Roddy Doyle

1958- ; b. Dublin, son of Rory and Ita, his father being printer; he is the grandson of a tram-driver who fought on the Republican side in 1922 (d.1961); his mother was a first cousin of Maeve Brennan [q.v.]; ed. National School, Raheny, afterwards at St. Fintan’s CBS, Sutton; grad. UCD (English and Geography); H.Dip.(Ed.); taught English and Geography at Greendale Community School, Kilbarrack, North [Co.] Dublin, 1976-1993 [var. 1990], in company with Paul Mercier, who was already writing working-class plays; wrote ‘state-of-the-nation’ draft-novel (Your Granny is a Hunger Striker), before turning to plays for Passion Machine - viz., Brownbread (1987), about the kidnapping of a bishop who turns out to be American, bringing the marines to Barrytown [his fictional Kilbarrack]; War (1989), premiered at the Olympia Theatre, dealing with the battle of the sexes in a pub quiz;
issued The Commitments (1987), the story of an Irish rock band, later filmed successfully by Alan Parker; commenced a series of novels based on Kilbarrack and centred on Jimmy Rabbitte and his wife Veronica with their children Sharon, Les, Jimmy Jr., Dareen, the twins Linda and Tracy, and the dog ‘Larry Gogan’ (after the radio compère of that name); m. Belinda Moller, 1989 - with whom two sons and a dg.; issued The Snapper (1990), in which Sharon becomes pregnant after a drunken rape encounter with Mr. Burgess, the father of her friend Yvonne - a plot that attracted criticism for its supposed tolerance of sexual abuse; successfully filmed by Stephen Frears for BBC TV (1993);
issued The Van (1991), a novella in which Jimmy Rabbitte Snr. and his friend Bimbo escape endemic unemployment by starting a mobile ‘chippy’ [chipper]; issued Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha (1993), narrative of a ten year-old boy raised amid parental differences - a step away from working-class narrative into his own middle-class milieu; awarded the Booker Prize (26 Oct. 1993); wrote The Family, a three-part RTE TV script dealing with an criminal and abusive father in a Barrytown household; experienced hostility and ostracised on account of its version of Irishness, contrasting adversely with the feel-good effect of Riverdance; his address printed with a letter in the Sunday Independent rebutting Eamon Dunphy, leading to a flood of postal messages; appt. to panel of judges for the 1995 Fish Short Story Competition; issued The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996), a novel concerning Paula Spenser at 39, recalling her life with Charlo, the abusive husband-father of Family; The Van was filmed by Mike Leigh, 1996;
participated in 2nd Aran Island International Poety & Prose Festival 1998; issued an Irish historical novel, A Star Called Henry (1999), based on events of 1916-1922 from an irreverent, working-class slant; issued The Giggler Treatment (2000), a children’ novel; issued Rory and Ita (2002), an autobiography of his parents as ‘the people they were before they became parents’; issued Oh Play That Thing (2004), a Henry Smart novel set in America; and judge of Fish Story Competition, 2004; married with three children; attracted criticism from David Norris and others for suggesting that Ulysses needed a ‘good editor’, Spring 2004; issued Paula Spencer (2006); with David Eggers, establ. Fighting Words to nurture creative skills of disadvantaged children, Ballybough, 2009.
received Irish Pen Award at ceremony at Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, Feb. 2009; issued Bullfighting (2010), stories of middle-aged men coming to terms with change; issued The Dead Republic (2010), the third of the Henry Smart trilogy, in which the central character returns to Ireland in the entourage of film director John Ford and lives on to experience the UVF bombings in North Dublin and tangle with the Provos in Northern Ireland; incls. a scene dealing with the fate of Shergar; issued wrote “Brilliant”, the story in which the ‘black dog’ of depression is chased through Dublin by children, commissioned for St Patrick’s Day under the auspices of the UNESCO City of Literature badge, and brought to the streets in live performance;
issued Two Pints (2012), a two-hander pub dialogue on contemporary events from Katie Taylor’s Olympic medal to the Presidential election; issues The Guts (2013), re-visiting The Commitments, with Jimmy Rabbitte Jr. selling ’60s music on; The Commitments schedule for London West End performance in autumn; addressed the "Noble Call for Marriage Equality" evening hosted by Fiach MacConghail and Mannix Flynn at at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, [12] May 2015. OCIL


[ Roddy Doyle has a well-maintained Facebook page containing - inter al. - an article on his visit to a
New York Tenement Museum (Intelligent Life, 15 Aug. 2015) - online; accessed 28.06.2015. ]

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  • The Commitments (King Farouk 1987; London: Heinemann 1988);
  • The Snapper (London: Secker & Warburg 1990), 160pp.; Vintage 1998; Minerva 1991, 1993 &c.), 216pp. [see extract];
  • The Van (London: Heinemann 1991); Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha(London: Secker & Warburg 1993), 292pp.;
  • The Woman Who Walked into Doors (London: Jonathan Cape 1996), and Do. (London: Minerva 1997), 192pp., pb. [see extract];
  • A Star Called Henry (London: Jonathan Cape 1999), 344pp. [see extract];
  • Oh, Play That Thing (London: Jonathan Cape 2004), 376pp.;
  • Paula Spencer: A Novel (London: Jonathan Cape 2006), 277pp.
  • The Dead Republic (London: Jonathan Cape 2011), 330pp.
  • Two Pints (London: Jonathan Cape; NY: Random House 2012), 96pp. [dialogue]
  • The Guts (2013)
  • Brownbread and War [2 plays] (Secker & Warburg 1992; pbk) and the pub-quiz, battle of the titans.];
  • The Commitments [abridged and audio; 3 Hours], read by Aiden Gillen (Reed 1995).
Collected Editions
  • Barrytown Trilogy [The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van] (Secker & Warburg 1992), 500pp; Do. (Minerva 1993), 640pp. Miscellaneous, Rory and Ita (2002).
Children’s fiction
  • The Giggler Treatment (London: Scolastic Childrens Books 2001), 108pp, ill. by Brian Ahjar;
  • Rover Saves Christmas (London: Scholastic Press 2001), 146pp.;
  • Mad Weekend [Open Door Ser.] (Dublin: New Island Press 2006),80pp.
  • “The Dinner”, in The New Yorker (23 Feb. 2001), pp.72, 73-81 [see extract];
  • “How to bring a giant of Russian literature to the Irish stage: start with the lads”, in The Irish Times (26 Nov. 2011), Weekend Review, p.7 [see extract]
  • “Smile” [short story], in Granta: The Magazine of New Writing, ed., Sigrid Rausing [Iss. 135: New Irish Writing], (Spring 2016),
  • A Star called Henry, written and read by Roddy Doyle; abridged by Christopher Fitzsimon (London Random House Audiobooks 1999), 360 mins. [analog].

Youtube ...
See Roddy Doyle on The Government Inspector video [reading] - online;
accessed 10.12.2011.
‘I was just getting my teeth into the second draft when the IFM arrived ... bad news for the country but great news for the story-teller ... it just arrived another elbow to the play’s body, so to speak ... somebody terrifying who could actually close down the place, you know ...’

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  • Dermot McCarthy, Roddy Doyle: Raining on the Parade (Dublin: Oaktree Press 2003), 265pp.
  • Ferdia MacAnna, ‘The Dublin Renaissance: An Essay on Modern Dublin and Dublin Writers’, in Irish Review, 10 (Spring 1991) [q.pp.];
  • Shaun Richards, ‘Northside Realism and the Twilight’s Last Gleaming’, in Irish Studies Review, 2 (Winter 1992) [q.pp.];
  • Joseph O’Connor, ‘Barrytown International: The World of Roddy Doyle’, in The Secret of World the Irish Male (London: Minerva 1995);
  • M. Keith Booker, ‘Late Capitalism Comes to Dublin: “American” Popular Culture in the Novels of Roddy Doyle’, in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 28, 3 (July 1997), pp.28-45 [infra];
  • Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto Press 1997), pp.65ff. [see extract];
  • Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity: Reading the Postcolonial in Three Irish Novels’, Irish Studies Review, 7, 2 (August 1999), pp.221-31, espec. pp.226-28;
  • Margaret Reynolds & Jonathan Noakes, Roddy Doyle: The Essential Guide (London: Vintage 2004), 224pp.;
  • Emma Brockes, ‘Sexy Dublin? It’s a Con’ [interview], in The Guardian (Sept. 6 2004) [infra];
  • Shane Hegarty, ‘Taking the Plunge’, interview, in The Irish Time Magazine (28 Aug. 2004), pp.10-13 [see extract].
  • Stephen Costello, ed., The Irish Soul: In Dialogue (Dublin: Liffey Press 2001) [contains interview];
  • Åke Persson, ‘Polishing the Working-Class?: A Sociolinguistic Reading of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy and Later Fiction’, in Nordic Irish Studies, 2 (2003), pp.47-56;
  • Dermot McCarthy, Roddy Doyle: Raining on the Parade (Dublin: [Oaktree] Liffey Press 2003), xvii, 265pp. [see summary];
  • Jennifer M. Jeffers, ‘“What’s it like being Irish?”: The Return of the Repressed in Roddy Doyle’s Paula Spencer’, in Irish Literature since 1990: Diverse Voices, ed. Scott Brewster & Michael Parker eds. (Manchester UP 2009) [Chap. 13].
  • Colm Tóibín, ‘Roddy Doyle and Hugo Hamilton: The Dialect of the Tribe’, in New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families (London: Viking [Penguin] 2012), pp.166-85.
  • [...]
  • Jonathan Bolton, ‘Conclusion: toward a postmodern Irish Bildungsroman: Roddy Doyle's A Star called Henry’, in “Blighted Beginnings”: Coming of Age in Independent Ireland (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP 2010), p.220ff.
  • [Q. auth.], New York Times (5 Dec. 1999), Review of Books’, p. 106, praises A Star Called Henry highly. Aisling Foster, ‘Culchie and Dub’, review of Rory and Ita, in Times Literary Supplement (27 Dec. 2002, p.23.);
  • Terry Eagleton, ‘Ireland on My Mind’ [review of Oh, Play That Thing] in The Guardian (11 Sept. 2004) [see extract];
  • Joseph O’Connor, review of Rose and Ita, in The Irish Times (16 Nov. 2002), “Weekend”, p.10;
  • Christine Dwyer Hickey, ‘Finding a true voice at last’, review of Paula Spencer: A Novel, in The Irish Times (9 Sept. 2006), Weekend [see extract];
  • Keith Duggan, ‘A fully anointed man of letters’ [interview with Roddy Doyle], in The Irish Times (21 Feb. 2009), Weekend Review, p.7 [photo port by Brenda Fitzsimons; see extract];
  • Nick Rennison, review of The Dead Republic, in The Sunday Times (28 March 2010) [see extract];
  • ‘Tim Rutten, ‘A purposeful, funny smackdown of popular culture’s contribution to the mythology of Irish nationalism’, review of The Dead Republic, in Los Angeles Times (12 May 2010) - available online;
  • Tom leClair, review of The Dead Republic, in The New York Times (14 May 2010 ), Book Reviews - available online;
  • Sara Crown, ‘Roddy Doyle: A life in writing’, in The Guardian (16 April 2011) [see extract].
  • Gabriel Byrne, review of The Guts, in The Irish Times (10 Aug. 2013), Weekend [see extract].
  • J. P. O’Malley, review of The Guts, in The Guardian (18 Aug. 2013) - available online.

See also Denis Donogue on ‘the Early Roddy Doyle’, in Irish Essays (Cambridge UP 2011), pp.225-44. [Pt. IV; final essay].

See num. other reviews & notices as listed in Commentary [infra].
  • Michael Cronin, The Barrytown Trilogy [Ireland into Film Ser.] (Cork UP 2007),99pp. [on the trilogy of Roddy Doyle’s novels as film].

See also Liam Harte, Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel (Oxford: Blackwell 2013), Chap. 1: In the Family Way: Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy (1987-1991), pp.23-50.

Note that Joep Leerssen references The Commitments [film] in his essay, ‘Ireland and the Orient’, in Oriental Prospects: Western Literature and the Lure of the East, ed. C. C. Barfoot, Theo d’. Haen (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi B.V. 1988), pp.161-74: ‘Ireland, to put it flippantly, has been co-opted into the Third World. that phrase from the recent film The Commitments is well-known: Irishmen are the Blacks of the world, Dubliners are the Blacks of Ireland, and Northsiders are the Blacks of Dublin. Note that these apparently self-deprecating words are spoken with evident pride and satisfaction! If it helps to claim a “natural sense of rhythm”, Ireland is pleased to be part of the Third World. Nor is that a distortion of Said's own views: for he himself has published (in a pamphlet published by Ireland's prestigious cultural-political think-tank, the "Field Day Company"), an interpretation of Yeats as a poet of national liberation, comparable to third-world anti-colonial poets such as L. S. Senghor, Pablo Neurda or Rabindranath [162] Tagore.’ (pp.162-63.)

See also radio interview on BBC World Service ([28] Oct. 2004)

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Bibliographical details
Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto Press 1997), “Roddy Doyle and the New Irish Fiction”, pp.65-81 [The Commitments, 68; The Snapper, 72; Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha, 79; The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, 84; Appendix: An Interview with Roddy Doyle, pp.98-112].

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Shirley Kelly
Declan Kiberd
Diane Turbide
John Rockwell
Vincent Cheng
Liam Fay
John Boland
Trev Broughton
Derek Hand
M. Keith Booker
James Hynes
Seamus Deane
Roy Foster
Donald Clarke
John Kenny
Emma Brockes
Terry Eagleton
Shane Hegarty
Christine Dwyer Hickey
Dermot McCarthy
Sarah Crown
Keith Duggan
Nick Rennison

See production details of filmed versions of Doyle’s works including critical references (i.e., newspapers) at Irish Film Online (TCD) - link.

Emma Donoghue: ‘The best book I know about being a battered wife is Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. Writers should be applauded for their ability to make things up.’ (See Sarah Crown, ‘Emma Donoghue [...&c.]’, interview-article, in The Guardian (13 Aug. 2010) - as supra.

Shirley Kelly talks to popular comic novelist Roddy Doyle’, Interview, in Writer’s Monthly, Sept 1992, pp.4-8; on The Barrytown Trilogy; Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity: Reading the Postcolonial in Three Irish Novels’, Irish Studies Review, 7, 2 (August 1999), pp.221-31, espec. pp.226-28.

[Shirley Kelly,] interview in Books Ireland (Oct. 2000), p.265; Doyle calls The Giggler Treatment (2000), a childhood book ‘celebrat[ing] the sheer volume of poo [i.e., excrement] on Dublin street’s’.

Declan Kiberd, ‘Darling of the Brits. Not’, review of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993), calling it a very good novel indeed, with a side blow at the recognition of Doyle as a new Behan by Booker; ‘keeps at all times within his ten-year old’s linguistic restraints ... remarkable technical feat’ (Irish Literary Supplment, Spring 1994). Note alt. title [by error], ‘Mucky Dunn meets J. D. Salinger’.

Diane Turbide, interview-notice of Paddy clarke Ha Ha Ha, in Maclean’s [Magazine] (30 Aug. 1993), quotes Doyle on the novel’s strong sense of place: ‘“It’s not my life, but it’s my geography.” / In the past, Doyle’s unvarnished portrayal of working-class Ireland has garnered as much censure as praise in his native country. “I’ve been criticised for the bad language in my books - that I’ve given a bad image of the country”, said Doyle. “There’s always a subtle pressure to present a good image, and it’s always somebody else’s definition of what is good.” The author’s own view is that his job is simply to describe things and people as they really are. And in Doyle’s world, the lives are tough, the language is rough - and beauty and tenderness survive amid the bleakness. As Jimmy Rabbitte would say: “Fair play to ’im.”’ (p.50.)

John Rockwell, interview-notice of Paddy Clarke ha ha ha, in New York Times (20 Dec. 1993), ‘The Arts’, C p.1; remarks that he wrote The Family at the same time as Paddy Clarke; ‘I’d have loved Fellini to do The Van, but he went and died on us. I thought of directing, but I abandoned it. I don’t have the visual sense. And working with actors is a mystery to me.’ [...] ‘It is only with practice that I’ve come to realise how different the two media are’; on Paddy Clarke: ‘The place is mine; the time is mine. There are memories of my own, running through a field and seeing pheasants flying up, balls of dust under the kitchen table. But the story isn’t mine. I’m glad to say. My parents are still happily married, and have been for 44 years. My own kinds are far too young to have been any help at all, and the kids I used to teach were [to p.15] 12 and 13, and that’s a significantly different age than 10.’ [...] ‘It’s fiction. It’s pure spoof. I’m not actually concerned, really, if it’s actually accurate. I’m more concerned if it’s a good read: the people are convinced by it. Whether they’re convinced because it’s true or because they’re convincec it’s true, that’s somebody else’s problem.’ (ibid., p.15.); speaks of having worked on a gigantic, never published satire in the 1980s called Your Granny’s a Hunger Striker; Commitments privately printed in 1,000 copies; picked up by Heinemann. (idem.) See also review by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, in NY Times, 13 Dec. 1993, C18.

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Vincent Cheng, Joyce, Race and Empire (Cambridge UP 1995), incls. a footnote on the ‘engaging Alan Parker film (based on a novel by Roddy Doyle)’. In it ‘a young man named Jimmy Rabbitte organises a rock-and roll band in Dublin which he trains to perform black “soul music.” When one of the skeptical band members asks, “D’ya think maybe we’re a little white for that kind of thing?” - Jimmy points out: “You don’t get it, lads. The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland.” The poor Dublin youngsters in the band then take on as their motto, “I’m black and I’m proud.” At another point, standing in a dole queue and finding another band member also on the dole, Jimmy notes that, “We’re a Third World country, what can you do?” Finally, in a comment suggestive of the racialised discourse of the Irish as apes, Jimmy describes his band thus: “We’re the guerillas of soul. That’s guerilla with a ‘u,’ not an ‘o’.”’ (Cheng, p.298.)

Liam Fay [interview]: ‘What’s the Story?’, cover story in Hot Press (April 1996), pp.1820; records that Doyle was passionately engaged in final stage of Vote Yes Divorce campaign; quoteboxes: ‘There’s no one reason why women are hit by men and why men choose to hit women. it’s a complicated thing and the book is a better book, I think, because it avoids the little sociological pitfalls.’ (p.19); ‘I got a letter from another priest about Family. The sheer hatred was staggering. As I do with all letters like that I just threw it in the bin. It finished up, “We don’t want you here, Mr Doyle. In your own words, fuck off!”’ A 2-page extract from Chapter One of The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, ‘heart-rending story of Paula Spencer, a woman struggling with a worsening drink problem while simultaneously trying to reclaim her dignity after a violent, abusive marriage to the now deceased Charlo’ (p.36-38; extract from second chapter to appear in the next issue).

John Boland (‘Bookworm’, in Irish Times, 3 Feb. 1996) interviews Roddy Doyle about his forthcoming novel, The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996), to be launched by Jonathan Cape on 11 April; found the writing difficult because of the first person narration; novel takes up the story of Paula from his television series Family: ‘I’ve never been a 39-year-old woman and I’m not an alcoholic. All these things left me at a certain distance from her’; didn’t do research for the tv series, ‘I just allowed my guts to decide what seemed to be right. But I read a lot of case studies as I was writing the novel, to surround myself with information. And I’ve always read a lot of women’s fiction, which was a big help’; realised that the wife was ‘a good deal more interesting than her husband and there was a lot more she could say’; wanted to convey impression of her ‘isolation ... She’s completely addled, because her sense of her worth and her entire being have been beaten out of her.’ Doyle recounts story of critic who slammed broad Bread, and then responded to the second play with: ‘after the hilarity of Brown Bread this is a major disappointment’.

John Boland (‘Bookworm’, Irish Times, 20 April 1996) cites Peter Conrad interview with Roddy Doyle in The Independent on Sunday (weekend previously), in which Roddy says, ‘there’s nothing like a good bag of chips, I could live on ‘em’, and more Irishness.

Trev Broughton, review of The Woman Who Walked into Doors (Cape [1996]), 226pp.: ‘the violence, we learn, is always unexpected, unpredictable; it is this quality of systematic randomness that makes it work. for it is not about need or disagreement or even about conflict but about power. He does it because he can.’ Reviewer notes line between pathetic and poignant, with comparisons to Alice Walker, Marge Piercy, Pat Barker, and Dublin’s Leland Bardwell, writers who have treated wife-battering, and comments further on the ‘inertia as resistance’ in their female characters, noting that when Paula strikes back it is finally with the frying pan given her by the indomitable Gert (‘maybe there was a secret message in it all along’); but Paula’s tactics of resistance don’t bear scrutiny (‘She manages, she’s a survivor’), a survival merely on paper. (TLS, 12 April 1996, p.24).

Derek Hand reviews The Woman Who Walked into Doors, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1996), pp.14: ‘It is … the added fact that Paula Spencer finds her voice self-consciously through the act of writing that makes this Doyle’s most fully realised work to date’, commenting also on ‘attention to form’ as ‘new departure’; quotes: ‘I’m not … rewriting history. I’m doing the opposite. I want to know the truth, not to make it up.’

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M. Keith Booker, ‘Late Capitalism Comes to Dublin: “American” Popular Culture in the Novels of Roddy Doyle’, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 28, 3 (July 1997), pp.28-45, remarks that Elvis takes precedence of place over the Pope on the walls of the Rabbitte household calls attention to the relatively minor role that Catholicism seems to play in the lives of the various characters in both the film and the book version of The Commitments: ‘It would seem that American popular culture has not only supplanted British colonial domination but also thoroughly established it precedence over Catholicism as a cultural force in Ireland.’ (p.28.) Further [quotes Michel Foucault, and remarks]: ‘Transgressive sexuality then may actually work to the advantage of official power, especially as it draws energies away from more geniunely opposition political activities. Indeed, the equation of sex and revolution is clearly identified in The Commitments as politically ineffective [...]’ (p.31.) [Cont.]

M. Keith Booker, ‘Late Capitalism Comes to Dublin: “American” Popular Culture in the Novels of Roddy Doyle’, ARIEL (July 1997) - cont.: ‘Jimmy’s identification with American blacks is problematic as well, though the connection he draws is very much inline with recent scholarly studies of Theodore Allen’s The invevention of the White Race, hwich detains the close historical parallels between racist treatment of black sin American and the figuration by the British of the Irish as an inferior and primitive people.’ (p.32.) Further, ‘In short even the most glaringly transgressive political gestures made by Doyle’s Dubliners have no real charge and involve little more than an acting out of motifs derived from multinational popular culture. [...] That Dubliners themselves seem entirely happy with the notion that most of their ideas seem to come from multinational popular culture can thus be taken as a sign not that the multinational cultural presence in Irelad is innocuous (or even beneficial), but that multicultural domination is so thorough as to be accepted willingly and even considered natural. [here cites Gramsci on the solicitation of the willingness of the dominated class as part of ‘the grand tradition ... of the hegemonic strategies of bourgeois culture as a whole.’ (p.32.)

M. Keith Booker, ‘Late Capitalism Comes to Dublin: “American” Popular Culture in the Novels of Roddy Doyle’, ARIEL (July 1997) - cont.: ‘All of Doyle’s fiction points in one way or antoher to the importance of American popular culture in modern Ireland.’ (p.33.) In the course of demonstrating that ‘none of those echoes [of American popular culture] can be interpreted as a simple case of direct American domination of Ireland’ (p.36), Booker focuses on Brownbread, a ‘comic farce’ in which ‘the deaths of the Americans in the helicopter show’ reveals that ‘ther is a decidedly serious side tothis unlikely standoff between three misfit Dublin lads and the full force of American military might. [...] Doyle thus suggests that the efficacy with which the American cultural invasion of Ireland has paved the way for this military one [...]’ (p.35.) Discusses views of Tomlinson, Jameson, Edward Said and Althusser, and the novelist Thomas Pynchon; concludes: ‘In the case of Rody Doyle’s Ireland, multinational popular culture is a foreign force the power of which has ominous implications [...]’ and suggests that ‘novels like The Commitments nonetheless offer more obvioius opportunities for transgressive readdings than does popular culture itself.’ (p.43.) Ends on a political note: ‘It is thus doubly important for Americans to be aware [...] that they can oppose both their own cultural colonisation and the blind exercise of American power in the support of interest that are not even their own.’ [End.]

James Hynes [author of The Wild Colonial Boy, novel, and Publish and Perish, novellas], review of ‘A Star Called Henry’ , in Washington Post, “Book World” (31 Oct. 1999), p.4: ‘[O]nly now, with this stunning new novel, has he used that voice to speak directly of Ireland’s defining political drama, its fight to liberate itself from British rule. [...] not only Doyle’s best novel yet; it is a masterpiece, an extraordinarily entertaining epic of the Easter Rising and the Irish Rebellion of 1919-1921’; ‘modern master of the first-person narrative’; ‘political and moral education of an assassin’; ‘a piece of jaw-dropping intensity [...] hilarious and finally tragic account of his part in the rebel defense of Dublin’s General Post Office during the Easter Rising’; ‘Henry‘’s account of the four days inside the GPO is an undorgettable story of blood, bravado, murderous naivete, more blood, vicious Irish wit, and even sex as Henry and Miss O’Shear, a member of the Rising’s women’s auxiliary who latter becomes Henry’s wife, consummate their relationship on a pile of stamps in the basement of the burning Post Office.’ ‘[Henry is] classically unreliable narrator, inflating his own role in these events to his own advantage’; reviewer notes that A Star Called Henry is the first of a trilogy and that Henry makes an oblique reference to Chicago gangland; ‘Doyle’s working-class point of view has turned out to be not a limitatin but a sensibility, a lens through which he can focus on topics as particular as the love between a man and woman or as large as the political consciousness of a nation … Roddy Doyle can do it alll: It’s a rip-roaring, page-turning, blood-and-thunder entertainment, with the promise of two sequels [...] impressive heir to O’Connor, O’Casey, and Yeats [...]’ (Washington Post, 31 Oct. 1999. “Book world”, p.4.)

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Seamus Deane, ‘Roddy’s Troubles: Who need blarney in the middle of a civil war’, review of A Star Called Henry, in The Guardian (9 Sept. 1999): ‘[…] It is the O’Casey version of the Rebellion that survives, almost intact, in Doyle’s new novel. O’Casey, after all, has provided the journalistic rump of the Official IRA and its almost extinct political wing with the meagre but much recycled mix of anti-nationalism and Stalinism that once formed the core of its ideology. From a literary point of view, Doyle’s rerun of O’Casey reproduces, with little inflection or irony, O’Casey’s rhetorical repertoire, all two elements of it. On the one hand , there is a species of disenchanted realism about social and physical realities and, on the other, a species of late-blarney, early magic-realism about the indomitable life-energy which seemed to have been the peculiar post-revolutionary preserve of the otherwise tubercular and snot-encrusted working-class of north Dublin.’ Further, ‘Of these leaders, Doyle portrays James Connolly, the left-wing theorist, and founder of the Irish Citizen Army which joined the Volunteers to effect the rebellion as the only one who doesn’t smell (like De Valera), or have a squint or is overweight (like Patrick Pearse) or, like Joseph Mary Plunkett, has TB and says the rosary […] It is this blending of Connolly with Pearse, of Labour with Fenian politics, that seems indecipherable. One crude way to decipher it is to say the radical Labour element was extinguished by the conservative-Catholic element; hence the falseness of the rebellion’s claim to be the emancipatory action of the Irish People. According to Doyle, it was really only a take-over by the Irish Catholic middle classes […]’. Deane remarks that the novel ‘wants to be as anti-heroic as possible, while at the same time making Henry a proletarian hero contemptuous of any attempt to categorise him […]’; he concludes: ‘Sometimes Henry Smart seems like one of those stalwart heroes from a Dick Francis thriller; sometimes he’s just another blarney-blathering id that believes it’s an ego. Come back Paddy Clarke.’

Roy Foster, ‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, review of A Star Called Henry, in Observer Review (29 August 1999): ‘Roddy Doyle is a phenomenon in more ways than one. All of his five novels have been bestsellers, and one has won the Booker. All have been written in a staccato Dublin demotic, invigorating and foul-mouthed; conversation novels, but a world away from, say, Henry Green. One, at least, was a masterplece, the infinitely haunting The Woman ‘Who Walked Into Doors. His new book, which starts another trilogy, yeers, away into the completely new territory of the historical novel, and it may prove to be his most surprising achievement yet. / A Star Called Henry views the Irish revolution of 1916-21 from below. The Dublin slum-kid protagonist, Henry Smart, is born in 1902, his teenage mother sinking into drink, his one-legged father a brothel-houncer and commercial bit man, his strangely detached granny an addict of women’s fiction. There are no comforts: he lives on the streets, and life is about survival. But he’s blessed with propulsive self-confidence (his first words are “HEN’Y” and “FUCK OFF!”, very Roddy Doyle) and he knows everything:’ “was never a child.”’ [Cont.]

R. F. Foster (‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, in Observer, 29 Aug. 1999) - cont.: ‘The novel’s greatest triumph is to recreate this world in Doyle’s distinctive shorthand, without any creaky historical set-pieces, and make it utterly convincing. Henry, huge, precocious, bursting with uneducated brains and well-directed randiness, becomes a docker, graduates into the socialist Citizens’ Army and then the Fenian movement, fights (at 14 years old) in the 1916 Rising and the subsequent guerrilla war, becomes a fearsome trainer of freedom-fighters, killer of policemen, and Republican legend. But it is all very unlike the history books. He hates the mystics, the “farm boys” , the Holy Joes, the people who “want to put harps on everything” . Like his father, he kills for a living, but he sees it differently, and the hard realities of class differences are only partially obscured by the gunsmoke and the derring-do.’ [Cont.]

R. F. Foster (‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, in Observer, 29 Aug. 1999) - cont.: ‘ The story is gripping enough, though there are longueurs in the central section, dealing with raids, rallies, life on the run, and unremitting but improbable fornication. Doyle’s technique and influences are worth close analysis, however, because this is a very clever performance. Historical novels: run a constant risk of lurching into costume drama, especially when they employ “real” people, and are as well-grounded as this one In historical sources: connoisseurs of the Irish revolution’s profuse memoirs will hit upon countless lightly disguised references and incidents.’ [Cont.]

R. F. Foster (‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, in Observer, 29 Aug. 1999) - cont.: ‘Doyle, however, avoids creaky verismo by using a carefully gauged admixture of magic-realist techniques. Henry’s status as child of his century owes something to Rushdie’s Midnight Children, his supernormal abilities to Grass’s The Tin Drum, his take on history-as-slang to Carter’s Wise Children. This is august company, but A Star Called Henry holds its own with them, as with the historical novel it most resembles: John Barth’s The Sot- Weed Factor. The protagonist’s ruthlessness is mixed with an innocence that protects as well as condemns him. ‘History’ is a joke and a jade, and mysterious characters come and go - such as Henry’s teacher and lover, Miss O’Shea, and the Brechtian boss figure, Alfie Gandon, with whom the revolution, and the novel, begins and ends. ’ [Cont.]

R. F. Foster (‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, in Observer, 29 Aug. 1999) - cont.: ‘Through it all runs a sense of destiny, symbolised - as in Finnegans Wake, by the water that runs through Dublin. Henry, like his father, can divine water: he can slip through a manhole cover, leaving only a “clang in the air”, and swim through sewer sludge and underground rivers to safety. Doyle uses tricks like this just to the limit of their effectiveness. For the rest, as in his other books, the dialogue does the work, with an unforced brilliance that conceals the art behind it. Henry is, oddly, less effective as a human character than those whose lives are being made and unmade around him - such as Ivan, the terrifying, rural IRA boss created by Henry himself, who reveals to him the true end of the war of liberation: “all the best soldiers are businessmen. There has to be a reason for the killing and the late nights, and it wasn’t Ireland. Ireland’s an island, Captain, dollop of much. It’s about control of the island, that’s what the soldiering is about, not the harps and the martyrs and the freedom to swing a hurley. Am I right, d’you think?” ’ [Cont.]

R. F. Foster (‘Roddy Doyle and the Ragged-trousered Revolutionary’, in Observer, 29 Aug. 1999) - cont.: ‘Is he? Henry learns to think so though his teacher-wife (with her [gun resting] across the handlebars of her bike remains wedded to the pure idea of the struggle. The closing section of the book, in which he faces ghosts and wire-pullers who stretch back to his parents’ exploited lives, bring the book around in a devastating and somehow inevitable circle. Just like most revolutions. The trilogy, however, will continue. On this showing, it can only be a tour de force.’ Note: in reviewing in Times Literary Supplement, Aisling Foster calls A Star Called Henry ‘[an] unerrated novel about the Irish revolution’ (27 Dec. 2002, p.23.)

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Donald Clarke, feature-article & interview on ’The Snapper and his Family: Roddy Doyle’s Ode to his Ma and Da’, in The Irish Times (2 Nov. 2002), “Magazine” [sect.], pp.10-13 [with photos & cover port.], remarks: ’The fact is that, though sphincter-mouthed reactionaries may bemoan his Anglo-Saxon dialogue and high-brow snoots may sniff at the brevity of his sentences, he’s a hard man to (and a ahrd writer) to dislike.’

John Kenny, ‘Jazzed-up Irishman’, review of Oh, Play That Thing ( Jonathan Cape 2004), in The Irish Times (4 Sept. 2004), Weekend, p.11 [& online]: Whatever one’s view of the treatment, A Star at least had the drama of crucial historical events to sustain its longeurs and repetitions. Henry Smart’s second tale does not. Oh, Play That Thing reacquaints us with Henry when he shows up in New York in 1924 after leaving the Liverpool and England he fled to, under threat from his former comrades, at the end of A Star. Knowledge of Henry’s first tale is necessary for full comprehension, since he regularly refers back to events and motivations. The early parts of the novel are essentially a celebration of the freedom of New York, where Henry tenaciously finds his feet, and Chicago, where he becomes Louis Armstrong’s friend and keeper, thus irrupting, as he did with Irish history, into important events in the history of jazz. Amid violent days and seedy nights, the family and foes of A Star eventually resurface, Henry is forced to flee again, this time into the American Depression, and folk ballads are added to the nationalist songs sung at home in his honour. / Smart’s continued outlandishness is explained in Doyle’s comment that his approach is “like putting a magnifying glass over reality and making something bigger of it”. The problem, however, is that such exaggeration seriously conflicts here with Doyle’s more instinctual realist elements. / ather than leave fiction at home inside character psychology, Doyle has taken it out for an exploratory traipse in the real world. Henry is a thorough-going Rabelaisian wanderer: excited by people and places, modern in disposition, unremittingly randy. Doyle is good at achieving narrative pace, and as Henry traverses the USA the slow plod of A Star is replaced by an undulating rapidity that assumedly echoes the jazz theme. / In this kind of fiction, however, the world is literally not enough unless the rascal exploring it also has some realistic depth. In the later stages here, Henry is aggrandised into an on-the-road cypher that seems to owe something to Steinbeck (mentioned in the extensive bibliography). The emotionalism attached to Henry’s travails in the slums of A Star has been well lost by the time a newly afflicted Henry is found, one-legged now like his father and dried up in every sense, on a John Ford set in Monument Valley in 1946. / Jump-lead repetition of the phrase “My name is Henry Smart!” is not enough to make an inwardly credible personality of this narrator. [...]’. [Cont.]

John Kenny (‘Jazzed-up Irishman’, in he Irish Times, 4 Sept. 2004) - cont.: ‘Doyle’s output has been more variable in quality than usually allowed by both fans and detractors. The retrospectively packaged Barrytown Trilogy (1992), while it will long be remembered as one of Irish fiction’s most energetic and speedily devised career launches, is arguably a victim of the very qualities that made it so distinctive. Rooted in such a specific time, place and economic milieu, all three novels now seem somewhat dated. / Complaints that Doyle, after early success, abdicated on his comic-lumpen credentials in the attempt to write a more literary brand of fiction have no justification. Paddy Clarke and The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996) combined his early situational talents with a new thematic resonance and psychological depth, and they remain his best work. / Some further critical shibboleths about Doyle should be challenged. He does not speak for the state of a nation. Only the endurance of the “paddywhackiest” of race clichés provides for the idea that he reflects both the brighter (wit, irreverence, cuddly sentimentalism ...) and darker (fecklessness, boozing, violence .) sides of the Irish psyche. His novels have no more necessary application to a wider Ireland than do Woody Allen’s films to a wider US; even the particularised Dublin he writes about is unfamiliar to many who live elsewhere in the selfsame city. And it is unfair to charge him with entertaining readers with the traits and stories of the Dublin working classes told from a cosy middle-class perspective. Even ignoring his teaching in Kilbarrack, saying Doyle cannot write adequately about a world he is looking in on rather than experiencing is akin to saying he shouldn’t write about a historical period unless he has lived through it. / All this should be kept in mind when considering the hefty task he has lately set himself [in] The Last Roundup [...].’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Emma Brockes, ‘Sexy Dublin? It’s a con’ [interview], in The Guardian (6 Sept. 2004). ’...The Ireland of those books - violent, impoverished, flattened by the church - is not supposed to exist any more. With a fervour the English are spared, all Irish writers are required to define what it means to be Irish, partly as a result of their own self-mythologising, partly through the tenacity of the stereotypes applied to them. In any case, says Doyle, being Irish has changed “about 17 times” in the last hundred years. He finds the image put out by the tourist board of Ireland these days hilarious in its cheek, particularly since all around the world people have swallowed it. “It’s a big con job,” he says. “We have sold the myth of Dublin as a sexy place incredibly well; because it’s a dreary little dump most of the time. Try getting a pint at one in the morning and you’ll find just how raving it actually is.” [...] Earlier this year, Doyle got into trouble for suggesting, off the cuff, that James Joyce “needed a good editor”. He had practically to go into hiding; everyone from the New York Times to Icelandic radio was after him. But it still amuses him to kick against the po-faced orthodoxies of literary Ireland. “You know”, he says, “Shaw left when he was 16 and Oscar Wilde was Irish, but you could just as accurately say he was British; the Isle of Man was probably their natural home, somewhere half way. And yet we’ve done an incredibly good job of selling ourselves as the land of the writing, singing, little people. I’ve been asked why does Ireland produce so many great musicians, and the answer is it doesn’t. When you count the great musicians Ireland has given the world in the last 20 years, you can do it on one hand.” [...]’ (Quoted on Diaspora List, Sept. 2004; for full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Terry Eagleton, ‘Ireland on My Mind’ [review of Oh, Play That Thing] in The Guardian (11 Sept. 2004): Even the leanest of writers sometimes have a fat novel inside them fighting to get out. In Ireland, writers don’t come much leaner than Roddy Doyle, who inherits the niggardly style of Samuel Beckett rather than the lavish manner of James Joyce. With his laconic Dublin-Northside realism, Doyle is a virtuoso of the sentence that travels no further than four or five words. But the fat novel inside him has now come bursting through - two of them, in fact, of which the first was A Star Called Henry, and the second is this fast-moving sequel. / In its mixture of history and magic realism, A Star Called Henry reflected the rise and fall of the Irish revolution of independence in the fortunes of its picaresque protagonist, Henry Smart. At the end of the book, Henry is a Republican killer on the run; at the start of Oh, Play That Thing, he washes up where a lot of good Irishmen and women go before they die, the United States. This novel, in other words, begins with that most revered of all Irish customs, getting out of the place as soon as you can. [...]’. [Cont.]

Terry Eagleton (‘Ireland on My Mind’, Guardian, 11 Sept. 2004) - cont.: ‘Irish nostalgia has often been interwoven with a ferocious hunger for the modern, and one name for modernity in Ireland is America. Dublin is a lot closer to Detroit than it is to Harrogate. Oh, Play That Thing , like Frank McCourt’s ’Tis, belongs among other things to an Irish love affair with the New World. In fact, one of the deepest divisions between the Irish and the English is that the Irish, for obvious historical reasons, are deeply fond of the Americans, whereas the English, for equally historical reasons, are not. For a cramped, clerical, down-at-heel country, the US means affluence, space, self-invention. Manhattan is a lot more exciting than the Giant’s Causeway, and this narrative positively crackles with these transatlantic energies. ’. [Cont.]

Terry Eagleton (‘Ireland on My Mind’, Guardian, 11 Sept. 2004) - cont.: ‘Despite its capaciousnes, Oh, Play That Thing isn’t really a break with Doyle’s earlier minimalism. What it does instead is convert the lippy idiom of the Dublin working class into the quippy one-liners of the American underworld. “The pants weren’t invented to hide my happiness”, reminisces one former lover. Dublin sarcasm becomes New York smartassery. Doyle wonderfully recreates a world of flophouses and speakeasies, flappers and bootleggers, populated by characters with names like Johnny No and Jimmy the Priest and reeking of multi-ethnic odours. It’s all a bit too Chandleresque and relentlessly hardboiled, with little of the suggestive symbolic depths of A Star Called Henry; but what it lacks in human thickness it makes up for in pace and drama. / But in the end, the novel is too starry-eyed rather than too streetwise.’

Shane Hegarty, ‘Taking the Plunge’, interview, in The Irish Time Magazine (28 Aug. 2004), pp.10-13: gives an account of the fracas surrounding Doyle’s expressed opinion about Ulysses, uttered while discussing the book in company with Colum McCann and Frank McCourt in New York in February [2004]: ‘I said that Ulysses could have done with a good edit. I didn’t say it could do with a good edit.’ Quotes: ‘Somebody in The Irish Times was calling Colum, because someone had heard I was actually holing up in his apartment. I was on the lam. The Brooklyn Joyceans were out. There was a contract out on me. [..] You normally associate these sorts of stories with August.’ Doyle remarks: ‘Politically, I suppose I don’t say anything that hundreds of thousands of people don’t share. Nothing original to say, whatsoever. But I did want to write stories that would enjoy the differences between people, have that running up agianst each other and linguistic misunderstandings.’ On recent changes in Ireland;: ‘I think it’s in a way too early to start talking about it. It goes back to my feelings about six pears ago when people were too quick to jump to conclusions. Even after the recent referendum - in which I’ve got to say, the amount of people in favour of the change [in citizenship laws], that shocked me - but I wasn’t ready to accuse 80 per cent of the population of racism, because I really don’t know their motivation. But I don’t think there’s much ideological racism. What there is is based on ignorance and I think in some ways we’ve coped quite well and in other ways feebly. But I don’t feel qualified to make sweeping conclusions about it yet.’ Speaks of introducing two teen-age sons to his past.

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Christine Dwyer Hickey, ’Finding a true voice at last’, review of Roddy Doyle, Paula Spencer: A novel, in The Irish Times (9 Sept. 2006), Weekend: ‘[...] The novel is called Paula Spencer, a good title really, because it’s about little else. Nothing wrong with that, after all it is an exploration of one woman’s mind as she struggles to recover from so many things, not least of which is alcoholism. Anything that happens we feel and see through Paula: her taunting memory; the scars left by her late husband; the guilt she feels for the wasted years when she neglected her kids for booze; her changing relationships with them now that they are older, and now that she is sober. [...] Nothing has really changed for Paula, yet without the drink everything is different. She lives in the same house, does the same job, occasionally comes close to losing the battle. Her back is killing her from years of graft, her sister has cancer, her mother is losing it, the daughter-in-law is a bit of a minger. Her own daughter is an alcoholic. / Doyle’s writing is as sharp as ever. Sentences snap out from the page, some so short they only contain one word. Occasionally full pages of hyphenated dialogue can give the sense of reading through venetian blinds. There is still plenty of grit in this novel. But something else too, a flow that softens the edges. / And so at last Paula Spencer has come into her own and Roddy Doyle has gained a comfortable and wholly convincing access into the female mind. [...; &c.]’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Dermot McCarthy, Roddy Doyle: Raining on the Parade (2003) - summary: ‘Roddy Doyle is the most successful Irish writer to emerge in the 1990s. All of his novels have been bestsellers, from the early Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van), all of which have been filmed, through the Booker Prize-winning Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and up to his revisionist A Star Called Henry. It is largely because of this popularity, and of the perceived anti-intellectual thrust of his fiction, that many critics have refused to recognise him as “literary”. Others have criticised him for his “unflattering” depictions of modern Ireland. Doyle himself has long refused to participate in such pigeon-holing. Dermot McCarthy argues that Doyle’s representation of working-class Dublin - in effect, an urban Ireland that had never been represented in Irish fiction or film before - has broken with the traditional literary view of the Irish as a homogeneous “people” and has given a voice to a little-heard side of modern Ireland. His characters feel no connection to the nationalist or colonialist versions of Irish history and identity, but rather they negotiate a culture that is a complex processor of exogenous (largely American) influences and indigenous adaptation and assimilation. Doyle is a realistic novelist, a comic social-satirist, and latterly, a brilliantly inventive parodist whose fictions cohere around a single focal concern: the defence of the individual’s struggle to live with dignity and decency in the face of all those forces which attempt to coerce the individual into accepting the way things are. Setting Doyle’s six novels in the context of the seismic changes that have shaken Irish society in the last twenty years, McCarthy stakes a claim for Doyle as Ireland’s pre-eminent chronicler of modern Ireland.’ [COPAC online; accessed 19.05.2009.]

Sarah Crown, ‘Roddy Doyle: A life in writing’, in The Guardian (16 April 2011). ‘[...] Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, a straggle of shops and houses on Dublin’s fringes. It resurfaces in his novels as Barrytown, the name lifted from a 1974 Steely Dan song: Doyle, like Jimmy Rabbitte, hero of The Commitments, knows his music. These days, Doyle’s name is better known than the official one; he recounts tales of taxi drivers who’ve made a mint out of people demanding to be taken to see it. “I suppose it was a defence, to a degree,” he says of the decision to rename it. “If I’d called it Kilbarrack it would’ve been restricting. There’s a pub there, for example, that’s not 100 miles from the pub in The Snapper and The Van [the second and third volumes of his Barrytown trilogy], but the point is meant to be that it could be any pub on the outskirts of Dublin. Changing the name gave me freedom.” / It also served to derail any search for real-life counterparts of the hyper-ordinary men and women who shuttle through his pages. Doyle’s novels, particularly the earlier ones, are fundamentally exercises in people watching. Nothing much happens; in fact, the books are remarkable for their unremarkability: the three Barrytown novels can be summarised, respectively, as “kids form a band then split up”, “girl accidentally gets pregnant and has the baby” and “man loses his job and runs a chip van with his mate”. Their urgency lies rather in the psychological realism Doyle brings to his characters’ responses to their commonplace dramas, the sympathetic warmth with which he paints their unexceptional lives.’ [Cont.]

Sarah Crown (‘Roddy Doyle [...]’, in The Guardian, 16 April 2011) - cont.: ‘This sympathy is particularly evident in Doyle’s latest story collection, Bullfighting. Once again, the substance of the stories – middle-aged men, coping, or failing to, with decline – is mundane; once again, the remarkable thing about them is the compassion with which Doyle, 52, treats his protagonists. While he invokes all the usual signifiers – the hair loss, the cancer scares – customarily reached for when writing about men whose lives have passed their highwater mark, he nevertheless permits his heroes to be happy. These are men who love their wives, by and large; who take their physical failings more or less in their stride. The one thing they appear unable to accommodate, however, is unemployment. Several of the stories were written in the wake of the Irish bailout, and over them the shadow of the scrapheap looms. “It’s happening anyway,” Doyle says of the crash. “Why wouldn’t you write about it?” [... W]ith Bullfighting published, Doyle is returning to familiar territory. “I’m actually writing about Jimmy Rabbitte again, as a man in his mid-40s. I thought it’d be interesting to see how he perceived the world today: he went through the recession, married and had children during the boom, and now everything’s gone belly up. Three years ago, when the crash kicked in, I found the immediate nostalgia a bit sickening. The radio jumped straight on the 80s soundtrack, and there was a lot of gleeful nonsense about how we’d become too materialistic, as if it was somehow a good thing we were sinking into this mush. And I thought to myself, Jimmy’d be a good guide. A dreamer, but at the same time very down to earth, for want of a better cliché.” / After nine novels and almost three decades, Doyle is back where he started. Although, of course, he’s never really been away.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Keith Duggan, ‘A fully anointed man of letters’ [interview with Roddy Doyle], in The Irish Times (21 Feb. 2009), Weekend Review, p.7 [with full-length photo port by Brenda Fitzsimons]: ‘Family was an unflinching portrait of the lives of a nuclear inner-city Dublin family cowering under the rule of Charlo Spencer - alcoholic, abusive, volatile and, as played by Sean McGinley, a compelling television creation. One million people watched the first episode: 150 viewers called RTÉ immediately afterwards. Throughout that month of May, Family dominated print, airwave and pub debate. The most serious allegation it faced was that it demeaned the residents of Ballymun, whose surroundings bore a stark resemblance to the fictive Barrytown. / Doyle became accustomed to receiving hate mail in the post. After he wrote a letter of reply to a denunciation by Eamon Dunphy in the Sunday Independent, the paper published his address. For a few weeks, his hallway became a sorting office. He received letters from women expressing thanks, but in the main, the tone and anger of those letters complained about his betrayal of the very class that he had championed with such jocular warmth and charm in his early books. / In so far as the traditional Irish class structure goes, Doyle believes that his fascination is concentrated in “the grey zone between middle class and working class”.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Nick Rennison, review of The Dead Republic by Roddy Doyle, in The Sunday Times (28 March 2010): ‘[...] As The Dead Republic opens, the year is 1951 and Henry has returned to Ireland in the entourage of the film director John Ford. Some time earlier, despairing and disillusioned, he had wandered into the Utah desert to die, only to be discovered when Henry Fonda stepped off the set of a western to empty his bladder and pissed all over him. Now he has become a kind of mascot for the mythmaking Ford, a man eager to bring to the cinema his fantasies about the world of his Irish forebears. The director employs Smart to transform his Irish rebel life into a screenplay. As Ford continues to make westerns to pay the bills, he dreams of the day when the tales he hears from Henry can be retold. “He knew what I was doing,” Henry says. “I was reclaiming my life. And I knew what he was doing. He was making me up.” In the end, the make-believe world wins out over remembrance of reality. The film Ford is making becomes The Quiet Man and, as anyone who has seen that exercise in rose-tinted nostalgia knows, the Ireland it depicts is a long way from any country that Henry Smart might recognise. “I’d tried to tell the truth,” Henry says of his contributions to Ford’s work, “but I’d ended up inventing Ireland.” / In the second half of The Dead Republic, the narrative fast-forwards to the years of the Troubles. The battle with Ford for possession of his own past is long over. Henry has settled near Dublin and is working as caretaker at a local school when he is caught up in a bomb blast. His identity as Republican hero revealed by the media, he is taken up by more people who, like Ford, want to reshape his story for their own purposes. New generations of Republicans rush to claim him as a precursor. “I was Celtic mythology walking towards them,” Henry wryly remarks. As the 1980s open and the hunger strikers in Long Kesh prison begin to die, the ancient activist becomes a valuable propaganda tool for the Provisional IRA. “They were going to show me off ... I’d make sense of the young men starving themselves, racing to become as old and as noble as me. I’d be their living saint.” Henry has more personal concerns - the demands of his ageing body, an improbable reunion with the woman who was his wife decades earlier - but the mythology of the Republican movement and the politics of violence engulf him once more.’ [End](See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Gabriel Byrne, review of The Guts, in The Irish Times (10 Aug. 2013), Weekend Review: ‘[...] In The Guts, Doyle turns once more to those themes he has always written about so singularly: love and the family. Doyle has never written anything that is not about love and its transformational power. It is all that matters, ultimately, to love and be loved. Along with laughter, it keeps the darkness at bay. Optimism and hope, triumph over despair. The family, dysfunctional and chaotic though it may be, bestows strength and courage. [...] The Guts is also a return visit to Barrytown, Jimmy Rabbitte jnr and other well-loved characters. Part of the novel’s charm is their familiarity, and our own nostalgia for their lives, as we encountered them all those years ago. We know they must have changed, yet we want to believe, illogically, that they haven’t, and that the past has remained as we remember it.’ [... &c.]. (Available at Irish Times - online; accessed 19.08.2013.)

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The Snapper
(1990): ‘- You’re wha’? Said Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. He said it loudly. / - You heard me, said Sharon. Jimmy Jr was upstairs in the boys’ room doing his D.J. practice. Darren was in the front room watching Police Academy II on the video. Les was out. Tracy and Linda, the twins, were in the front room annoying Darren. Veronica, Mrs Rabbitte, was sitting opposite Jimmy Sr at the kitchen table. Sharon was pregnant and she’d just told her father that she thought she was. She’d told her mother earlier, before the dinner. / - Oh - my Jaysis, said Jimmy Sr. He looked at Veronica. She looked tired. He looked at Sharon again./ - That’s shockin’, he said. / Sharon said nothing. / - Are yeh sure? Said Jimmy Sr. / - Yeah. Sort of. [...] / - It’s shockin’, said Jimmy Sr again, - so it is. Wha’ do you think o’ this? He was talking to Veronica. / - I don’t know, said Veronica. / - Is tha’ the best yeh can do, Veronica? / - Well, what do YOU think? Jimmy Sr creased his face and held it that way for a second. / - I don’t know, he said. - I should give ou’, I suppose. An’ throw a wobbler or somethin’. But - what’s the point? [...] / - You should’ve come to us earlier - before, yeh know - an’ said you were goin’ to get pregnant. The three of them tried to laugh. / - Then we could’ve done somethin’ abou’ it. - My God, though. / No one said anything. Then Jimmy Sr spoke to Sharon again. / - You’re absolutely sure now? Positive? / - Yeah, I am I done - - Did, said Veronica. - I did the test. ... / - Who was it? / - Wha’? / - Oh. I don’t know. / - Ah now, Jaysis! / - Well, then? / - I’m not tellin’. / Jimmy Sr could feel himself getting a bit angry now. That was better. ... / - Is he married? Jimmy Sr asked. / - Oh my God, said Veronica. / - No, he’s not! Said Sharon. / - Well, that’s somethin’, I suppose, said Jimmy Sr. / -Then why - Veronica started crying. / - Ah Veronica, stop tha’. [...] / Jimmy Sr looked at the two women. The crying had stopped. / - Will he marry you? Jimmy Sr asked her. / - No. I don’t think so. / - The louser. That’s cheatin’, tha’ is. / - It’s not a game! said Veronica. / - I know, I know tha’, Veronica. But it’s his fault as much as Sharon’s. Whoever he is. - It was his flute tha’ - / - Daddy! [later:] / - He’s taking it well, said Veronica. / - Yeah, said Sharon. / - So are you. / - Ah sure / - I was afraid you’d throw me ou’. / - I never thought of that, mind you. / - It’s not right though, said Veronica. She looked straight at Sharon. / - I suppose it’s not, said Sharon. [...] Jimmy Sr now said something he’d heard a good few times on the telly. / - D’yeh want to keep it? / - Wha’ d’yeh mean? / - D’yeh - d’you want to keep it, like? / - He wants to know if you want to have an abortion, said Veronica. / - The eejit. / - I do not! Said Jimmy Sr. This was true. He was sorry now he’d said it. / - There’s no way I’d have an abortion, said Sharon. / - Good. You’re right. / - Abortion’s murder. / - It is o’course.’ (See summary, infra.)

The Commitments (1987): ‘“The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads.” They nearly gasped: it was so true. ‘An’ Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland. The culchies have fuckin’ everythin’. An’ the northside Dubliners are the niggers o’ Dublin. Say it loud, I’m black an’ I’m proud.”’ (Trilogy Edn.,] p.13.) Note that this celebrated comment was screened as ‘blacks’ in the film version, and that the latter was employed in an Irish government sponsored advertisement campaign against racism on RTE in 2001.

The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996): ‘My brother, Roger called me a slut when I wouldn’t let him feel me … / - Come on, he said. / Jesus, I don’t know how many times I heard those words over the next few years. Come on. It never stopped. Come on ... Before I was a proper teenager, before I knew anything about sex, before I’d even left primary school - I was a slut. My daddy said it, fellas said it, other girls said it, men in vans and lorries said it. My mammy called me in off the street. / You’re getting too old, she said. - You’ll get a name. (p. 47; quoted in Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity: Reading the Postcolonial in Three Irish Novels’, Irish Studies Review, August 1999, pp.221-31, p.226.) Further, ‘I threw him out! … God, it was terrifying, though - after I’d done it, after I’d walloped him … But when I say him looking at Nicola, when I say his eyes. I don’t know what happened to me - the Bionic Woman - he was gone. It was so easy. Just bang - gone.’ (p.213; Jackson, op. cit., p.228.)

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A Star Called Henry (1999): ‘I was fourteen. None of the others knew, or would have believed it. I was six foot, two inches tall and had the shoulders of a boy built to carry the weight of the world. I was probably the best-looking man in the G.P.O but there was nothing beautiful about me. My eyes were astonishing, blue daggers that warned the world to keep its distance. I was one of the few real soldiers there; I had nothing to fear and nothing to go home to.’ (p.89); Michael Collins: ‘We’ve Dublin organised and the other towns are more or less sorted and soon, soon we’ll have enough of the country ready for action. We have the men and the houses but not [203] enough know-how or weapons. The bang-bangs are coming and you and some other good boys are going to suply the know-how. We’re going to give the British what’s what in the bogs, boy, and in the towns and all over the bloody place. no G.P.O. this time, Henry. To fuck with it. We won’t be trapped this time. … And, by the way, Cathlen in Kinnegad says you’re the best and the slowest ride she’s had in weeks.’ (pp.203-04.)

The Dinner’, in The New Yorker (23 Feb. 2001): And it became a habit-the sex, not Crunchie-every time Laurence had a match, especially an away match, and especially enjoyable if it was raining out and he could think of Laurence getting drenched in Finglas West or Ballybrack while he lay on the couch with Mona under him or, on the really good good days, with Mlona on top of him. / “Not bad for forty-five!” Larry shouted once, just before they heard the door slamming, and they were sitting up, fully zipped and dressed, and doing the crossword by the time the lounge door opened and three of the daughters trooped in. . / And they refused to tell the girls why they were laughing and why they couldn’t stop laughing. / “We’re just thinking of poor Laurence out there in the rain”, said Mona. / But it was the daughters who really really made Larry Laugh.’ (pp.72-81; p.72.) ‘Their voices reminded Larry of the Artane roundabout-mad, roaning traffic coming at him from all directions. And he loved it, just like he loved the Artane roundabout. Every time Larry drove onto and off that roundabout he felt modern, successful, Irish. And that was exactly how he felt when he listened to his daughters. Their voices reminded Larry of the Artane roundabout - mad, roaning traffic coming at him from all directions. And he loved it, just like he loved the Artane roundabout. Every time Larry drove onto and off that roundabout he felt modern, successful, Irish. And that was exactly how he felt when he listened to his daughters. He’d brought them up, him and Mona, to be independent young ones, and that was exactly what they were. And he trusted them, completely. He was particularly proud of himself when they were talking about sex. That was the real test, he knew, - a da listening to his daughters talking about their plumbing - and they did, not a bother on them, and about their sex lives, confidently, frankly, and, yeah, filthily. And Larry passed the test with flying colors. Nothing his daughters said or did ever, ever shocked him. / Until Stephanie brought home the black fella. [...]’ (Idem.) ‘hge was happy enough. He wasn’t a racist. There was a black man standing beside him, and he wnated to be his father-in-law. He wasn’t sure why, but that didn’t matter. A black lad who was riding his daughter, maybe two or three times a week. And it was grand. Larry looked at Ben, and he liked him. [...; End]’. [Sections titles: ‘A Black Man on the Kitchen Table’, ‘Aids, Wars, the Works’, ‘A Georgeous Smell’, ‘Spuds’, ‘The Naked Chef’, ‘Two of Them’, ‘Mad Little Ones’.]

Working-class Dublin: ‘That’s the way the characters talk, it’s plain and simple, what more can I say? Not all the characters use bad language. Pound for pound, The Van has more bad language than the rest, because it’s largely Jimmy Sr’s story, and he’s a man who laces his language continually with four-letter words of various shapes and sizes, and I don’t make an apology for that. I have no problem justifying the bad language. / There’s very little violence in it and it’s not there for shock value. / In a culture where many films are created purely to shock people, trying to shock people by a choice of words doesn’t work anymore’. (Quoted in N. McArdle, ‘An interview with Roddy Doyle’, in New Orleans Review, 3-4, 21, pp.112-17, p.113; cited in IASIL paper of Anna Asiána & James McCullough., 1998.) Further, ‘[...] the attachment to the Church isn’t there, neither is the attachment to the State and certainly the attachment to the language isn’t there, although I think that’s an awful pity. [...] I think also because we had a language before having another superimposed on us, we actually ended up with a language and a half. There’s a healthy contempt for grammar that makes talking that little bit more interesting.” (McArdle, op. cit. p.116; Asián, op. cit.).

Fighting Tuesdays: ‘Twenty-four young writers sat and wrote the stories in this book, and I watched them. Their frowns and dark concentration, their laughter, their yawns and stretches-what is it about teenagers and their ability to stretch to three or four times their normal length? The way they filled the pages so quickly, and the way some of them discovered that they had to get up and go to the toilet every quarter of an hour. They were new to the job but already writers, with minds that told them to sit still and concentrate and bladders that told them to get up and wander. There were twenty-four minds in the room, and the twenty-four bladders. Luckily, the minds won and we have twenty-four great stories.’ (Foreword to Fighting Tuesdays: stories by fourth year students from Larkin Community College, introduction by Hugo Hamilton, Dublin: Stinging Fly 2010.)

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Translating Gogol: ‘How to bring a giant of Russian literature to the Irish stage: start with the lads’, in The Irish Times (26 Nov. 2011), Weekend Review, p.7. ‘[...] I was sitting in the kitchen at about half past six the morning after I started my version, reading Vladimir Nabokov’s book on Gogol, when I turned to page 38 and met this: “None but an Irishman should ever try tackling Gogol.” I calmed down later but – then, there – I made it my own religious moment: Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was talking to me. / Nabokov was criticising the rigidity of English translations of The Government Inspector. “The English is dry and flat, and always unbearably demure.” The English we speak in Ireland might occasionally be flat or dry, even damp, but it’s never fucking demure, and Nabokov was giving me licence to use it. The extra elbows we give the grammar, the way we pull open the words and hide things in them, the way a phrase like “Ah now” can fit a thousand occasions from tasting tea to murder; I was going to use all this. I’d make the play more Russian by translating it into Irish! Or something like that. / “You’re grand”; “No bother”; “I’ll sort something out.” The language of the lads, the lexicon of Irish politics, is the soft and cosy language of the kitchen and the pub. That’s why it works – or why it used to. It’s the language of people we know, even if we’ve never met them. It’s reassuring, and amusing, even when it’s openly dishonest. It’s our strength, and our problem. And it was my opportunity. / I made lists: “downsize”, “up-skill”, “frontload”. I got my lads to mangle those already mangled phrases. “We’ll frontload the lunch. Tell them – tomorrow’s cabbage on today’s plates.” I made it Irish and kept it Russian. I listened to Morning Ireland  with a notebook on my lap. I took notes as the lads tried to ease us past the recession. Things were “manageable” and “on the up”; we were all “going forward”. I wrote quickly. I was none but an Irishman, and I was making Gogol Irish.’ [This article bears the copyright mark © Roddy Doyle 2011. A copy has been saved in RICORSO Library, Criticism > Reviews - as attached.]

Roddy Doyle on Facebook (1)
-Remember Barry Manilow got married there a while back?
-Can yeh imagine the music at tha’ fuckin’ weddin’?
-Jesus - . But I was thinkin’ about it again - cos o’ the referendum comin’ 
up. That it’s not a bad idea for men our age to get married.
-To each other, like?
-Walk out on the missis - .
-No, no - not necessarily. Just -
-If the circumstances were righ’.
-Kind o’ - yeah. It definitely makes sense. Doesn’t it? Sharin’ the gaff with 
someone like yourself. With the same interests. 
-The football - .
-Exactly. An’ not havin’ to pretend yeh care abou’ all the woman stuff. Their health an’ tha’. It’d be - I don’t know - nice. Wouldn’t it?
-An’ that’s another reason for votin’ Yeah, d’yeh think?
-Come here, but. What if the man yeh married turned out to be gay?
-I never thought o’ tha’, mind you. So wha’, but?
-Well - long as he has the same interests. Football an’ war - . How many 
men are gay, an’ anyway?
-Is it one in five?
-I think that’s the fruit an’ veg.
-That’s righ’. It’s one in ten - I think.
-One in somethin’. We’ll say ten. So - there’s only a one in ten chance tha’ 
the man yeh marry would be gay. I could live with those odds.
-Come here. Say if your missis died or somethin’ - .
-Hang on - . An’ say mine did as well. They were both in a car crash or 
-Who’d be drivin’?
-Go on.
-Well, like - would yeh marry me?
-Would yeh not?
-Hang on - . Are you seein’ someone else?
- - - - .
Are yeh?
- - - - .
Roddy Doyle on Facebook (2)
-D’yeh think there’ll ever be a mad fella with a gun in Ireland like they have them in America?
-Did yeh miss the fuckin’ Troubles?
-Yeh know what I mean, but.
-The country’s full o’ mad cunts with guns. They’re always shootin one another.
-Yeah - one another. The drug fellas an’ tha’. But that’s just business, isn’t it?
-They’re only a bit mad. Wha’ they are is cold-blooded businessmen an’ the madness is actually an asset. It’s wha’ you’d be lookin’ for in the job interview, like. ’Would yeh work well as part of a team?’ ’I’d shoot the fuckin’ team.’ ’You’re in.’
-But the Americans. Like the latest one - a Buddhist with a history o’ violence. Yeh couldn’t make it up.
-Stop there now. Your man over there - don’t fuckin’ look!
-Yeah - Tonto. He’s a fuckin’ Buddhist.
-Is he?
-Kind of a Catholic Buddhist, but yeah. An’ he has a history of violence. An’ here’s the point. He’s still violent. He’d kill us all now, except - why?
-He doesn’t want to be barred.
-He doesn’t have a gun.
-Exactly. There’s mad fellas everywhere but in America they give them guns.

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Angeline Ball of The Commitments went on to play Molly opposite Stephen Rea in Sean Walsh’s film of Ulysses (2003); for an account of her experiences with Alan Parker, see ‘In Full Bloom’: ‘Alan was lovely to us. If you needed a heavy hand, he would give it, but if you needed encouragement, he was always there. It was a surprise to all of us when it did so well, because we felt we were doing this little film. I couldn’t believe it when I was told we were all going to America for the premières in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, but the Dublin première was really nerve-wracking, although it was an amazing night.” Also played in John Boorman’s The General, a film about the gangland criminal Martin Cahill, and Mrs Grogan in Rea’s production of The Plough and the Stars. (The Irish Times [Weekend], 10 April 2004.)

Brownbread (1987): Three kids from Barrytown kidnap a bishop because they accidentally find a gun and have nothing better to do that day. Almost immediately, the Corporation house they’re holed up in is under siege, first of all by the Gardaí, then by the U.S Marines who are sent in by the American President when it emerges that the bishop has an American passport. Cast: 10 males, 2 females. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp].)

War (1989): This is the world of the Pub Quiz, where men are men and the questions sting like crazy. George knows the capital city of every country in the world. Bertie can sniff out a trick question from a hundred paces. George can tell you who played Barney in Mission Impossible. Bertie can tell you who played Barney’s mother. On the first Monday of every month, these two giants of the Pub Quiz lock eyes across the five feet of drink dampened carpet that divides them. Cast: 10 males; 4 females. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp].)

The Snapper (1990): The Rabbitte family, ’Barrytown’ [Kilbarrack], North Dublin; Jimmy Rabbitte, his wife Veronica, Les, Sharon, Jimmy Jr., Darren, and the twins Linda and Tracy. Sharon gets pregnant by Mr. Burgess, the seedy father of her friend Yvonne. He has sex with her standing up when she is sick and drunk at a disco. She pretends the father is a Spanish sailor but is disbelieved when he boasts of having had her. Burgess is frightened into silence by Jimmy Sr., but then leaves home in a fit of sentimentality and chauvinism, and idiotically invites Sharon to join him. Sending him on his way, she offers to leave home but is restrained by Jimmy Sr., who shames himself by crying [‘Don’t tell Jimmy Jr. He looks up to me, yeh know.’ pp.163-4]. She prepares for her impending delivery amid the tatters of her alibi. Among cloudbursts of family pride, the Rabbittes also come to terms with the new state of affairs and prepare to welcome a new member. The book is written chiefly in short slangy comic dialogue, and set at the Rabbitte house and the local pub. It describes a harsh social culture dominated by a constant searching for an appreciation of laughs-’Barrytown’s sense of humour’-sharp-tongued, yet tolerant and supportive. It includes an amusing and touching account of sexual relations between the Rabbitte parents, in which Jimmy applies the lesson on cunnilingus that he has learned from a feminist handbook [i.e., Everywoman].

Waste of time? Attending a conference at NYU in honour of James Joyce, Roddy Doyle purportedly called Finnegans Wake a ‘tragic waste of time’ and called for a moratorium on Bloomsday, with especially stern remarks reserved for David Norris as its chief propagandist. The report to this effect given by Sunday Tribune editor Marion McKeone was denied by Colm McCann who recalled Doyle’s expression of respect for Joyce and his admiration for his creation Leopold Bloom while confirming the remark about Finnegans Wake together with the alleged comment that Ulysses had needed a good editor. (See Books Ireland, March 2004, p.45.)

See also Justin Beplate, reviewing several critical works: ‘It seems the real target of Doyle’s broadside was not Joyce, but a literary cutlure in which indebtedness to him is simply assumed. “If you’re a writer in Dublin and you write a snatch of dialogue”, he is reported as saying, “everyone thinks you lifted it from Joyce ... It’s as if you’re encroaching on his area or it’s a given that he’s on your shoulder. It gets on my nerves.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 29 April, pp.4-5.)

Angelique Chrisafis on Doyle’s attack on the ‘Joyce industry’: [...] Roddy Doyle, the Booker prize winner and the bard of raucous Dublin demotic, chose a Joyce birthday celebration to slam the epic story of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom as overrated, overlong and unmoving. “Ulysses could have done with a good editor,” Doyle told a stunned audience in New York gathered to celebrate the great man who is credited with inventing the modern novel. “You know people are always putting Ulysses in the top 10 books ever written but I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it.” ”I only read three pages of Finnegans Wake and it was a tragic waste of time,” he added. Dubliners was Joyce’s best work, but Ulysses was undeserving of reverence. Worse still, he claimed that Joyce was not even the best Irish writer. That accolade belonged to Jennifer Johnston, the relatively little-known author of The Captains and the Kings. But what makes Doyle sick is the way Irish writers are always compared to Joyce. “If you’re a writer in Dublin and you write a snatch of dialogue, everyone thinks you lifted it from Joyce. The whole idea that he owns language as it is spoken in Dublin is a nonsense. He didn’t invent the Dublin accent. It’s as if you’re encroaching on his area or it’s a given that he’s on your shoulder. It gets on my nerves,” the Sunday Tribune in Dublin reported him saying. (Guardian, 10 Feb. 2004 - available online.)

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