Alle namen zijn veranderd vertelt het verhaal van een groep studenten die een schrijfcursus volgt aan Trinity College. Ze raken in de ban van hun leraar, de bekende, flamboyante schrijver Glynn met een beruchte reputatie. Hij heeft echter in geen jaren gepubliceerd. De studenten, overgeleverd aan zijn grillen, raken steeds meer in verwarring. De invloed van de ooit gerespecteerde auteur op de onderlinge relaties tussen de studenten is een katalysator waardoor de groep uiteen dreigt te vallen, met alle gevolgen van dien.
Ik heb genoten van de rake beschrijvingen van personages en omgeving (Dublin). Thema en motieven van het boek zitten intelligent verstopt in namen van plaatsen en personen. Hoewel het ook een boek is over het boek, een meta-boek, heeft het me geen ogenblik verveeld. Het vraagt om close reading als je je geen van de handig verstopte literaire verwijzingen wil laten ontglippen. Kilroy zelf voelt zich in het literaire universum thuis. Ze kruipt in de huid van een mannelijke ik-verteller en commentarieert vanuit die gezichtshoek het hele gebeuren. De verwachtingshorizon stuurt aan op teleurstelling maar verrast door een onverwacht happy end.
Claire Kilroy: the year I was 14
Writer Claire Kilroy recalls bullying at a single-sex convent school when she was 14.
by Claire Kilroy
I read somewhere that poltergeists cluster around teenage girls and find I am of the opinion that poltergeists pretty much are teenage girls. When I hit 14, after a happy and industrious childhood, some class of chemical transformation took place in my blood that left me in such a state of inarticulate anguish that petrol fumes surely came off me. Energy has to go somewhere, according to the laws of physics. Some girls cause objects to fly across rooms, others starve or harm themselves. My single-sex convent school seethed like the surface of the sun, and we displaced our excess energies by bullying all hell out of each other, or by being bullied. Bullying strikes me as an unimaginative, plodding endeavour – the work of a mind that cannot come up with a more effective way to alleviate its frustrations. My bully, however – let’s call her Zoe – was creative and artistic. She drew pictures of me, inscribed them everywhere – on walls, schoolbags, desks, the bus – for the amusement of her gang. Thank God social-networking sites and camera phones hadn’t been invented, since Zoe would have launched her campaign on line. To be fair, I was an obvious target.
I had ditched the cerise batwings of the 1980s in favour of head-to-toe black and Doc Martens. (‘Did your dog die?’ my grandfather smirked.) I back-combed my hair, scrawled nihilistic song lyrics on my schoolbag and declared myself a Curehead. Zoe had a field day.
Her gang constructed a mono-desk that ran the length of the classroom’s back wall. They had to climb over or under it to access their seats. Zoe set up shop in the centre, Jesus in Leonardo’s Last Supper, calling taunts at the back of my head during class, at which the occupants of the mono-desk would snigger. Mornings found me sick with dread at the prospect of exposing myself to their scorn. I scribbled and painted and read carefully, searching frantically for a way to fix things, to right the balance. I recall being 14 as one long winter. In retrospect, I see it was the making of me.
Then Zoe, God be good to her, screwed up monumentally. I came in one Monday to find the mono-desk a unit shorter. Turned out the girl had kissed one of the gang’s boyfriends and promptly been expelled from the Last Supper. No longer Jesus, but Judas.
Zoe canvassed the classroom for someone who’d have her. Guess what? There were no takers. She had to sit on her own by the door. That was the end of my bullying.
Zoe became the mono-desk’s new target. I grew my hair and laid off the black. One evening I came out of the cinema and Zoe was there with her mother. I remember facing her across the roof of a car. ‘Will you call me?’ she asked sheepishly. I gave her a yeah-whatever shrug. ‘Seriously,’ she said.
‘Call me.’ Such a beseeching look on her face. I realised that she was desperate. I called her.
She became my best friend for the next 15 years, and was the worst best friend a girl could ask for, but she was never boring, I’ll give her that. She kept me on my toes. Then she kissed my boyfriend and that was the end of it. I cut her dead.
I saw her for the first time in years last summer. I looked up to find her in my signing queue after a reading, trembling all over. She handed me a bunch of flowers and I wrote my email address on her copy of my novel. She emailed the following week. I thought about what I wanted from life, then clicked delete.