary piece rather than an ordinary mystery. In Yeats is dead, 15 Irish authors created their dream world, where every living person is a literati. Consider these: a garbage collector, who reveals his aversion to the language of Mills and Boon; a cop who writes poetry; drunken old bums who can appreciate the value of James Joyce's missing manuscripts; and crime bosses who can enumerate a long list of Irish authors. This is a wild and fun read!
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