A Book for Every Year…

I got the idea for this post primarily from the brilliant Christa over at A Voluptuous Mind who posed a list earlier in the year of her favourite movies from every year she has been alive.

I got to thinking what my favourite books would be and inspired by the 1951 Club, I thought I would list my choice for the best books of 1971 to 2015! The reason I’m stopping at 2015 is because I didn’t read any notable new releases in 2016 or so far this year given my on-going book ban. Some years were easier than others – 1971 was pretty tough, but I had to debate between several books for 1993! Some were read at the time (although obviously I wasn’t reading John Berger on my first birthday!) and some only recently, but they represent a selection of some of my favourite books!

So, let’s kick off and see if any of your favourites are here too!

1971 – 1980

1971: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

1972: Ways of Seeing by John Berger

1973: Deenie by Judy Blume

1974: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

1975: American Buffalo by David Mamet

1976: Will you Please be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver

1977: Dispatches by Michael Herr

1978: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

1979: The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer

1980: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

1981 – 1990

1981: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

1982: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

1983: Fool for Love by Sam Sheperd

1984: Money by Martin Amis

1985: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1986: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

1987: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

1988: Libra by Don DeLillo

1989: A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

1990: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

1991 – 2000

1991: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

1992: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

1993: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha! By Roddy Doyle

1994: The Skriker by Caryl Churchill

1995: Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

1996: Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

1997: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1998: Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

1999: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

2000: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2001 – 2010

2001: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

2002: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

2003: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

2005: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

2007: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

2008: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

2009: A Scattering Christopher Reid

2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

2011 – 2015

2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2012: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

2013: Tenth of December by George Saunders

2014: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

2015: Tender by Belinda McKeon

Any of these take you back to a specific year? Or is anyone else tempted to make a list of their own? I’d quite like to do the same for music and movies, if I can find the time!

A 3rd Birthday and a Giveaway!

Today is my Blogversary!

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Yep, it’s been three long years since I counted up all those books, almost had a heart attack and planned to cut down the TBR.

So, it’s another year done and how far on am I? I’m so close to the 500s I can taste it! Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have reached that milestone. 146 books in 3 years isn’t great, but it’s better than the pre-blog days and if I keep up the momentum, 746 books will be done and dusted by 2028. Go me!

Despite having made it through another year without buying myself a book, I have acquired books through other means. My use of Net Galley has risen and I did receive quite a few books from publishers this year. I have tried to stick to my (very loose) rules and only read new books by Irish writers, but this little habit has definitely slowed my progress in my challenge. I may have read 71 books this year, according to Good Reads, but I only reduced the 746 by 47.

Reading aside, I’ve had another great year on the blog. According to my friends at WordPress, I’ve had over 23,000 views and 11,500 visitors. I was also delighted this year to pass my 1,000 follower mark, so thanks to you all for continuing to read.

Highlights this year have been the second annual Reading Ireland Month back in March which generated over 100 posts.

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Plans are already afoot for 2017, which I will again be co-hosting with my pal Niall of Raging Fluff fame, so if you have any books by Irish authors lurking in your TBR why not save them until March and join in the craic. This year I’ll be focusing entirely on Irish women writers, but there will be lots of other fun posts and giveaways.

20 Books of Summer also went down a treat this year, with over 120 fantastic bloggers participating and as a bonus, I actually managed to read all 20 of my books! This feature will certainly be back in 2017 as it gives my reading a real kick up the butt mid-year!

Once again I was delighted to make the finals of the Irish Blog Awards for the best Books and Literature blog – getting that far never ceases to amaze me! Plus I clearly take every opportunity throughout the year to show off about it….

finalist

On a personal level, 2016 has been both a difficult and an amazing year. Since this time last year I had the real pleasure of interviewing Nuala O’Connor and Dame Fiona Kidman for the Belfast Book Festival and of course, I started a new and wonderful job at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. Leaving the job I had done for 17 years was frightening and daunting, but I have to say that I have never been happier. I adore my new job, surrounded by books, poetry and writers all day; it feels like it was made for me!

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The intensity of my new position and some health issues this year meant that I haven’t blogged as much as usual. I am trying to rectify that and make some time for this lovely little corner of the blogosphere I call home and I just hope I can continue with the same enthusiasm next year.

I’ve never really been one for a year round up, but this year I am picking my five best reads of 2016. Of course, these haven’t been published in 2016 but you all know what I mean!

  1. The Republic of Love – Carol Shields

For sheer enjoyment, Carol Shields wonderful, heartwarming, sprawling tale of love in all its forms tops my list of the year. I didn’t read another book that made me as happy as this one.

  1. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I didn’t get to join in with Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong as much as I would have liked, but I am so delighted that it nudged me to read this luminous, wonderful book, that was everything I hoped and more

  1. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle makes it into my Books of the Year list for the second time. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was nothing like I imagined. It was simply magnificent.

  1. The Rose Garden – Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan was my author of the year, with both this collection of spiky short stories and her wonderful novella The Visitor. She’s undergoing a bit of resurgence here in Ireland and next year I plan to read her biography by Angela Bourke and her collected works from the New Yorker, which have just been published by Stinging Fly

  1. Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Can Kate Atkinson do no wrong? Ruby Lennox stayed with me long after I closed this book which is wonderfully plotted and beautifully uplifting.

I’m looking forward to a positive 2017. With Reading Ireland Month and 20 Books of Summer planned, I also hope to start a feature called ‘The Books that Built the Blogger’ where my favourite bloggers chat about the books that made them into the readers and bloggers they are today.

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Each month I plan to chat about a book which has formed and influenced my reading life as well. If you’d be interested in taking part, drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

Finally, as it’s a birthday and a birthday needs presents, I’m hosting a little giveaway today. Up for grabs is a paperback copy of Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed one sentence novel ‘Solar Bones’

solar-bones

Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards this year, Solar Bones has been called ‘an extraordinary hymn to small town Ireland’ by The Guardian. To win a copy, just comment below. I’ll draw a winner on Monday 12 December and will post world-wide.

Good luck and thanks, as always, for reading

x

No 639 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

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Last year I read Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked in to Doors and was stunned by his ability to so vividly inhabit the voice of a battered woman. In Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, I was stunned again, this time by his ability to so believably recreate the voice of a ten-year old boy.

*DISCLAIMER* My review contains an overview of the entire plot of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, some of which may be considered a spoiler. As it isn’t a plot driven novel, I don’t think this is a problem, but want to give readers the choice of skimming this review if necessary!

Set, like his previous novels, in the fictional north Dublin suburb of Barrytown, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is a boy’s first hand account of growing up  in 1968 at the age of 10. The clever twist though, it that Paddy Clarke is not telling us his story with hindsight, but as if he were still 10 years old and as if this tenth year might never end. Roddy Doyle was also ten in 1968 and it would be easy to see the book as autobiographical – however it would also do it a disservice to suggest that Doyle has simply a good memory for what being ten felt like. As it is, this is one of the most honest, funny and often heartbreaking depictions of what it means to be a child on the cusp of adulthood that I have ever read, presenting the reader with an almost stream of consciousness that powerfully captures that childhood combination of exhilaration, cruelty and confusion.

From the opening lines it is clear we are in the presence of a child;

We were coming down our road. Kevin stopped at a gate and bashed it with a stick. It was Missis Quigley’s gate; she was always looking out the window but she never did anything.

Liam and Aiden turned down their cul-de-sac. We said nothing; they said nothing. Liam and Aiden had a dead mother. Missis O’Connell was her name.

-It’s be brilliant, wouldn’t it? I said.
– Yeah, said Kevin. –Cool

We were talking about having a dead ma.

What follows is a series of narrative fragments, told without context or the understanding, which jump from one subject to another with no discernible structure or order. The opening lines of each paragraph set the scene for a vignette,

‘Sinbad wouldn’t put the lighter fuel in his mouth’
‘When you were doing a funny face or pretending you had a stammer and the wind changed or someone thumped you on the back you stayed that way forever’
‘None of us had Adidas football boots. We were all getting them for Christmas’.

You could say they are memories, but they are experiences, experiences that our narrator has no other understanding of other than what is happening in that moment. Paddy Clarke is not looking back and telling us his story. He is his story. The lack of chapters or apparent structure reminds us that childhood has no overarching structure. As a child we have little comprehension of time, of growth or of how some things may be more important than others. Everything is important. Legend can become fact and the things you know are the things you know, without question.

Wasps got you on purpose. A fella in Raheny swallowed a bee by accident and it stung him in the throat and he died. He choked. He was running with his mouth open and the bee flew in. When he was dying he opened his mouth to say his last words and the bee flew out. That was how they knew.

There is no apparent order to the episodes in the first half of the book, no authorial voice guiding the reader to an overall understanding. In an interview with the Guardian, Doyle said when he started writing the book,

I had no plot, just Paddy. I began to see things through his eyes. Adult hands were big, wrinkles were fascinating, ladders were great, disgusting was brilliant, grown-ups were often stupid

There may be an absence of plot to begin with, but Doyle’s skill is in the highlighting of the commonplace and expert capturing of an authentic voice. We follow Paddy through his lessons at school, his often violent games with his friends, featuring dead legs and Chinese burns, and his love hate relationship with his brother and we can only infer the things that Paddy does not.

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Paddy can muse in great detail on the smell of his school desk or the paint peeling on a wall at home, but important details are scant. The reader isn’t even really made aware that the book is set is the 1960s until the mention of shillings and George Best. Such is the universality of childhood.

Doyle perfectly captures that contradictory nature of the childhood mind. Paddy’s opinions quickly become their opposite through the masterful use of the semi-colon. He doesn’t believe in Santa but doesn’t want his letter going in the same envelope as his brother Sinbad’s in case Santa misses it. He likes and hates in the same breathe,

They were our friends because we hated them; it was good to have them around.

When his little brother Sinbad proves to be a skilled football player, Paddy finds himself in a quandary;

I looked at Sinbad. He was just my little brother. I hated him. He never wiped his nose. He cried. He wet the bed. He got away with not eating his dinner. He had to wear specs with one black lens. He ran to get the ball. No one else did that. They all waited for it to come to them. He went through them all, no bother. He was brilliant. He wasn’t selfish like most fellas who could dribble. It was weird looking at him.

Paddy loves his brother, but he is ten so he hates him as well. Because that is what you do to your little brother. Love and hate are in such close proximity for Paddy, as to often co-exist. The laws of the jungle apply and Paddy knows the law. Roddy Doyle has compared his novel the Lord of the Flies and it is easy to see why. In the absence of grown ups, Paddy and his friends play vicious games on one another – making someone eat washing powder, smacking each other on the back with a poker, or simply ostracizing someone because you can.

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Where he depicts the cruelty of children with clear eyes, Doyle is equally good at exploring the random joys of childhood, such as building forts or spinning around until you make yourself sick. Even Paddy’s tangential musings are expertly and hilariously rendered.

It must have been great being mental. You could do anything you wanted and you never really got into proper trouble for it. You couldn’t pretend you were mental though; you had to be that way all the time. No homework either and you could slobber your dinner as much as you wanted.

Paddy gives us lots of detail but also leaves lots of blanks, so it is up to the reader to spot the subtle patterns and dig deep for the wider plot which comes in the form of the breakdown of his parent’s marriage. What begins as small hints – a snapped newspaper, muffled shouting, his mother’s tears – begins to take a clearer form for Paddy. He senses change.

You didn’t just fill it with water – my ma showed me; you had to lie the bottle on it’s side and slowly pour the water in or else the air got trapped and the rubber rotted and burst. I jumped on Sinbad’s bottle. Nothing happened. I didn’t do it again. Sometimes when nothing happened It was really getting ready to happen

Something is getting ready to happen to Paddy’s childhood idyll. Paddy deflects the first signs of trouble, at a strained family picnic, by focusing on the bits of biscuit in a shared bottle of Fanta but as his parents relationship deteriorates, he becomes overly aware of every nuance of what is happening in the house but with no knowledge of how it has happened or how he can stop it.

Because I didn’t know how to stop it from starting. I could pray and cry and stay up all night, and that way make sure it ended but I couldn’t stop it from starting. I didn’t understand. I never would. No amount of listening and being there would give it to me. I just didn’t know. I was stupid.

Paddy’s childish attempts to keep his parents together – to make his mother laugh, to distract his father from anger – are heartbreakingly rendered by Doyle. He expertly captures that tragedy of family breakdown with a clarity and a lack of sentimentality that makes Paddy’s turmoil compelling and painful.

I didn’t understand. She was lovely. He was nice. They had four children. I was one of them, the oldest. The man of the house when my da wasn’t there. She held onto us for longer, gripped us and looked over us at the floor or the ceiling. She didn’t notice me trying to push away; I was too old for that. In front of Sinbad. I still loved her smell. But she wasn’t cuddling us; she was hanging on.

Paddy plans to run away, but only to try and draw his parents together again in their shared worry. The potential divorce of his parents is mirrored by a divorce from his friends. He begins to emulate a surly loner from the ‘Corporation’ houses and wants less to do with the old gang. This culminates in a vicious fight with his best friend Kevin, which ends with Paddy being completely ostracized and makes a painful sense of the book’s title. The ‘Ha Ha Ha’ is not the happy laugh of childhood play.

He was squealing now, inside his mouth. I had his hair; I pulled his hair back.
-Cheating!
Someone yelled that. I didn’t care. It was stupid.

This was the most important thing that had ever happened to me; I knew it.

For once Paddy is not exaggerating. It is probably the most important thing that has happened to him as the break with his friends is nudging him towards adulthood, just as the absence of his father is pushing him in to the role of the ‘man of the house’. Paddy is beginning to realise that he is on his own.

At the beginning of the novel he describes the joy of his life with his friends

We walked; we ran; we ran away. That was the best, running away. We shouted at watchmen, we threw stones at windows, we played knick knack – and ran away. We owned Barrytown, the whole lot of it. It went on forever. It was a country.

But Paddy cannot run away anymore. He is losing control of his country. Just as the city is encroaching on Barrytown with the building of new estates and new people moving in. so too is reality encroaching on his life. Friendship doesn’t last forever, neither does marriage and the violence that has escalated within his relationships confirms his isolation.

Paddy Clarke –
Paddy Clarke –
Has no da.
Ha ha ha!

I didn’t listen to them. They were only kids.

Paddy may feel that he has gone beyond his friends, but the truth of the matter is, he is only a kid too. Paddy may inch grudgingly towards adulthood, but he remains 10 years old until the end.

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When Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won the Booker Prize in 1993, some critics saw it as a dumbing down – a populist choice written by that comic writer who wrote The Commitments, but Doyle’s exquisitely written novel is so much more than that. It is a devastating lament for the innocence and ignorance of childhood, in which form, structure and language all work in harmony to create a tour de force.

Paddy Clarke is an unforgettable character and Roddy Doyle is a master storyteller.

Read On: Book
Number Read: 108
Number Remaining: 638

PicMonkey Collage

 

No 689 The Woman Who Walked in to Doors by Roddy Doyle

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I thought I knew Roddy Doyle and his work, but really, I didn’t have a clue.

The Commitments, The Van, and The Snapper – I had read and enjoyed them. Everyone in Ireland did in the late 1990s. The movie adaptations were fun. The warm hearted, foul mouthed family focused characters were the stock in trade of this successful writer who was the first Irishman to win the Booker Prize. I should have spotted the clues though. The humour in his books often masked a pain, or came with a jag. The laughter hid the tears. Family, the stunning four part television series he created in the ‘90s should have been another clue. This tale of a dysfunctional family with an abusive father was must watch television in Ireland and hinted at the dark corners of life that Doyle wasn’t afraid to look into and served as a precursor to this book.

The Cast of 'The Family' from the RTE Stills Library

The Cast of ‘The Family’ from the RTE Stills Library

(If you are interested in watching Family, all four episodes are available on YouTube)

The clues were there but I didn’t believe that he could write a book that would devastate me with its brilliance, its searing power and its brutal honesty and that he could give one of the most clear sighted depictions of an abused, powerless, invisible woman. A woman who walks into doors…..

Paula Spencer, the titular woman, is a thirty-nine year old mother of four, a cleaner and an alcoholic. The police have just given her some news and as she tries to process a shocking turn of events, she looks back on her relationship with her estranged husband Charlo and the seventeen years he spent abusing her until she finally kicked him out. She attempts to find some meaning and even hope in her own thoroughly recognisable but wholly singular story of how the young smart happy Paula O’Leary became the beaten (literally and metaphorically) Paula Spencer.

As Paula tries to make sense of what has happened, she is faced with the difficulty of ever determining exactly how and why things occurred. She seems to rewrite her memory as a coping mechanism, or as an antidote to the life she has now. She is poignantly convinced that her father was essentially a good man who behaved the way he did because he loved his family and wanted to protect them. Yet her sister Carmel’s memories suggest that her father may not have been so different from her abusive husband. When Paula remembers something good, the weather is always sunny, but bad things happen when the weather turns. She also uses music as a trigger for her memories, but tellingly, no music is mentioned at all during the years when the abuse at the hands of the man who was supposed to love her is at its worst. She cannot trust her own memories, her own judgement, because look where it has landed her. Above all, she cannot trust herself.

His timing was perfect. The Rubettes stopped and Frankie Valli started singing My Eyes Adored You. He must have planned it. His arms went through my arms just as Frankie went My; his fingers were knitted and on my back by the time Frankie got to Eyes. He’d been drinking. I could smell it but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t drunk. His arms rested on my hips and he brought me round and round.

But I never laid a hand on you – my eyes adored you –

I put my head on his shoulder. He had me.

Doyle perfectly captures how trapped Paula is, how she is unable to reach out and get help. Complicity lies behind her guilt; complicity of those near her—the doctors, friends, family, and even her children—who will not acknowledge that something is wrong, that Paula is in over her head. Yet Paula also feels complicit too. There is a suggestion that Paula was a woman born into a specific time or place where little was expected of her apart from marriage and children. The bright happy girl changes as her society puts her in her place and reminds her that she is dependent on the benevolence of the men around her.

I don’t know how many times I heard those words of the next few years. Come on. It never stopped. Come on. You were a slut of you let fellas put their tongues in your mouth and you were a tight bitch if you didn’t – but you could also be a slut if you didn’t. One or the other, sometimes both. There was no escape; that was you. Before I was a proper teenager……I was a slut. My daddy said it, fellas said it, other girls said it, men in vans and lorries said it. My mammy called me in off the street.

Her world becomes defined by the men around her and there is a feeling that, Paula, a woman whose fate, like Charlos fist, was always coming for her and her options for avoiding it were limited.

It was always coming. Before that night; before we got married; before we met. That was Charlo.

Doyle’s use of language in the book pierces right to the heart of the situation. Sentences are short, dripping with vernacular and always to the point. There is no authorial voice to distance us from what is happening, there is just Paula.

Just this once. I’ll start again. I’ll pour the rest down the sink. I will….I’m in control. I’m crying. I’m shaking….Stop, calm down. You’ll drop the bottle. I’m blocking the light. Done it. Open. The bottle the bottle. I close over the door. I can’t be seen. Off with the top. Up to my mouth. Head back, down. I hate it I love it I hate it I love it I hate it I love it I love it I love it. I’m younger. I’m fit. I’m slim and warm. No more pain.

Doyle is also smart enough to keep the details of the abuse subtle until one devastating chapter. It is as if Paula hasn’t wanted to face it, but it all comes out in one frightening torrent. It’s a difficult chapter to read, it’s more frightening than most ‘horror’ books because this is what one human being can inflict on another. Another he claims to love. What Doyle captures best in this chapter is not the beatings and the abuse themselves, but the dread of them. The constant terrifying dread of violence that Paula lives with for seventeen years with no knowledge of what will set it off.

I was always to blame. I should have kept my mouth shut. But that didn’t work either. I could provoke him that way as well. Not talking. Talking. Looking at him. Not looking at him. Looking at him that way. Not looking at him that way. Looking and talking. Sitting, standing. Being in the room. Being.

For all its harrowing intensity, “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors” is a pleasure to read. It’s beautifully written, sympathetic and skilfully narrated. Doyle does not depict Paula as some perfect saintly woman. She hits her kids. She’s an alcoholic and some of her failures are her own fault, yet she always tries to do her best, and as a character she commands a certain grudging respect from the reader.

I never gave up. I always got up off the floor. I always borrowed a tenner till Thursday. There were always Christmas presents, birthday presents. They always had a Christmas tree. There was always some sort of food. I got between them and him. I guarded the fridge. I made ends meet.

I never gave up. I’m here.

I picked myself up. I washed the blood off my face. I put on the kettle.

Roddy Doyle Photograph: Mark Nixon

Roddy Doyle
Photograph: Mark Nixon

Doyle’s trademark chatty vernacular and magical storytelling are used to great effect in this book because his down-to-earth style makes the devastation of Paula’s life all the more wrenching. He writes about this woman’s experience with a rare perception and compassion with a frankness that is both shocking and recognisable – laying bare a wretched marriage that must mirror thousands of wretched marriages that are rarely acknowledged.

He loved me and he beat me. I loved him and I took it. It’s a simple as that, and as stupid and complicated. It’s terrible.

For all the pain in the book, Doyle finishes on a note of optimism, He gives us a glimmer of hope and reminds us of the strength that Paula doesn’t realise she has. He allows her heroine status for a moment, but trusts his reader to know that a change has been made, but a life has not been changed. The reality of Paula still exists;   she is an alcoholic, scrapping by, worrying about her drug addict son and putting her youngest child to bed too early so she can start drinking. Paula isn’t there yet. She hasn’t made it through just yet, but we can’t underestimate her.

The Woman Who Walked in to Doors is finally, an ode to all those women whose resilience allows them to survive and to carve out a comparatively safe place for themselves and their children as best they can.

That Roddy Doyle gave them such a heartbreakingly honest voice in the character of Paula Spencer is impressive. Actually, impressive doesn’t do it justice. I know Paula is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Read on: Book

Number Read: 58

Number Remaining: 688

Roddy Doyle Giveaway!

 

 

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If there’s one thing Roddy Doyle does brilliantly, it’s dialogue, so it’s no surprise that his Two Pints books have distilled his writing down to that bare minimum of speech.

Two Pints and Two More Pints started life as extended Facebook posts on Doyle’s page and have now been published in two slight books. They are essentially a string of conversations between two middle-aged men who, on various dates from 2011, sit on bar stools drinking their pints and having short, sharp conversations about their home, wives, kids, celebrities and whatever is in the news – all the while trying to make sense of the world from the wisdom of the bar stool.

Imagine Norm and Cliff from Cheers as imagined by Beckett but very, very funny and you’re part way there.

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All topics are covered – the financial crash; the deaths of celebrities like Whitney Houston, Robin Gibb and Donna Summer; Obama; the whereabouts of Colonel Gaddafi (a cleaner at Dublin airport apparently); the Olympic Games; football and George Clooney’s recent wedding.

29 September 2014
– Is it quiet in your house?
-Jesus, man. It’s like a morgue. A fuckin’ empty one.
-Same in my place. Have to be careful about every little fuckin’ thing.
-A pain in the hole.
-I even had to tell her the dinner was lovely – earlier, like.
-Wha’ was it?
-Can’t remember. But it was grand. So I wasn’t lyin’, but –
-Fuckin’ Clooney.
-Clooney.
-Wha’ the fuck was he doin’?
-What he’s done – what he’s after doin’ – it’s worse than fuckin’ climate change, so it is.
-Wha’?
-The world needs at least one good lookin’ bachelor that isn’t actually gay. A man who’s gettin’ better lookin’ as he gets older.
-You’ve given this some fuckin’ thought, haven’t yeh?
-Well, I’d nothin’ else to do an’ she was clutchin’ the remote like it was Clooney’s langer. So, yeah. The women need to know there’s always someone else – a bit better, like – out there.
-And now there isn’t.
-Exactly. Because tha’ fuckin’ eejit has gone an’ upset the natural order o’ things. Fuck knows what’s goin’ to happen now. War, famine –
-No ridn’.
-The end o’ the fuckin’ species.
-He’s a thoughtless prick, isn’t he?
-A bollix.

Dialogue has always been Doyle’s forte and he plays to his strengths in these collections which have the concision of poetry and the comic timing of a master. From world breaking stories to local Irish TV adverts, two years of news are distilled into the essence of comedy and told through a particularly Irish perspective.

If you’d like to win a hardback copy of Two Pints and Two More Pints just comment below or share this post on Twitter. The raffle will continue until Saturday at 6pm and I am happy to post worldwide! Unfortunately the Guinness can’t be included!

The Rules

1. Anyone can enter. You do not need to have a blog.
2. You need a post-office recognised address anywhere in the world, where you can receive packages.
3. Simply comment on this post, or share the post via Twitter to be entered. If you want to comment, but don’t want to win the books, just mention that below.
4. The giveaway will run until Saturday 7 March at 6pm. The winner will be picked using randompicker.com
5. I will notify the winner by email. The winner need to answer my email within 3 days, or I’ll announce a new winner.
6. The books will be posted at my own expense as soon as possible so please be patient if you are a winner outside of the UK!

Good luck and do check in later when I’ll be reviewing The Woman Who Walked in to Doors by Roddy Doyle.

Ireland Month – it’s nearly here!

It’s hard to believe it, but March is nearly here and that can only mean one thing, it’s time for some craic!

As of next Sunday, it will be Reading Ireland Month (or The Begorrathon, if you are so inclined!) and we will kick off a month long celebration of Irish books and culture.

ireland month

I’ve teamed up with Niall at The Fluff is Raging and we will be reviewing books and movies, talking about Irish things we love, looking at Irish people you didn’t know were Irish and generally avoiding any mention of Jedward…… 🙂

I found quite the stack of books by Irish authors in the 746, so I’ll be reviewing books by well know Irish authors like William Trevor, Edna O’Brien and Tana French and books by some not so well known, like Arlene Hunt and Leland Bardwell. I’ll be looking in depth at the rise of Irish Crime Fiction, and the work of women writers in Ireland.

Hand-That-First-Held-Mine

Anne Enright may have won the Irish Fiction Laureate last month, but she didn’t win Reading Roulette! There was only one vote in it, but this month’s poll was won by Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that Once Held Mine, so I’ll be squeezing that one in to the reading schedule too.

Keep your eyes peeled for giveaways galore – featuring books by Roddy Doyle, signed crime novels and bookish prints and tote bags.

green gift

Niall will be casting his critical cinematic eye over the best Irish movies out there, like In Bruges and Calvary and I can hazard a guess that Father Ted will make an appearance at some point.

Throw in some theatre reviews, interviews with leading Irish authors and Top Ten Lists and it promises to be a busy, entertaining month!

To join us, all you need to do is grab the pin and post it on your page, ‘like’ our Facebook page, use our hashtags #readireland2015 or #begorrathon2015, dig out a book or movie from Ireland and link up to our Master Posts from 1 March. Link to my page for book reviews, and to Niall’s for movie or television reviews and all other cultural posts.

So pour yourself a pint of Guinness, a tumbler of Jameson, or just a cup of Barry’s Tea and enter the magical, lyrical cultural landscape of Ireland.

Have you made any Ireland Month plans yet? Have you picked out some books or compiled your Top Ten Liam Neeson Screen Moments List? I really hope you’ll join us, sure it’d be no craic without you!