Other literary forms
In addition to his novels, for which he is best known, Roddy Doyle wrote several highly successful plays, including Brownbread (pr. 1987), War (pr., pb. 1989), and The Woman Who Walked into Doors (pr. 2003), which is based on his 1996 novel. Family (1994), a four-part television play, was highly controversial for its treatment of domestic abuse. While the subject of the abusive husband and father was by no means new in Irish literature, the play’s widespread distribution through television provoked public debate over the representation of the working-class Irish family.
Doyle also wrote many short stories, including the collection The Deportees, and Other Stories (2008), and he wrote several books for children and teenage readers, including Not Just for Christmas (1999), The Giggler Treatment (2000), Rover Saves Christmas (2001), The Meanwhile Adventures (2004), and Wilderness (2007). He also contributed to the collaborative novels Finbar’s Hotel (1999, with others) and Yeats Is Dead! (2001, with others). In 2002, he published an oral history-memoir about his parents, Rory and Ita.
Roddy Doyle’s earlier novels are recognized for their unique and original representation of contemporary working-class family life in suburban Dublin. The novels that comprise the Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van; all three published later as The Barrytown Trilogy) are celebrated for their honest, realistic portrayal of family dynamics and socioeconomic conditions as an antidote to the often romanticized depictions of life in earlier Irish novels. Perhaps as a result of this unique focus, the Barrytown trilogy has enjoyed a rare combination of critical acclaim and popular commercial success. The Van, the most serious of the three novels, was nominated for the Booker Prize, which is awarded annually to the best novel in English from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. All three novels of the Barrytown trilogy have been made into major motion pictures.
Doyle’s next novel, Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha, went on to win the Booker Prize in 1993. With its innovative narrative technique and disturbingly honest portrayal of childhood at the brink of adolescence, Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha is widely acknowledged to be Doyle’s masterpiece. In 1998, Doyle was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dublin City University.
In Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, after Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr., reads the books concerning pregnancy that his daughter, Sharon, has been taking out of the public library, he develops a new understanding of, and appreciation for, the female body in general and his daughter’s condition in particular. How does this father-daughter relationship improve in some ways, yet decline in other ways, during the course of Sharon’s pregnancy?
Consider the possible meanings for these colorful adjectives and adverbs that the denizens of Barrytown use: “deadly,” “locked,” “rapid,” and “Mickah stitched Deco a loaf.”
With the popularity of the band U2 and the continuing development of new types of synthesized rock music in the mid-to late 1980’s, how believable is Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr.’s choice of the...
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