This memorable debut novel explores Dublin’s every corner, including a first-of-its-kind portrayal of its thriving gay nightlife, through the eyes of a young man seduced by a secret society’s ancient reading rituals, based on the sortes virgilianae. In brilliant prose, author Barry McCrea gives readers a psychologically gripping tale set within the intertwining worlds of literature and the living.
When freshman Niall Lenihan moves to Trinity College, he dives into unfamiliar social scenes, quickly becoming fascinated by a reclusive pair of students—literary “mystics” who let signs and symbols from books determine their actions. Reluctantly, they admit him to their private sessions, and what begins as an intriguing game for Niall becomes increasingly esoteric, dramatic, and addictive. As Niall discovers the true nature of the pursuits in which he has become entangled, The First Verse traces a young man’s search for identity, companionship, and a cult’s shadowy origins in the pages of literature and the people of a city. Fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley will be mesmerized by the strange, page-turning world of this astonishing first novel from a dazzling new literary voice.
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THE FIRST VERSE was awarded the 2006 Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction.
Past winners include AT SWIM TWO BOYS by Jamie O'Neill, THE MARRIED MAN by Edmund White, THE HOURS by Michael Cunningham, and THE STORY OF THE NIGHT by Colm Toibin.From Booklist:
Pop-culture scholars have theorized that our digital age, which emphasizes the linear and logical, has created at least a generation or two starved for ancient rites and ritual, for the mystical, magical elements a world structured on bits and bytes lacks. How else to explain the multigenerational appeal of Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, and even Joan of Arcadia? Some culture gurus suggest an almost cultlike yet mass hunger that seeks to use Code and its ilk to explain the world's mysteries. Into this milieu comes McCrea's first novel about Trinity College (Dublin) freshman Niall Lenihan, who dives into new experiences, in particular a cult that makes a game and, eventually, a dangerous addiction of signs and secrets its members derive from literature, e-mail, and text-messaging. Set in Paris as well as Dublin, McCrea's gay Gen X opus delivers sharp pacing and a sense of place colored by the state of mind that leads a young man to lose a year of his life to odd pursuits. Whitney Scott
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