Home Arts Roddy Doyle brings the spirit of Dublin to Concordia

Roddy Doyle brings the spirit of Dublin to Concordia

by The Concordian October 11, 2011

Doyle spoke to a packed room about infusing his personal life into his work. Photo by Ginga Takeshima.

While the world struggles to stave off recession and Ireland tries to strengthen a weak economy, author Roddy Doyle continues to remind the world of what has been the reality of the Dublin working class for the past three decades.
Doyle first emerged as a novelist writing with the voice of the working class when he published the books in the late 1980s and early 1990s that would become The Barrytown Trilogy. Last Friday, 24 years after the release of The Commitments, he stood in front of a full amphitheatre in the MB building on the occasion of the first Writers Read at Concordia series of the year and read from his latest release Bullfighting, a collection of short fiction published in April of this year.
Wearing a black velvet blazer paired with jeans and thin round glasses framing his face, Doyle read “Animals.” The story focuses on George, a father who, in order to please his children, purchases pet after pet as each one successively meets an unfortunate end. George reflects on those days as he sits in a bar watching his son, now 20, pour him a beer with the skill and precision of a heart surgeon. Out of a job and nearing retirement age, George looks back on a time when he was needed and could provide for his family.
The story went over well with the audience, eliciting periodic bursts of laughter as Doyle delivered lines in a deadpan Irish lilt.
Having drawn on the working class experience in Ireland for his novels and short fiction since the 1980s, Doyle was careful to make a distinction between pre-Celtic Tiger life and present day life in Ireland.
“Back then, we didn’t use the word recession because it seemed like normal life in Ireland – then this money arrived, and this wealth,” Doyle explained. “For most people I think the Celtic Tiger [meant] having a bit of extra money in their pockets, less anxiety, a bigger and a fuller fridge. And that’s gone, or seems to be gone, but my job is basically to make sure that we don’t slip into that lazy thinking of ‘Oh, it’s back to 1990,’ because it’s not. The circumstances are very different.”
Born in Dublin in 1958, the Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, on the Northside of the city. It was in the 1980s, while he was working as a teacher, that he began writing what would become the Barrytown books.
Since then, he has written ten works of adult fiction and two collections of short fiction, seen the Barrytown books adapted for the big screen, won the Man Booker Prize (in 1993, for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), and established a creative writing centre in Dublin.
It is unsurprising that Doyle should draw on his personal experience in his creative process, but explained that he maintains his distance between his personal life and his characters when writing.
“It’s very important that when I’m writing it’s about words. It’s not about trying to capture my life and the fact that to a degree the story ’Animals’ was inspired by me looking back on my life as a father,” he said. “That may be the spark but it is very quickly irrelevant. It’s all about the words. So there’s a coldness about it, and quite rightly a detachment to it.”

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