I’m finally getting to a book that’s been on my list for a while, The First Verse by Barry McCrea.  It was nominated for a Lammy back in 2005, but I imagine a lot of its readers don’t think it got as much attention as it deserves.  Written in simple, hypnotically beautiful prose, it’s the strangely compelling story of Niall, a gay freshman at Trinity College in Dublin. A long passage towards the beginning of the book relates Niall’s initiation into the gay scene in Dublin—the bars, the men he sleeps with.  Curiously, that shadowy underworld is slowly replaced by Niall’s admission into a literary cult devoted to the game of sortes, a form of divination which uses randomly selected passages from books, whose history stretches back to Roman times.  Niall becomes addicted to the weird hallucinatory rites he performs with his begrudging cult-companions, his sex and social lives falling to the wayside.  It has the compulsively readable feeling of a thriller, but is much more knowing and psychologically acute than a typical thriller.  I hear rumors that McCrea is taking a year off of teaching (at my alma mater), and I hope it’s to work on his second novel.


Every week we ask an LGBTQ book lover what book they are currently reading and we post their answers here on LambdaLiterary.org every Thursday. To participate in “What I’m Reading” please send in your 250-300 word contribution (including the full author name, title, and your reaction to the book so far), along with a black and whtie photo of yourself (500 pixels x 300 pixels) to tips@lambdaliterary.org.



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  • Michael Craft

One Response to “What I’m Reading”

  1. Howard 21 July 2010 at 10:20 AM #

    I read this book in 2006 and also found it psychologically thrilling. Why didn’t it get more attention? Is it the slightly mysterious setting of Trinity College in Dublin rather than mainstream England? Is it the close connection between Niall and his concerned female friend Fionnuala, and the failure of Niall to connect with a potential boyfriend? Is it the very satisfying but slightly disturbing ending? This book should be better known.



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