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Fried Nappy

Penelope Fitzgerald

12 September 1991
The Van 
by Roddy Doyle.
Secker, 311 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 9780436200526
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... This is the third and last of RoddyDoyle’s novels about the Rabbitte family of Barrymount, an unprepossessing council estate suburb of North Dublin, much like Kilbarrack, where Doyle was born himself. Barrymount, although by no means a foul rag-and-bone shop, is a place for dreams to start. In The Commitment young Jimmy Rabbitte decides that Ireland is ready for soul music and ...


Terry Eagleton: The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín

14 October 1999
The Blackwater Lightship 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 273 pp., £15, September 1999, 0 330 38985 8
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... than gay: at least that would be something ‘normal’ they could talk about. Revealing or not revealing what you are is a way of trying to make contact with a mother, not a condition in itself. RoddyDoyle and Dermot Bolger rank among Dublin’s so-called Northside realists, creating a world in which compulsively blaspheming council-estate dwellers keep cocaine in the bath and horses in the ...


Ronan Bennett: Being Irish in New York

6 April 1995
... faced lads, soft brogues, mischievous matchmakers, innocent fun, uileann pipes, sea-wind in the hair. Even if you swap John Ford’s Ireland for something more urban and contemporary, say that of RoddyDoyle, in which a good night out is more likely to involve soul music and a ‘ride’, it is still possible to find yourself idealising: Ford and Doyle (pre-Paddy Clarke and Family, at least) offer ...

Eating Jesus

Andrew O’Hagan

8 July 1993
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha 
by Roddy Doyle.
Secker, 282 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 436 20135 6
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... by the door with a couple of Tesco bags filled with jumpers and stuff. His face was crimson. My mother led me by the head into the kitchen and closed the door. Paddy Clarke, the ten-year-old hero of RoddyDoyle’s remarkable new novel, rocks at night to the sound of his parents’ scratching at the usual matrimonial sores. The intermittent din of their growing unhappiness is the primary soundtrack to ...


John Bayley: Serious Novels

10 November 1994
... Victorian manner. The Booker shortlist this year appears to be languishing in the shops, perhaps because the novel market is undergoing one of its periodic and mysterious bad periods. The RoddyDoyle bestseller, winner last year, benefited from being Irish and about children. Novels now seem to be bought because they are popular, rather than becoming popular because they are talked about. But it ...

About the Monicas

Tessa Hadley: Anne Tyler

18 March 2004
The Amateur Marriage 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 306 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7734 9
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... prepared for, too, by the descriptions of her driving). Her life had crashed. Nothing in the novel offers to redeem that everyday catastrophe. Tyler’s work has been championed by Nick Hornby and RoddyDoyle, among others, as part of a case for the deep seriousness of domestic-realist novels, which are, it’s argued, sneerily sidelined as ‘middlebrow’ by a cultural establishment that values ...

He will need a raincoat

Blake Morrison: Fathers and Sons

13 July 2016
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between 
by Hisham Matar.
Viking, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 0 670 92333 5
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... Kessler thanks his dad ‘for being such a good sport’ – and for still being around to receive the praise. It isn’t unknown for a son to pay tribute while his father is still alive – RoddyDoyle did it (to both parents) in Rory and Ita (2002) – but it’s usually death that provides the spur. All the things that went unspoken in his lifetime (‘Died before we’d done much talking ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman

19 March 1998
Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... d written in Vital Signs appeared, with the passage of time, like found footage. The obvious way out was to become the Nick Hornby of drug consciousness, where Irving Welsh had already become the RoddyDoyle. But the obvious was never Penman’s thing. A piece originally published in Arena that might have done the trick, humanising and domesticating the processes of exchange and controlled ...

The Paranoid Sublime

Andrew O’Hagan

26 May 1994
How late it was, how late 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 374 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 436 23292 8
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... in an astonishing way. For someone who’s made such a palaver about ways of talking, about speech I mean, he’s actually not so very good at dialogue (not when you think of Peter McDougall or RoddyDoyle). It’s the way people talk to themselves that he gets so brilliantly, so matchlessly. While the peripheral characters in his stories often exchange words in a pretty featureless manner, his ...

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