Adventures in Reading

Revisited: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Prior to Adventures in Reading, I had started writing the odd review/summary. Now to try and gather them all to one location and to compensate for my loss of reading time with my Spanish course, I’m going to post the old reviews and revisit them. I’ve commented before that my opinions of the books are always quite biased to the time of writing, and so I’m also looking at this as a project of my own opinion.

My second Roddy Doyle read and it was no less impressive than the first. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the story of a 10-year-old boy growing up in Ireland. His experiences range from boyhood friendships to the classroom to his parent’s domestic disputes. Doyle is immensely talented and consistently manages to embrace his characters and represent them in a nearly too real fashion. Paddy Clarke not only feels like it’s a story of a 10-year-old boy but is specifically narrated by a 10-year-old boy and by the end of the book one has to wonder “Doyle, who’s he?” Doyle’s narrative is addicting and moving and I had to have spent half the book asking people, “Do you remember when…” A definite must read for everyone.

I have adored everything that I’ve read by Roddy Doyle and since Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha I’ve read his chapter in Click and his short story collection The Deportees. While I’m not sure if I would call it a “must read” in retrospect, I would say Doyle is an author everyone should read at least once in a lifetime. His novels are funny and engaging, and my collection is steadily growing.

Other opinions: Nymeth.


The Playboy of the Western World and Other Plays by J.M. Synge
“Six yards of stuff to make a yellow gown. A pair of lace boots with lengthy heels on them and brassy eyes. A hat is suited for a wedding-day. A fine tooth comb. To be sent with three barrels of porter in Jimmy Farrell’s creel cart on the evening of the coming Fair to Mister Michael James Flaherty. With the best compliments of this season. Margaret Flaherty.”

Betwixt the Japanese literature I’ve been reading and in belated honor of St. Patrick’s day I finally got around to reading Synge’s play The Playboy of the Western World. Synge was an Irish playwright and I always read reference of him at the oddest times. The first I heard of him was in my 20th Century Irish Literature course and the play’s (I believe) first production has a very entertaining story attached where theatre goers nearly destroyed the theatre in reaction to Synge’s use of the word “shift” in the play.

The Playboy of the Western World is a story of small town Irish life in western Ireland. The playboy Christy believes he has murdered his father and is on the lam. However, this doesn’t stop him from telling his tell of woe at the first pub house he comes to. Rather than frightening the natives though it’s thrilling and Christy immediately becomes a town celebrity of sorts with lasses and widows alike chasing after him.

I don’t often read plays (this is my first since the beginning of Adventures) and I’m not quite sure why. Yes, it takes a bit longer for me to catch the rhythm versus, lets say, than if I read a novel. However, I actually do enjoy reading plays and Synge’s Playboy lived up to its reputation. The play is funny and honest but with surprising complexities for such a short work. If you loves plays and/or Ireland Synge is a terrific read.

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The Deportees by Roddy Doyle

I mentioned this book some months ago when I first heard it was coming out, and I was absolutely thrilled. There are few authors that I wait in anticipation for more books, but Doyle is definitely one of them. I first was introduced to his works through the film adaptation of his book The Commitments and also had his The Woman Who Walked Into Doors assigned for a 20th Century Irish Literature course. Since then I have delved into other novels such as Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha and I have always left impressed and wanting more Doyle.

In his foreword, Doyle reflects on the old and new Ireland and how much the demographics have changed over the past few decades. For once it seems that Ireland has more immigrants than emmigrants. Doyle reflects that, “In 1986, I wrote The Commitments. In that book, the main character, a young man called Jimmy Rabbitte, delivers a line that became quite famous: –The Irish are the niggers of Europe. Twenty years on, there are thousands of Africans living in Ireland and, if I was writing that book today, I wouldn’t use that line.”

The Deportees and Other Stories is an amazing collection of stories and almost all revolve around the idea of “Someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live here.” Doyle is a great writer and I have always enjoyed his narrative and descriptive style, but perhaps my favorite part of this collection is the wide array of stories. Often in collections by a single author the stories can become unfortunately tedious and melt into each other. Ideally, it is not best to try and ingest this kind of collection all at once. However, Doyle’s stories have a diverse array including a horror story, a reappearance of Jimmy Rabbitte, a family story, teenagers being arrested, etc. While a common theme pervades the stories they each have wonderfully unique qualities.

I will say my favorite story had to be the one horror story in the collection – “The Pram.” A story of a Polish woman who has been “imported” as a childminder. No one from the parents to the children are particularly kind to her and after a particularly cruel and embarrassing exchange between Alina, the minder, and O’Reilly, the mother, Alina decides to take her revenge.

This is a lovely collection and met every anticipation I had for it.