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There are certain books I ve read that are so intense that they have left an indelible print on me, despite what I ve thought of the book overall Over the years that list has grown and include Jerzy Kosinksi s The Painted Bird, Bret Easton Ellis s American Psycho, Iain Banks s The Wasp Factory, and Anthony Burgess s A Clockwork Orange I can now add Patrick McCabe s The Butcher Boy to that list.This first person stream of consciousness narrative takes some getting used to Francie Brady reflects on his childhood living at home with his abusive and alcoholic father, and his beaten and suicidal mother Francie and his best friend, Joe, make friends with Francie s neighbor, Phillip Nugent The new friendship doesn t last long, however, and Phillip s mother lashes out at the Brady family, accusing them of being pigs Francie takes on this persona in some ways, embraces the status of a pig, and actually uses the Nugent s house at one point as a pig sty When Francie is caught in this act of behaving as swine, he is sent away to be educated by priests just pick up a newspaper today and you ll see accusations of similar abuse inflicted upon Francie in this school His life continues a downward spiral, and after leaving the school and returning home to work in a slaughterhouse, but finds his best friend has grown apart from him, and it all becomes too much for Francie He uses the skills he has learned in the slaughterhouse to make his point in a rather graphic way.As a reader, I felt for Francie Like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Francie has no chance It s arguable that the society in which he lives provides him no alternatives Francie comes from an abusive family only to be put in an abusive environment allowing figures of authority molest him You want to hug this kid But then he opens his mouth and you realize instead of hugging him you really want to slug him And you think he probably had it all coming, and he deserves everything that happens to him.And then you realize you are just a member of society. Previously with Breakfast on Pluto I got the feel for this Irish writer Certainly, McCabe has his own brand He loves his readers to fully embody his fully realized protagonist one enjoys the rational irrationalities that litter a wartorn broken psyche of Francie, a pauper who is taken in by the community only to be persecuted for a hideous crime Think of an Irish Charley from Flowers for Algernon Think too, A Clockwork Orange The ultraviolence a masterful, invented dialogue is also present here Francie is a psychopath a la American Psycho , a la Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates who becomes the Butcher boy, or apprentice, killing with an underrated joy the pigs and piglets of the sty Despite what is in his gray matter, his hands do things independently Is he possessed Is he the bi product of his environment Maybe Yes He s truly insane, and to actually go deep into the abysmal terrors, like a marvelous case study, is what McCabe excels at It is also poignant and funny Like a twisted Huck Finn, a macabre Holden Caufield, an astute Oliver Twist Francie is as unforgettable as all those winnies the patina he gives off, of a sad, pathetic underdog, perennial lost child, gives him immediate candidacy to the literary equivalent of Our Patron Saint of Unadulterated Evil. The Butcher Boy or Francie Brady s Descent Into MADNESS imagine I m using my best Dan Rather for 48 Hours Mystery voice there At first I thought this was going to be a sort of case study in the makings of a sociopath failure to conform to social norms check deceitfulness check disregard for safety of others check consistent irresponsibility check check check check But oh no, it is far far worse than that for our little Francie Brady Francie Brady skips right through sociopathy and lands smack dab in the middle of a complete psychotic break of epic proportions.Let me make a confession I am not a crier Books do not make me cry I can only remember crying ONCE while reading The World According to Garp, when Garp s son view spoiler dies in that tragic accident hide spoiler Patrick McCabe perfectly captures the voice of Francie Brady, who remembers his childhood a young derelict somewhere in rural Ireland during the early 1960 s in this violent, surreal but also moving book Francie s voice carries the story, which is compelling, hilariously campy and absolutely tragic at the same time we laugh only because we don t want to cry.The novel s biggest success is its duality the total immersion in Francie s mind, and its refusal or inability to perceive and understand certain things, and us being aware of what s happening outside his bubble In his naivete, Francie always has a justification and explanation for any event or situation, even if it s absolutely absurd a fan of comic book and movies with John Wayne, he thinks in terms of popular culture of the era and acts accordingly Francie is a character who s often difficult to sympathize with he s cruel to a new schoolboy, Philip Nugent, bullies him and takes away his comic collection, provoking a feud with Nugent s mother which will spark the book and eventually prove tragic Yes only the coldest heart would not feel compassion for him, even when he s at his most revolting behind this skin and these eyes there still lies a yearning for childhood innocence, forever lost so long ago amidst apathy, emotional and physical violence and the endless petty cruelties Little by little it was jabbed away by pins and needless of small town meanness until the flesh was raw and vulnerable perhaps in a different time and different place Francie Brady would be a completely different person, but in this incarnation he is Francie Brady, The Butcher Boy.Ah, Francie Ah, humanity Francie Brady s ma is driven to death by her insanity Francie s da dies drunk The one pick one is probably not caused by the other A list Francie writes of those that matter but are now gone from him barely doubles the number.Francie does not turn to drink, but he nurtures his own insanity His acts are lurid, and evil We would not like him, would be afraid of him But Patrick McCabe rewards him with our sympathy It was not by predetermined plan, but I am in the middle of a season s worth of Irish fare One, not finished, is about a kind of life after death Then, maybe this one too Across the ditch a snowdrop with a bone china head curtsied and introduced its diminutive troupe There he is again this year ma used to say about that snowdrop The sky was the colour of oranges I looked at my marble white hands and wondered what it was like to be dead like the woman in the song You d think the beautiful things in the world aren t much good in the end are they I m going to stay dead.I thought that was probably what it was like. When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent.From memory, this is the first sentence of The Butcher Boy, a book that meant a lot to me fifteen or twenty years ago when I was a young man and lived in a town in the Adelaide Hills Just the fact that I remember the line proves the book affected me I don t remember many first lines but for all time classics like Somebody must have been telling lies about Joseph K or I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopaedia I don t even remember the first line of Hamsun s Mysteries, for Christ s sake So it s clear to me I liked The Butcher Boy, though I should put this in context I was twenty or twenty one when I read it, and just on the cusp of growing into maturity as a reader, which is to say, of defining what I loved most in literature, as opposed to what school or critics or my parents had suggested to me Not only that, but I d just had an artistic epiphany through film via Clockwork Orange which had left me especially receptive to a first person, slang infused, punctuation defying account of the life of a young thug and murderer A cross between Huck Finn and Hannibal Lector, is how the back cover blurb described protagonist Francie Brady, a kid in rural Ireland in the sixties with an alcoholic musician layabout father and a repressed romantic mother who is in and out of the asylum or garage , as Francie would have it as often as her husband is found face down in the pub, and a best friend, Joe, who drops him like a hot potato as both boys reach their teens and it becomes clear to Joe if not Francie that they re destined for very different futures It s a sad, sad story a melodrama but told with such wit and irony that it becomes a demented black humorous fantasia As I say, it s a while since I ve read it, and it may be that its technique would seem too obvious or flashy to me now, but I remember being delighted by the duality of everything Francie tells us for instance the scene in which he takes a crap on Mrs Nugent s his neighbour s, and arch enemy s loungeroom floor, all the time invoking some duel between Captain Nemo and an octopus which somehow results in this huge submarine ending up on the carpet When he writes PIGS in shit on the wall he s got some heroic context justification for that too, and this child psychopath s vision is actually sustained for the whole book It s hilarious, brutal, scary, and nothing like the film How could it be To my knowledge this dual perception just isn t possible in film The only problem is, if you read anything else or anything else that I m aware of by McCabe it only lessens the effect The first book, Carn, was OK, but the third one The Dead School was, for the few pages I endured, a pale shadow of its predecessor, as was any fragment I took a look at thereafter For this reason, The Butcher Boy gives the impression of having gestated over years, of having required and benefitted fromwork than anything McCabe would write once it propelled him to the lower strata of the bigtime And for all my qualifications, I m pretty sure it still stands up, only not quite so sure that it s as intrinsically mine as I thought it was back then Francie Brady, man He s one of the great characters a teenage Don Quixote with a comic book fixation and an anger management problem He ll break your heart. A story about a boy, Francie Brady who becomes a criminal simply because of the situation he finds himself in His father is a drunkard and his battered mother has a suicidal tendency He has a good friend, like Tom is to Huck, Joe but one day they steal the comics collection of another boy, Phillip and the boy s mother is so angry she calls Francie s family PIGS Feeling disappointed with how his father treated his uncle Alo who he admires, Francie goes to Dublin and becomes a petty thief When he comes back, he loses his Joe to Phillip and so he takes revenge and that is the start of his path towards becoming a certified psychopath.It is a story of a boy s descent to madness Told in the first person narrative and in a charming Irish English kind of way, I was reminded of Frank McCourt s Angela s Ashes 4 stars except that the things that Francie says are mostly dark and disgusting There were some funny and okay, innocent in a way young Irish boys I supposed think and talk, but while reading I could not follow some of Francie s thoughts unlike when I was reading McCourt s I guess the mind of Francie was too dark for my brain to handle The Butcher Boy is written without punctuation marks and separation of dialogues and thoughts that I found challenging yet it seemed to me that McCabe probably wanted to capture in this style what goes on in the mind of a criminal boy So, there is no point in comparing this with the young McCourt whose main problems are how to get food for himself and his family and a cure for his red eyes Here the young Francie does all those crimes while working in an abattoir as a butcher because deep inside he is longing for acceptance and love not only from his parents but also from his friend, Joe So, like Nabokov s Lolita, this book may have a disgusting and disturbing storyline but if you dig deeper this is just a story of a boy who wants to make his parents proud of him and feel loved and wanted That s where Lolita s magic lies and that s also the afterthought I had after reading this whole book. This book seemed to me to be an amalgamation of Psycho and Fatal Attraction We are introduced to Francie, an Irish lad, and are held as a captive audience as he descends into madness Except that he doesn t really descend it might to beappropriate to say he sidesteps into madnesshe was pretty close to the starting point when he was at his best.Francie is the product of a drunken, abusive, layabout father and a submissive and suicidal mother He has few friends, only one really, but he likes that friend a lotto the point of jealousy and obsession He wants to stay friends forever and simply cannot comprehend that the object of his affection might want to move on or, God forbid, have other friends This leads him to commit a number of acts that require him to be institutionalized On release, he isdamaged than he was when he went in As in Yeats poem, things fall apart in spite of Francie s efforts to stay straight The ending is predictably and inevitably tragic.Although there is a realistic body count in this book, this book isn t strictly a gorefest It is a story of loyalty, obsession, rejection, and a pretty accurate depiction of the manner in which people needing help are let down by the system.I count this as a horror story, but Francie isn t a monster, at least not in the way we think of monsters The horrific part is that there are thousands of Francies in the making right now in every country in the world always have been, always will be. The Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabeThe Butcher Boy is a 1992 novel by Patrick McCabe Set in a small town in Ireland in the early 1960s, it tells the story of Francis Francie Brady, a schoolboy who retreats into a violent fantasy world as his troubled home life collapses 2014 1393 221 20 ^Book ⇹ The Butcher Boy ↳ I Was Thinking How Right Ma Was Mrs Nugent All Smiles When She Met Us And How Are You Getting On Mrs And Young Francis Are You Both Wellwhat She Was Really Saying Was Ah Hello Mrs Pig How Are You And Look Philip Do You See What S Coming Now The Pig FamilyThis Is A Precisely Crafted, Often Lyrical, Portrait Of The Descent Into Madness Of A Young Killer In Small Town Ireland Imagine Huck Finn Crossed With Charlie Starkweather, Said The Washington Post Short Listed For The Bram Stoker Award And The Man Booker Prize