3.24.2007

what i'm reading

I'm reading a novel by one of my favourite authors, Roddy Doyle: Oh, Play That Thing, the second part of "The Last Roundup" trilogy that began with A Star Called Henry. It's terrific. I've thoroughly enjoyed every one of Doyle's books.

Although my long-running fascination with Ireland and Irish history has finally run its course, Doyle remains a touchstone for me. And although I read so many New York City historical novels that they started to all blend together, and I vowed to take a good long break from that subgenre, Oh Play That Thing takes place in New York City and Chicago during Prohibition, a good 50 years after most of those books are set.

If you haven't read anything by Roddy Doyle, I recommend Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, winner of the 1993 Booker Prize, which is narrated by a 10-year-old boy, and The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, which is narrated by a 40-year-old woman.

"The Barrytown Trilogy" is also very enjoyable: The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van. They've all been made into movies, for which Doyle wrote the screenplays. These books are light reading, but the characters are complex, and they evolve in ways both credible and touching.

Doyle has an unerring ear for dialogue and a profound understanding of human motivation. I so admire writers who create page-turning entertainment while illuminating human complexity, both at the same time. (Graham Greene is a master at this.) Most of Doyle's work is humorous and has a light feel, but is also so rich and insightful.

I've seen Roddy Doyle read at bookstores on two occasions, and he seems like a very unassuming, low-key man. Here's a nice interview with him in Salon.

17 comments:

sister.susie said...

Roddy Doyle - excellent choice, L-girl. I, too, feel a connection with Ireland and Irish stories.I do have an Irish background, and I grew up in a family of 11 kids. I instantly identify with those poor families full of "stair-step" children.

(Hmmm. I have a connection to pioneer stories, too, for some reason that I don't completely understand. It has something to to with rising above adversity, methinks, one of the basic themes in Doyle's writing.)

I find fiction that is built around real people/events fascinating, as long as it's well-researched and well-written. (Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace" comes to mind.)

Gee, now I feel like re-reading "Paddy Clarke - Ha Ha Ha", and I already have a must-read list longer then my arm!

L-girl said...

(Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace" comes to mind.)

This is the book I was most thinking of when I said page-turning but complex! I loved it. We have some similar tastes in reading, s.s.

11 kids! Wow. Also your connection to pioneer stories, that's neat.

* * * *

I am not of Irish descent. I just started reading Irish historical fiction and other novels and became fascinated. It was an obsession of mine for 10+ years, until we went to Ireland in 2001. That somehow released me. :)

It's funny, Ireland is the only place I've gone that people always ask, am I Irish, and was I going because of a family connection. And when they heard I'm not, expressed surprise that I would go. This has happened dozens of times.

When I went to Italy no one asked if I was Italian. Likewise for any other country I've been to. But somehow people expected that anyone who would go to Ireland must be Irish.

I found that strange.

M@ said...

Funny little story about Roddy Doyle. The Commitments was one of the things I and the Goalies' guitarist were both obsessed with -- we were new to the band thing and were hoping to emulate the movie. We both read the Barrytown trilogy a few times, too.

Then Roddy Doyle came to Hamilton to do a reading, and I was going to be away at the time, so I sent Jon with my copy of The Barrytown Trilogy to get it signed.

Jon marched up and asked Doyle to put "To Matt -- ya fuckin' eejit" as the dedication. He gave Jon a long, weird look, but signed it. And that's what's in one of the most prized books.

Anyhow, thought I'd share that. Still makes me smile whenever I take that book off the shelf.

L-girl said...

Excellent! Great story, thanks for sharing. :)

(Plus I'm glad you like him, too.)

Nigel Patel said...

New York and Historical Novel imediately bring to mind Gore Vidal's Burr and 1876. Especially Burr.

sister.susie said...

Gosh, M@, I love your Roddy Doyle dedication story. My book group is gonna hear about it this month.

L-girl, there's a book by Michael Ondaatje to keep in mind for some closer-to-home historical fiction:
In the Skin of a Lion

It sort of ties in with the upcoming building projects you mentioned that'll be happening in TO, and it has an immigrant theme, too.

L-girl said...

New York and Historical Novel imediately bring to mind Gore Vidal's Burr

Wow, I forgot about those. I read Burr when I was too young to appreciate it. I should re-read it. Eventually.

L-girl, there's a book by Michael Ondaatje to keep in mind for some closer-to-home historical fiction: In the Skin of a Lion

Sister.susie, many people recommended that book when I first moved here. It's still on The List. Thanks for reminding me. :)

M@ said...

S.S., I am very, very pleased to hear it. I knew L. would enjoy the story, though -- my little anecdotes are always indulged on this blog. :)

I'll second the recommendation for Skin of a Lion. Even for a jaded anti-Torontonian like me, it was a very interesting read. Ondaatje's really on to something with this book.

M. Yass said...

I'm starting to read my first Canadian novel. It's by Sinclair Ross and it's called "As for Me and My House." Apparently it's about a minister living in a small Canadian town during the Great Depression. Has anyone else read any of his stuff?

Incidentally, don't forget that in America, at least in red America, the question is not "what are you reading?" but "why are you reading?"

L-girl said...

Incidentally, don't forget that in America, at least in red America, the question is not "what are you reading?" but "why are you reading?"

You know perfectly well that's not true. Americans read, certainly as much as Canadians. Any survey of Americans' time or spending habits will back me up.

redsock said...

Well, looks like we got ourselves a reader! (/hicks)

M. Yass said...

You know perfectly well that's not true. Americans read, certainly as much as Canadians. Any survey of Americans' time or spending habits will back me up.

I said red America. You know, places like Idaho where, not so very long ago, Bush had an 88% approval rating. Yes, that Idaho, the one where the Aryan Nations took up residence as late as 2001. It's the same Idaho that elected Helen "Militia Mama" Chenoweth to the U.S. Congress and where it's legal for civilians to own machine guns.

L-girl said...

Helen Chenoweth aside, I still think Americans, both blue and red, read. Sorry. You're free to disagree, obviously.

Not all Americans read, of course. But neither do all Canadians. They make rednecks up here, too.

L-girl said...

Although, for all I know, Ms Chenoweth may be a voracious reader.

Can you just imagine her reading list? Scary!

M. Yass said...

They make rednecks up here, too.

I know. Trust me, I know.

Stockwell Day and Preston Manning come to mind. Day is a young-Earth creationist and Pentecostal Christian nutcase. Manning seriously advocated bringing back the death penalty in Canada. And who was Manning's chief policy adviser? None other than Stephen Harper.

Speaking of Day, it looks like he has a little scandal brewing these days.

M. Yass said...

Although, for all I know, Ms Chenoweth may be a voracious reader.

Can you just imagine her reading list? Scary!


No doubt it includes the Old Testament (King James version only, of course). It probably also includes Mein Kampf, the Turner Diaries, and the works of such literary greats as George Lincoln Rockwell, August Kreis III, and Gerald L.K. Smith.

L-girl said...

Stockwell Day and Preston Manning come to mind.

I was thinking more of the Trailer Park Boys than the government.