Operation Trumpsformation review: Rosser’s on form again
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly rugby-tackles class, gender, sexual and actual politics in his new book
Paul Howard and Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: making south Co Dublin great again. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly is a terrible person. He’s a misogynist who calls women dogs and their breasts Big Gulps, while feeling the need to distinguish between “gords and lady gords”. He’s a classist who thinks anyone who’s ever enjoyed a quick five-a-side kickabout has barely crawled out of the primordial sludge. He sleeps with someone else’s wife, and keeps her knickers as a “screw-venir”. His biggest concern when faced with a possible Eirexit situation is whether or not we’ll still be in the Six Nations. He’s a “nervous wreck” around gay people (but don’t you dare call him a homophobe).
But we love Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. We’ve loved him for 20 years. He’s been an almost constant companion through our years of political turmoil, economic ups and downs and the Brian O’Driscollisation of our sporting hopes. His stories, as told in his own very particular yet so recognisable voice to author Paul Howard, are achievements of delightful commentary and satire. And now he’s coming up against the most lampoon-worthy of them all. Trump.
Operation Trumpsformation, O’Carroll-Kelly’s latest novel, opens with things more or less in the focking toilet for our hero, if you’ll allow me to borrow his own words. His wife Sorcha is kicking him out for riding a woman from Dalkey, his father has launched a political career and is taking inspiration from a very familiar-looking wig he insists on wearing; kind of like a coiffed bale of straw you might get in the bottom of a lovely hamper of chutneys and 17-seed crackers from Donnybrook Fair. His old dear is in prison, suspected of killing her second husband. His infant triplet sons are showing a horrific fondness for soccer, and Ross himself has been thrown into the confusing world of gender pronouns and post-marriage referendum Ireland. But he’s trying, God love him.
His old man, Charles O’Carroll-Kelly, has formed his own political party, New Republic. He’s promising almost unbelievable changes in his proposed programme for government. He wants to appeal to people disillusioned by bailouts and slow economic recovery. Sounds standard enough as election promises go, right? But the wig is on and the Trump comparisons pour and drop like a tray of Heinos on Leinster final day in Kielys. Charles is creating a climate of fear, rabble rousing about hordes of people turning on GAA referees in a show of uncontrollable violence, agitating for Ireland to get out of Europe, pointing a finger of blame at Cork people migrating to Dublin with their impossible accents only to then turn around and take all that lovely money back to Kent Station with them on a Friday evening. He wants to build a wall around Cork. He wants to build it with Cork’s money and he wants that border to be as hard as Donncha O’Callaghan’s skull.
To make matters worse he’s recruiting Ross’s estranged wife to join him on the campaign trail and his bid to “make Ireland tremendous again”, although to be fair she’s only ankle deep before she’s already balking at his promise to get Ireland out of Europe. Her main concern is that students will no longer be able to go on Erasmus. And what kind of world would it be without a clatter of orts undergrads horsing into their croissants in Lyons while the rest of the plebs dodge the Luas in Dublin?
Ross, meanwhile, is trying to get his mother out of prison, his triplets away from the dreaded round ball, his illegitimate son Ronan away from a marriage doomed to fail, and his daughter Honor into whatever gender she (or he) feels most comfortable in. All this while juggling a myriad of unfortunate misunderstandings about his feelings on same-sex couples.
All of the Trump comparisons and the very 2017 “woke” topics might initially seem a little clumsy and shoehorned in, but what Howard and O’Carroll-Kelly have once again managed to do is provide hilarious satire, enjoyably transparent commentary on political happenings at home and abroad, and masterful phonetic conversations across Ross’s own south Dublin circle (“Bortlett Pears”), Ronan, Shadden, Dordeen and co’s less affluent patter (“things is teddible bad”) and even a Cavan boyo thrown in for good measure (“I need torty cents for a paint bohull of Bulmers”). The book wisely stops short of spelling out a Nigerian priest’s voice for us, though, inviting us instead to “maybe do the accent in your own heads”.
All in all, Rosser is in top form. As if we ever expected anything less.
Emer McLysaght is the author, with Sarah Breen, of Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling (Gill Books)