Doyle, Roddy

Doyle, Roddy
▪ 1995

      Irish schoolteacher-turned-novelist Roddy Doyle was busy on both sides of the Atlantic in 1994. In January he toured the U.S. to support the American release of his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993), which had won the 1993 Booker Prize. His fourth novel was set in the 1960s in a fictional working-class area of northern Dublin and examined the cruelty inflicted upon children by other children. The protagonist, 10-year-old Paddy Clarke, feared his classmates' ostracism, especially after the breakup of his parents' marriage. In mid-1994 Doyle watched as his BBC drama "Family" generated heated controversy throughout conservative Ireland. The program shed harsh light on a family's struggle with domestic violence and alcoholism and portrayed the bleaker side of life in a housing project, the same venue he had used in his earlier, more comedic Barrytown trilogy.

      Doyle's unvarnished depiction of the working-class world was a hallmark of his work, and he often alienated critics, many of whom chastised him for his harsh "docu-journalism." The soft-spoken and reserved Doyle proved, however, that it was possible to convey the undiluted truth and still be popular, especially among the very class of people whose lives he chronicled. Doyle's distinctively Irish settings, style, mood, and phrasing made him a favourite fiction writer in his own country as well as overseas.

      The second of four children of a printer and a homemaker, Doyle was born in 1958 in Dublin. After majoring in English and geography at University College, Dublin, he taught the subjects for 14 years at Greendale Community School, a Dublin grade school. During the summer break of his third year of teaching, Doyle began writing seriously. In the early 1980s he wrote a heavily political satire, Your Granny's a Hunger Striker, but it was never published.

      The first editions of the comedy The Commitments (1987) were published through his own company, King Farouk, until a London-based publisher took over. The work was the first installment of his internationally acclaimed Barrytown trilogy, which was completed by The Snapper (1990) and The Van (1991). The trilogy centred on the ups and downs of the never-say-die Rabbitte family, who tempered the bleakness of life in an Irish slum with familial love and understanding. The first two parts of the trilogy were also made into popular international films in the 1990s. By the end of 1994 a movie script for The Van had been completed, and Doyle had secured a reputation as a well-respected, if controversial, literary figure. (SUSAN RAPP)

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Universalium. 2010.

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