Roddy Doyle Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1958. For fourteen years he was a teacher of English and Geography at Greendale Community School, Kilbarrack, in north Dublin, an area of the city he has used as the setting for many of his novels. The first three of theseThe Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van—make up The Barrytown Trilogy, a series that follows the working-class Rabbitte family over a period of several years. The Van was a finalist for the 1991 Booker Prize, awarded to the outstanding novel published in Great Britain each year. Doyle cowrote the screenplay for the film version of The Commitments and also adapted the other two novels for the screen. His fourth novel, Paddy Clarke, ha-ha-ha, won the 1993 Booker Prize and was an international best-seller, as were The Woman Who Walked into Doors and A Star Called Henry. Doyle’s plays for the stage Brownbread and War both enjoyed successful runs in Dublin. He also wrote the four-part television series Family for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Doyle’s first novel, The Commitments, follows a working-class band’s struggle to bring soul music to Dublin. The origins of the band, its rise to brief popularity in northside Dublin dancehalls and clubs, and its eventual breakup are chronicled by the band’s self-styled agent and promoter, Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr. Critics and reviewers praised Doyle’s unsentimental treatment of his characters as well as the realistic dialogue and the gritty humor of the book. In The Snapper, the focus is Jimmy’s sister Sharon, whose pregnancy disrupts not only the family but the neighborhood as a whole, because she refuses to name the child’s father. Much of the comedy here stems from...

(The entire section is 743 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Roddy Doyle was born May 8, 1958, in Dublin, one of four children born to Rory and Ita Doyle. His father was a printer and his mother worked as a secretary. As a child, Doyle attended schools in the suburbs to the north of the city. He later earned a degree in English and geography from University College, Dublin, and became a teacher. He worked as a schoolteacher from 1979 until 1993, when, after considerable critical and commercial success, he resigned to work full time as a writer.

Doyle seems to have drawn upon the neighbors and neighborhoods of his childhood for his earlier novels, set as they are in Barrytown, a fictional working-class suburb north of Dublin. His interest in portraying the resilience and ingenuity of average people makes this a fertile source of inspiration. Doyle’s work with schoolchildren must have been a direct influence on his highly insightful novel Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha, which portrays the dissolution of a marriage from the point of view of a young boy.

Doyle dabbled in writing for periodicals before seriously attempting to write fiction. His first attempt at a novel was not published, and his second, The Commitments, was originally published by a company that Doyle and a friend began just for that purpose. Printed and distributed on borrowed money, The Commitments eventually attracted the notice of a major publishing house, which republished the novel for a broad and appreciative audience. Although Doyle is one of Ireland’s best-known writers, he has shunned the public limelight and remained a very private person.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Roddy Doyle (doyuhl; in Irish, Ruaidhri O Duill) was born on May 8, 1958, in Kilbarrack, Dublin, Ireland, the third of four children (two daughters and two sons) of Rory Doyle, a printer, and Ita Bolger Doyle, a legal secretary. Kilbarrack is a working-class neighborhood of Dublin, approximately seven miles north of downtown. The vocations of Doyle’s parents likely influenced the type and tenor of his own future life’s work. As a novelist, he depends directly on the work of printers, and he actually printed and privately published the first run of his first novel, The Commitments (1987), in 1985 when he could not initially find a publisher. In addition, his mother’s work for a prestigious south-side Dublin law firm likely provided young Doyle with insights into the widening gulf between the haves and have-nots in contemporary Irish culture, a theme that receives treatment in Doyle’s work and life.

Doyle studied at a national school in Raheny from 1963 to 1971 and then at St. Fintan’s Christian Brothers School in Sutton from 1971 to 1976. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1979 from University College, Dublin, with a double major in English and geography. He returned to his Kilbarrack neighborhood after graduation and taught at Greendale Community School from 1979 to 1993. Doyle seems to have been a passionate and popular teacher of English and geography. Students recall his complaints about the depictions of certain of their fellow Dubliners in the work of countryman James Joyce; his love of all Irish music, traditional and contemporary; and his leather jacket and jeans, which earned him the endearing name of “Punky Doyle” among some of his students.

In the early 1980’s, Doyle began writing short stories and a novel during the evenings and summers in addition to his full-time teaching job. Although Doyle is clearly aware of the impressive corpus of the Irish literary tradition within which he writes, on the few occasions when he has commented on his literary influences, he has referenced mostly American and English novelists, rather than Irish writers, as the source of his ability to believe in his own identity as an author. The plain, colloquial language of novels such as Wise Blood (1952) by Flannery O’Connor, A Proper Marriage (1954) by Doris Lessing, Ragtime (1975) by E. L. Doctorow, and The World According to...

(The entire section is 982 words.)