Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle  (1989, 141 pages)

If you want to learn about life of the ordinary person in Dublin, the ones who never really rode the Celtic Tiger, your best contemporary literary source for that just might be the novels of Roddy Doyle (Ireland, 1958).   I read five of his novels in 2012 and hope to read five more in 2013.

The Commitments is Doyle's first novel.  It is about a group of mostly young men from north Dublin who form a rock and roll band.  There is a quote on the back cover of the book saying it is the best ever rock and roll novel.  I have never read any other such works but I find this a very credible claim.   The story revolves around Jimmy Rabbitte Jr's progress in setting up a band.   He has a few friends who can play but he does not have every body he needs so he puts an advertisement for band members in the paper.    All sorts of people show up, including a fifty year old man who used to play with Otis Redding.   They want to have a soul band, playing the songs of Mo-Town singers likes James Brown.   Everybody in the band is  about thirty years younger than the older man, Joey the Lip and he guides them in the ways of Soul.   Jimmy also adds three girl singers to the group which adds some spice and some trouble when the lads all begin to fall for one of them.  They are all completely shocked to walk in on her and Joey the Lip in a passionate embrace.

This novel tells itself mostly through dialogue, which I really liked.   The conversations are just great.   There is a lot of alcohol consumed, some conflicts and turmoil.     Doyle really lets us see how getting started in a band in Dublin works.    He made me feel I was there in the band.   I think Joey the Lip made the novel for me!    
From the movie

The Commitments is the first novel in The Barrytown Trilogy which includes The Snapper, about the out of wedlock pregnancy of Jimmy's sister, and The Vans when we see the lads a bit older setting up a food van.  I have already started The Snapper and I really like it so far.  

The Commitments is a fast read.   I read parts of it on a long car ride and parts waiting around a government office.   It is very entertaining and the conversations, the lads do use a lot of what some would find offensive language but it seemed real to me.  


Kathleen Jones said...

It's one of my favourite novels and the film is completely true to the book and very, very, funny!

valerie sirr said...

My favourites of Roddy Doyle are 'Paddy Clarke ha ha ha' and 'The Woman who walked into doors'

Mel u said...

Kathleen Jones-am rereading your great biography of Katherine Mansfield

Valerie Sirr, I have read The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and hope to read Paddy Clarke ha ha ha in 2013.