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Oh, Play That Thingby Roddy Doyle
Synopses & Reviews
Henry Smart is on the run. Fleeing from his Republican paymasters, the men for whom he committed murder and mayhem, he has left behind his wife, Miss O'Shea, in a Dublin jail, and his infant daughter. When he lands in America, it's 1924, and New York is the center of the universe. Henry, ever resourceful, a pearl gray fedora parked on his head, has a sandwich board and a hidden stash of hooch for the speakeasies of the Lower East Side. When he starts hiring kids to carry boards for him, he catches the attention of the mobsters who run the district. It is time to leave, for another, newer America.
In Chicago there is no past waiting to jump on Henry. Music is everywhere, in the streets, in nightclubs, on phonograph records: furious, wild, happy music played by a man with a trumpet and bleeding lips called Louis Armstrong. But Armstrong is a prisoner of his color, and the mob is in Chicago too: they own every stage — and they own the man up on the stage. Armstrong needs a man, a white man, and the man he chooses is Henry Smart.
In Oh, Play That Thing, Roddy Doyle once again gives us a prodigious, energetic, sexy novel, rich with language and music and, as Henry makes his way across America, teeming with surprises. It is both a saga unto itself — full of epic adventures, breathless escapes, and star-crossed love — and a magnificent follow-up to A Star Called Henry.
"Doyle stumbles somewhat in this sequel to his excellent 1999 bestseller, A Star Called Henry. Beginning with Irish revolutionary Henry Smart's arrival in New York City in 1924, the story follows Henry's subsequent adventures in advertising, bootlegging, pornography, unlicensed dentistry and keeping ahead of the former associates who'd like to see him eat a lead sandwich. After encroaching too much on a mobster's turf — and getting lucky with another powerful fellow's kept lady — Henry hightails it to Chicago, where he becomes the unofficial manager of a young Louis Armstrong. Though serendipitously reunited with his beloved wife and the daughter he's never met while trying to rob her employer's house, Henry soon heads back to New York to help Louis make it big. While just as brash and lively as Doyle's earlier novels, this one isn't nearly as focused; the dialogue-heavy narrative is interspersed with shifts in setting, time and plot, and characters appear and disappear with little consequence, their spoken parts hasty, repetitive and often perplexing. Worse, Doyle takes Henry Smart's charm for granted; readers unfamiliar with his previous adventures may roll their eyes at his arrogance and incessant sexual encounters. There's just too much material; any of the novel's numerous strands could have been fleshed out into its own book. That said, the novel is still a lot of improbable fun. Agent, John Sutton." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Booker Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter Doyle displays his trademark sensitivity and wit in a tale full of adventure, passion, and prose as punchy as a Satchmo riff." Booklist
"A surprising amount of this nonsense is quite absorbing, because...Doyle is too lively and skilled a novelist to let it be otherwise. But Oh, Play That Thing is fatally overstuffed and chaotic. An uncharacteristic misstep in a brilliant writer's estimable career." Kirkus Reviews
"Written in a combo jazzed-up sassy poetry...Oh, Play That Thing tackles nothing less than what America was and what it meant to the surge of post-World War I and Depression-era immigrants." Chicago Sun-Times
The hotly anticipated follow-up to A Star Called Henry is a dazzling, rip-roaring, jazz-infused novel of America in the tumultuous twenties and thirties, that will take the literary world by storm.
Praised as “a masterpiece” by the Washington Post, A Star Called Henry introduced the unforgettable Henry Smart and left Roddy Doyle’s innumerable fans clamoring for more. Now, in his first novel set in America, Doyle delivers. Oh, Play That Thing opens with Henry on the run from his Irish Republican paymasters, arriving in New York City in 1924. But in New York, and later Chicago—where he meets a man playing wild, happy music called Louis Armstrong—Henry finds he cannot escape his past.
A highly entertaining cross-country epic and a magnificent follow-up to A Star Called Henry, this prodigious, energetic, sexy novel is another Roddy Doyle triumph.
About the Author
Roddy Doyle is the author of six previous novels, including a Booker Prize finalist, The Van, and a Booker Prize-winning international bestseller, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He has also written several screenplays and books for children.
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