Ross O'Carroll-Kelly


‘I look up and everyone in the room is just, like, staring at me, open-mouthed’

FIONN ANSWERS THE door with a copy of The Economist in his hand, which he’s genuinely been reading.

“Go on,” I go, nodding at it, “what have you been boning up on now.” He doesn’t want to tell me at first – thinks I’m there to rip the basic.

I’m like, “Dude, seriously,” I go, stepping into the hallway, “I’m actually interested.” He’s there, “Well, if you must know I’ve been reading an article about the construction of the Square Kilometre Array – the world’s most powerful telescope. I know it’s dumbing it down to say it, but this is going to be astronomy’s Large Hadron Collider moment. A telescope as powerful as this should measure about four kilometres in diameter. But the SKA works via a process called Interferometry, which means networking a large number of smaller dishes, then using computer algorithms to persuade them to act like one giant telescope.”

I wait until I’m sure he’s finished, then I go, “Did you notice the way I didn’t yawn in your face there? Or even pretend to sneeze while blurting out the word, ‘Nerd!’” “Well, now that you mention it, yes. What’s going on?” “Joining a book club has changed me, Fionn. I actually feel more intelligent? My mind is just like an open . . .” “Sewer?” “I was going to say vessel, except I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that it was an actual word?

Seriously, though, Dude – this is my Something Something Collider moment. This book club can only improve my brain slash mind. In six months’ time, Sorcha is going to look at me and go, ‘Could this really be the same Ross O’Carroll-Kelly who appeared on Blackboard Jungle and told Ray D’Arcy that Calculus was Hamlet’s older brother?’” Fionn laughs. He’s learned to see the funny side of it, even though it cost us the quiz at the time.

“So,” I go, “did you read it?” He’s like, “What?” “The book I gave you. The one we’re supposedly reviewing tonight. The Hare with the Amber Blahdy Blahs.”

He rolls his eyes, like the whole thing is a major effort for him, but then – fair focks to him – he disappears into then sitting room, and returns a few seconds later with a little brown folder, which he hands to me.

He’s like, “There you go. It’s just a few thoughts I had. I don’t know why you don’t just read the reviews on Amazon, then pass them off as your own, like everyone else does.”

I’m there, “Er, because I’ve got a friend who happens to be one of the most intelligent people in the world. I’m telling you, Fionn, a combination of your brains and my everything else is what’s going to win Sorcha back. By the way, it better all be on one sheet.” “Ross, I wouldn’t dream of giving you more than a single A4 page to read.” I tell him that’s good, then I point the cor in the direction of Rathgor, because this month’s meeting is being held in, like, Amie with an ie’s gaff.

I end up being 10 or 15 minutes late. They’re already horsing their way through the hoisin duck wontons and the Neuf du Plonk. I cop the shocked look on Sorcha’s face. She genuinely didn’t think I’d come.

Probably thinks that I’m here just to rip the serious. Gary – our divorcee neighbour who’s been sniffing around her – notices me too and I can tell he respects me for taking up the challenge. A worthy adversary.

Blah, blah, blah.

I pull up a chair. Claire from Bray of all places has the floor and she’s going, “I read this book while Garret and I were trying to get the money together to set up our ethical organic bakery – Wheat, Bray, Love – and I was, like, so stressed and looking for something that would, like, transport me to another world. Which this book – oh my God – definitely did? I have to say, I agree with what Sorcha said earlier, that this is one of those books that you carry around with you in your heart for years afterwards . . .”

There’s, like, 15 minute of that shit, then it’s the turn of one of Sorcha’s old UCD mates, who I got off with three or four times, although I never knew her name.

She’s like, “Some of the words I’ve written down here to describe this book are beautiful, tragic, elegant, rich and esoteric,” and I’m sitting there with a finger to my lips, just nodding, like I know what the fock is going on. “It’s one of those books that makes you actually think? It was, like, such an amazing way to write a family history, using the netsuke as, like, a recurring theme? I have to say, the story genuinely moved me. Anyone who knows me will tell that I – oh my God – love art . . .” She’s wearing a very low top and every time she leans forward I can see her cha-chas.

“And the idea of the Nazis destroying all those precious works of art and, I suppose, artefacts made me just want to go, ‘Oh my God, Nazis, just stop!’ I was, like, actually cheering for the netsuke, hoping and praying they’d be okay.” Amie with an ie goes, “I actually wanted to own my own set of netsuke while I was reading it?” Claire from Bray goes, “So did I – I even checked could you buy them online.”

The next thing, roysh, Sorcha turns to me. “Ross,” she goes, “did you have any thoughts on

The Hare with the Amber Eyes that you wanted to share?”

“Oh, I had plenty of thoughts,” I go, “don’t you worry about that,” and I hip open Fionn’s – I suppose – dossier. Fair focks to him, I just think. He’s printed it out double-spaced. Makes it obviously easier to read.

So I stort.

I’m like, “This is, without doubt, the best book I have ever read . . .” That gets their definite attention. They’re suddenly all looking at me and I’m instantly in the zone.

“The story,” I go, “was raw and emotional but no less enchanting for that. I loved the idea of Little Nutbrown Hare trying to describe the love he has for Big Nutbrown Hare, only to be continually trumped. The bit at the end, where Little Nutbrown Hare says, ‘I love you all the way to the moon’, and Big Nutbrown Hare turns off the light and whispers, ‘I love you all the way to the moon and back’, had me in literally tears.”

I hear Claire from Bray go, “What the fock is he talking about?” except I just keep going.

“If I was to criticise it, I’d say there could have been more woodland creatures in it. The odd fox or badger. Or even a wise old owl, dispensing advice. But that’s only a minor quibble. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially the pop-up version, which is the one I got. I wouldn’t even rule out me rereading the thing.”

I look up and everyone in the room is just, like, staring at me, open-mouthed. And it’s only at that point I realise that Fionn has stitched me up here in a major, major way.

So much for books improving the mind.