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The Deportees: And Other Storiesby Roddy Doyle
Synopses & Reviews
Eight funny and poignant stories of immigrant experience in contemporary Ireland.
The eight tales in Roddy Doyles first-ever collection of stories have one thing in common: someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live there. In "Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner," a father who prides himself on his open-mindedness when his daughters talk about sex is forced to confront his feelings when one of them brings home a black man. "New Boy" describes the first day of school for a nine-year-old boy from Africa; while in "The Pram," a terrifying ghost story, a Polish nanny grows impatient with her charge's older sisters and decides — in a new phrase she has learned — to "scare them shitless." In "57% Irish," a man decides to devise a test of Irishness by measuring reactions to three things: Riverdance, the song "Danny Boy," and Robbie Keane's goal against Germany in the 2002 World Cup. And in the wonderful title story, Jimmy Rabbitte, the man who formed The Commitments, decides that its time to find a new band — a multicultural outfit that specializes not in soul music but in the folk songs of Woody Guthrie.
This is classic Roddy Doyle, full of his unmistakable wit and his acute ear for dialogue. With empathy and insight, The Deportees and Other Stories takes a new slant on the immigrant experience, something of increasing relevance in today's Ireland.
"Doyle's dynamic first collection of short stories offers light and heartfelt perspectives on the effects of immigration on Irish culture. Originally serialized for a Dublin newspaper, all eight stories draw from the conceit of 'someone born in Ireland [who] meets someone who has come to live' there. The opener, 'Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner,' covers familiar ground — a self-proclaimed 'modern' father is taken aback when his daughter invites a 'black fella' to dinner — but Doyle's wry sense of humor saves the narrative from triteness. Fans of Doyle's previous work will revel in the title story, a follow-up to The Commitments that finds Jimmy Rabbitte masterminding a multicultural revival of Woody Guthrie music. The later stories find Doyle experimenting with different styles and voices: 'New Boy' charts an unlikely friendship between a nine-year-old African immigrant and two 'small, angry Irish boys,' while 'Black Hoodie' finds a timid, indifferent teenager discovering his passion for civil rights and a Nigerian girl. There are some abrupt endings that veer toward the convenient, though this may be an unavoidable consequence of their serial origins. Doyle's immense talent as a writer is neatly showcased throughout, and his sharp wit adds a richness to every tale." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In the mid-1980s, Roddy Doyle began publishing a trio of novels about the family of Jimmy Rabbitte Sr., a plasterer by trade who lives with his huge family in the fictional Dublin suburb of Barrytown and rather happily winds up on the dole. Like John Updike's Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, Jimmy Sr. is compellingly average. He is a loving dad and a good-natured chum when it's fair weather, and a petty,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) selfish jerk when a major crisis — a daughter's mysterious pregnancy in 'The Snapper,' a business venture turned sour in 'The Van' — comes along to upset the mundane equilibrium of his life. Where Jimmy Sr. is laid-back, his son is a live wire. Introduced in 'The Commitments,' Doyle's 1987 first novel and an instant classic, Jimmy Rabbitte Jr. assembles an Irish band to play American soul. For him, it's the music of a kindred spirit, one underdog wailing to another; James Brown's 'Night Train' might roll through Atlanta and Raleigh, but it also makes stops at Kilbarrack and Howth Junction. 'The Irish,' Jimmy proclaims, 'are the niggers of Europe.' Doyle notes in the foreword to 'The Deportees,' his first collection of stories, that he wouldn't use that line today, as modern Ireland has become home to thousands of Africans, and the country is flush with wealth. Also, there is 'no such thing as an unemployed plasterer,' and the ones with jobs hail from Eastern Europe. In these stories, all of which feature culture clash, Doyle offers himself as a one-man welcoming committee. Unfortunately, the collection is heavier on goodwill than on inspiration. Part of the problem is the short story form, which cramps Doyle's style. Also, for a book concerned with stereotyping, Doyle's black immigrants tend to be suffering martyrs who exist for no other reason than to contrast with their lunk-headed white neighbors. This problem becomes clear from the first story, 'Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner,' which feels as dated as the movie that inspired it, in which liberal-minded Spencer Tracy finds his daughter in love with Sidney Poitier. In Doyle's version, the dinner guest is a tall, handsome Nigerian, toughened by a lifetime of oppression, who calmly corrects the family's presumptions and silently shames the sad-sack dad into facing his prejudices. 'New Boy,' in which the immigrant elementary student Joseph is tormented by bullies, brings to mind the world of Doyle's fantastic 1993 bildungsroman 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha,' but it doesn't have anywhere near the same bite. Joseph, an innocent little lad who only wants to learn, is an angelic dullard. The title story is a lackluster mini-sequel to 'The Commitments.' Jimmy Rabbitte Jr. is once again putting together a band, a mostly all-black ensemble to cover old Woody Guthrie songs. Unfortunately, Doyle lays out more threads — Jimmy's wife's pregnancy with the couple's fourth child, a Nigerian immigrant boarder, a never explained series of racist phone calls — than he can adequately tie up. He then rushes the story to an early close. Several other stories, similarly, never get much more interesting than their original premises: In '57% Irish,' a bureaucrat devises a test to gauge physiological responses to Irish stimuli; in 'Black Hoodie,' a group of teenagers sets out to demonstrate how shoplifters can use prejudice to their advantage. It's not all bad news. The best story, 'Home to Harlem,' offers a unique perspective on national identity. Declan, a mixed-race student from Dublin, is in New York both to pursue a shaky graduate thesis on how the Harlem Renaissance 'had kick-started Ireland's best writing of the twentieth century' and to resolve the mystery of his American grandfather. Declan has a natural affinity for writers who are black or Irish, but he himself never feels sufficiently either. In America, he notes, you're still American whether you are 'an African-American or a Native American or a good American or a bad American.' The same rules don't apply in Ireland, where being black and from Dublin can make you less Irish in the eyes of some. In his novels, Doyle's characters range from those, like Jimmy Sr., who lack self-awareness, to those who have it in spades. But there's little such felt life behind the dreary saints and wind-up stick figures of these stories. Rodney Welch frequently reviews books for the Columbia, S.C. Free-Times." Reviewed by Rodney Welch, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Every selection reflects the author's mastery at creating authentic dialog and a realistic sense of place." Library Journal
"Doyle's work is purposefully rough around its edges, textured with authentic dialogue and sooty sentimentality." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Doyle's fiction has always been a rich mix of profane humor and poignant drama, and he hits that balance in miniature in these stories." St. Petersburg Times
"Just when it seemed that the only author left who gives a pig's whistle about writing superb short stories is Alice Munro, along comes Doyle with this superlative book of short tales to pick up the slack." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The stories take on different shadings...but they're uniformly infused with Doyle's infectious sense of humor and lovingly profane dialogue." Miami Herald
"[An] easy excursion into the new Irish culture, conveyed with Doyle's usual brilliant sense of originality, sly charm and wry wit." Seattle Times
"[A] worthy accomplishment." Christian Science Monitor
"Doyle's mastery of ordinary Dubliners' speech informs all these stories and lends them an urgent credibility." Los Angeles Times
The eight tales in Doyle's first-ever collection of stories have one thing in common: someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live there. Full of the authors unmistakable wit and his acute ear for dialogue, this collection takes a new slant on the immigrant experience.
Roddy Doyle has earned a devoted following amongst those who appreciate his sly humor, acute ear for dialogue, and deeply human portraits of contemporary Ireland. The Deportees is Doyle's first-ever collection of short stories, and each tale describes the cultural collision-often funny and always poignant-between a native and someone new to the fast-changing country. From a nine-year- old African boy's first day at school to a man who's devised a test for "Irishness"to the return of The Commitments's Jimmy Rabbitte and the debut of his new multicultural band, Doyle offers his signature take on the immigrant experience in a volume reminiscent of his beloved early novels.
About the Author
Roddy Doyle has written eight novels, including The Commitments, The Van, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, A Star Called Henry, and, most recently, Paula Spencer. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He has also written four screenplays as well as several stage plays and books for children and young adults, most recently Wilderness.
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