Tuesday 18 August 2009

I say, Roddy, good show!

Can I make a scientific claim based only on a sample of two? I would like to assert, in a very science-y and authoritative way, that Roddy Doyle is entirely reliable.

The Van was exactly what I wanted - an easy read, a good story, cracking dialogue. Its dialogue wasn't as mind-blowingly super-fantastic as The Snapper's dialogue, but it was still really good.

The Van was also significantly shorter on laughs than The Snapper but that's okay; it was a more thoughtful, more profound book, and dare I say (if this can make any sense in relation to Doyle), rather a dark book.

This final installment in the Barrytown trilogy focuses on the Rabbitte family papa par excellence, Jimmy, Sr. and his reckoning with being unemployed in middle age. Jimmy, Sr. bears this cross alone until his friend Bimbo finds himself in the same situation. After the requisite time spent goofing off together, Bimbo buys a chip truck and takes Jimmy, Sr. into partnership with him. Both hi jinx and Aristotelian misunderstandings ensue.

It's in Doyle's portrayal of Jimmy, Sr.'s attempts to hold onto his friendship and his view of himself as a pretty flash fella that the darker stuff comes in. Sharon's pregnancy (and how it came about, my god!) in The Snapper was treated very lightly; Jimmy, Sr.'s mid-life crisis, on the other hand, has him walking the edge of destructive behaviours that would really destroy those closest to him were they either fully realized or known.

This novel is a rather more cynical and, I suppose, realistic look at the consequences of one's drunken, enraged, and other negatively motivated actions by far. That said, Doyle's touch isn't heavy, per se - it just seems more thoughtful and maybe more mature than what he was doing in The Snapper.

So, good times all around, even if this post seems rather lacklustre. This is the thing: it's been hellishly hot with the hellish hot heat here this past week and this has not only sucked away all my energy and personality like I just spent 17 hours in the mall or something, but it's also really slowed down my reading. I ended up reading The Van in dribs and drabs because I had to spend a lot of time either lying down staring off into space and wondering why I live in Toronto and the rest of the time slouching un-ergonomically in my chair thinking life would be better on the ocean somewhere. However, the heat made me too stoopid to think about how I might action these thoughts.


My Novel Thoughts said...

Great post! I loved The Van - I'll have to read it again sometime. Roddy Doyle is great.

Unknown said...

How can you review this book without mentioning the football? Italia'90 and Jack's Army's charge to the quarter-finals still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Celine said...

I love the Barrytown trilogy. It's with amusement that I recall the outrage among certain elements of our neighbourhood when they came out.

I seem to recall Roddy Doyle saying that while writing The Snapper, Jimmy Rabbite just took over. Apparently, he was never intended as a main character but his voice was so strong that he needed his own book.

I wonder why you say 'if this can make any sense in relation to Doyle'? I think all his books have an undercurrent of darkness and a real depth that is very deftly counterbalanced by the humour. (well - some of his kids books don't - some of them are just funny)

Cof cof, I'm gonna say this every time you bring Mr Doyle into the convo. Have you read 'A Star Called Henry' yet? Huh? Have you? have you? :0D

Great review.

Bookphilia said...

mynovelreviews: Doyle is great. I'm looking forward to reading all his other stuff, a lot.

Tony: I enjoy watching soccer now but I definitely wasn't watching it in 1990. In 1990, I was staying up all night reading Stephen King books and generally being sullen, so soccer wouldn't have fit into my emotional feng shui, you know? I'll leave the excitement over the 1990 World Cup to you and Mr. Doyle.

Celine: Wow, do you live in Barrytown? How cool is that? And no, I haven't yet read A Star Called Henry - I'll blog about it as soon as I do though, don't worry!

Celine said...

I went to school in 'ahem' BarryTown (*whisper* Killbarrack) Roddy Doyle was my English teacher. I got in touch with him and my other beloved English teacher Catherine Dunne when my own books began being published. At forty years of age I still can't help calling him 'Mr Doyle' and her 'Ms Dunne' LOL!

I'm impatiently awaiting the third in the 'Henry' series. If Mr Doyle don't hurry up I'm afraid I'll have to hunt him down and do a 'Misery' on him.