Summary In Roddy Doyle’s novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, young Patrick is so distressed over his parents’ fighting with each other that he stays up all night trying to prevent their quarrels. Like many children whose parents break up, Patrick thinks he is somehow responsible, but he does not understand what is going wrong or why. He loves both of them, especially his mother. He acts out his anxiety over the discord between his parents by often getting into fights and by being mean and abusive to his younger brother. For awhile he thinks that if he were to run away, his parents would stay together.
He thinks of questions to ask them so they will talk to him and not fight with each other. But his father leaves for good, and Paddy is left with the teasing chant of his schoolmates: “Paddy Clarke, Paddy Clarke, Lost his Da, Ha, Ha, Ha.”Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” by Roddy Doyle Roddy Doyle is a master of describing the Irish. In this book he gives the word to a 10-year old boy, and never lets him down using a ‘von oben’ perspective. Doyle has captured the mind and thoughts, worries and happy moments of this young boy in a most astonishing way.
It makes me wonder if it really isn’t at least a half autobiographical book. Boys of that age can be really cruel, and Paddy Clarke is no exception. Teasing, bullying and fights are part of everyday life. It is a matter of survival, to never show any sign of weakness. But when there is trouble at home it isn’t always easy to be strong. Paddy tries his best to repair his parents’ marriage that is falling apart a little more each day.
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If he can stay awake all night they won’t fight… This book provides a close and unsentimental look at a young boy growing up fast, and it also gives a good look at Ireland through a 10-year-old’s eyes. Read it. You won’t be sorry.
Short Description Winner of the Booker Prize 1993 o Paddy Clarke, a ten-year-old Dubliner, describes his world, a place full of warmth, cruelty, love, sardines and slaps across the face. He’s confused; he sees everything but he understands less and less. PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA, Roddy Doyle NOTES General o The story of a boy growing up in 1960 s working class Dublin… The boy’s family is central to his existence, yet his parents grow increasingly apart, bickering and fighting steadily; his father eventually strikes his mother and leaves soon after… Meanwhile, Paddy grows anxious, loses sleep, deliberately toughens himself and loses his friends… o Remarkable for its authentic “child’s eye” view of events…
o Themes: the loss of childhood innocence; the Family; the marvellous nature of a child’s imagination; the harshness of life and the cruelty of children (Lord of the Flies? )… Setting o Dublin, Ireland, the 1960 s (references to George Best; The Man from U. N. C.
L. E. ; the Cuban missile crisis; etc. )…
Barrytown, a working class suburb: some families, like Paddy’s, own their own houses and uses terms like “drawing room”; others live in more modest rented Corporation houses and talk about the “television room.”.. Most children attend local schools; a few attend privileged schools elsewhere… o The setting is reflected in a lot of local slang: gick, eccer, spa, mickey / diddy , matching etc. o New estates and roads are being built, gradually erasing the fields and farms where Paddy and his friends once played…
(A metaphor that mirrors the breakdown of Paddy’s family? ) o The Catholic church is a dominant influence: Paddy makes home-made communion hosts and aspires to be an heroic missionary like Father Damien; the house has a picture of the Sacred Heart; exclamations frequently refer to Jesus or a saint; Paddy thinks about mortal / venial sins and worries about purgatory. Point of view o The narrator is Paddy Clarke. He generally speaks in the short, simple sentences of a child: “My da’s hands were big. The fingers were long. They weren’t fat.” The syntax is hardly ever complex. The lexis is generally simple too.
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There is a lot of dialogue. o On the other hand, when Paddy recounts stories or facts he has read, his language often reflects the complexity of the original text (for example, in the Father Damien story, “The bishop was pleased and edified by the bravery of his young missionary”).
o The narrative is not linear. It moves around unpredictably like a child’s thought processes. One moment, Paddy is describing a row between his parents; the next, he is reciting unconnected facts about the inventor of television, capitals of countries, the 1936 Olympics etc.
o The novel is full of chants and songs (including the poignant “Paddy Clarke/ has no da/ Ha ha ha”) that reflect a child’s fascination with the power of words. There is a memorable scene in which Paddy and friends dance around a fire, chanting odd-sounding or obscene words in a ritualistic manner. Paddy wonders why a drawing room is not a room where people draw things… Irish is used quite a lot in school, reflecting national pride… o Paddy is evidently intrigued by contrasts between his own family and others, especially the fact that some school friends have no mother. His fascination with incomplete or dysfunctional families implies how important his own “complete” family is to his sense of identity.
o Paddy is an eavesdropper on the growing conflict between his parents. He does not fully understand what he observes. He believes that he can control the situation by means of willpower (“-Stop. There was a gap.
It had worked; I’d forced them to stop.” ) Tone o The dominant tone for about 200 pages or so is one of delight in in mischief, in language, in knowledge. A child is learning about the world. o Towards the end, however, a more serious, anxious, tense tone enters the narrative (“They were fighting all the time now. They said nothing but it was a fight… The silences were worst, waiting for it to start again, or louder.” ).
The tone becomes especially painful as Paddy becomes aware of his loneliness and tries to understand the disintegration of his parents’ relationship: “Why didn’t Da like Ma? She liked him; it was him didn’t like her.
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What was wrong with her?” o The conclusion of the novel is very understated. Paddy sees his father hit his mother. His mother composes herself and speaks kindly to Paddy. Paddy Sr tries to act as if nothing has happened. Paddy speaks politely to both parents (“Thank you very much.” ).
His father leaves home the same day.
When his father returns around Christmas, Paddy speaks to him again in the formal tone (“Very well, thank you.” ) which has become his defence against the harshness of life. ANALYSING THE NOVEL 1. Read the first few pages of “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.” Then read the first few pages of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Both books are about childhood, yet the styles are very different. Comment on: o point of view (child’s? adult’s? na ” ive / sophisticated ? ) o diction o syntax (Note examples to support your comments.
) 2. What is the most distinctive aspect of Roddy Doyle’s writing? In other words, how is it different from most other novels you have read? 3. Make some notes on each of the following: o The SETTING (decade + contemporary references, geographical setting, social setting) o The MAIN CHARACTERS – especially Paddy and his family (Comment on: personality / interests /views; relationships (to individuals / society ); heroes / heroines ; socio-economic status; aspirations) o The PLOT – The novel does not have a conventional “Exposition >>> Climax >>> Resolution” structure. You might be tempted to say that it does have a plot.
Comment, however, on the plot going on in the background, which Paddy only gradually becomes aware of. (How does Paddy’s physical environment change while these other, emotional changes are occurring? ) 4. a) How would you describe this novel? (Comic? Tragic? Tragi-comic? A novel about the disintegration of a marriage? A novel about a child’s perception of adult events? Something else? ) Explain. b) What is the theme of the book? (As you think about this, you will need to decide whether Doyle has presented Paddy’s father in a sympathetic light, or as a villain. ) 5.
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What kind of adulthood would you predict for Paddy Clarke? (“Ha Ha Ha” or “Boo Hoo Hoo”? ) 6. Building on your notes in No. 1 above, what are the similarities and differences between this novel and Maya Angelou’s autobiography? Frankie Meehan Roddy Doyle, Unleashed Dave Which, Powells. com Roddy Doyle writes like nobody’s business. Each of his titles, from The Commitments (Doyle’s debut) to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, has earned both critical and popular acclaim. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, his funny, pitch-perfect perspective of a Dublin ten year old, won the 1993 Booker Prize.
Now, in A Star Called Henry, he’s upped the ante tenfold, producing some of the most aggressive prose you ” re ever likely to read. Henry’s father’s flight, a mere sixty pages into the book, is one of the great narrative achievements of recent years. But for all Doyle’s narrative acrobatics, his amazing new novel is, more than anything, an enthralling, spilling-over-its-sides story. On page one, Henry Smart introduces himself through the eyes of his pregnant, soon-to-be-mother – right away, Doyle catches us off guard. Compared by some to the expansive fictions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Star Called Henry presents the years leading up to and following the 1916 Easter Rebellion in a wickedly crooked, dramatic light perfectly suited to the subject. Henry Smart is a big character, bigger than life.
“I’ve always tried to make sure that everything that was said and done could, in fact, happen,” Doyle explained. “This time around I didn’t give a toss.” A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle Your Price: $5. 00 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle Your Price: $5. 95 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies The Commitments by Roddy Doyle Your Price: $7. 95 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies The Van by Roddy Doyle Your Price: $6. 50 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle Your Price: $5.
00 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies Charming Billy by Alice McDermott Your Price: $5. 50 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies Birds of America by Lorrie Moore Your Price: $6. 50 (Used – Trade Paper) More about this book/ check for other copies Dave: I read that the new book is the first of a new trilogy. Doyle: Yeah, well, I’m not committed to the idea of a trilogy. I gave it the general name, The Last Roundup, but somewhere or other, maybe on a press release, somebody called it a trilogy. But I don’t know if it will be.
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I’d be happy if it was. When I sat down to write A Star Called Henry, I thought I was going to write one book, but it just got longer and longer, and I didn’t want the length to become an obsession. I thought, if I divide the story into self-contained pieces, people can appreciate Star Called Henry and not have to wait for the next installment, which could be half a decade away. I wanted the freedom to take Henry’s life as far as seems right and as far as seems creatively possible – so it could be three books; it might be four; it might be two. I could be hit by a truck and it could be one. The first trilogy wasn’t a planned trilogy at all.
It happened to end up as three books, which then got called The Barrytown Trilogy. There’s no point in fighting it, but I would have thought a trilogy had to be planned. I don’t know. But there’s no point touring the world saying, “No, it’s not a trilogy.
It’s just three books.” Dave: There’s so much in A Star Called Henry. To finish it and realize that Henry’s only twenty – it’s as if he’s lived five lives already. Doyle: Which is another good reason for breaking it up. No matter how good the writing, I think, you couldn’t sustain that pace. You would have had to yawn a bit after a while. “Oh, Jesus, not more adventures of Henry Smart.” I’d have felt that way; presumably the reader would have felt that way.
There’d be just too much to take in. There are hints that he gets out of Ireland and comes to America. And as he’s getting older, in a new place with a new geography, new confrontations, that’s a new book. It would be very hard to do that within the covers of the same book.
Dave: Henry alludes to the Utah desert and Chicago. I don’t know where you are in terms of writing the next installment… Doyle: I started it last November. Dave: So is it set in America? Doyle: It starts in Chicago. Dave: What’s that like for you, working with an American setting? Doyle: It’s a bit scary. But when you ” re not working to a strict deadline, that tempers the scariness somehow because the consequences are a long way off.
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You can do plenty of rewriting and lots of research; you get people to read it and offer any advice that they can. One thing I found quite liberating – although a little bit disappointing – was I went to Chicago, on the south side, in June, to see if any of the old jazz clubs were still around. I was very keen to see what Henry would have seen as he’d stood outside, under the awnings. But all the jazz clubs that were along State Street, they ” re all gone; every one of them’s gone. There’s one that’s still standing – it was, originally, The Sunset Cafe, where Louis Armstrong played – but now it’s a hardware store.
The Vendome Cinema, where he used to play during the intermissions, is now a parking lot for the local college. That I found upsetting. But on the other hand it was very liberating because in its absence I can invent. There’s nobody to say, “That wasn’t there!” Well, I know, but it doesn’t matter.
I can start inventing. Dave: I’d assume that most of the historical information in A Star Called Henry would be more commonplace to an Irish or British reader than to an American audience. Doyle: In some ways, I think you’d be quite mistaken. The level of knowledge might be higher – or broader, probably – in Ireland, but not particularly. The War of Independence and its consequences, up until recently, it had kind of disappeared off the list of things to talk about. When one delves into Irish history, particularly in the twentieth century, you can’t help but have the feeling you ” re actually reading current affairs.
A lot of the posturing and the vocabulary is the exact same. It becomes a bit depressing. The inheritors of the ideas that were given flesh in 1916 – these are the men who planted bombs in restaurants; these are the men who knee-cap teenagers because they won’t kowtow to what, to them, is acceptable behavior. That brings an ugliness into it which most people aren’t comfortable with in conversation. Outside of academic circles, there hasn’t been much about it until just recently when things have happened in the North to shake up that old fundamental hatred. People are now more open to looking at this.
That’s one of the reasons why the new book was so warmly received back home in Ireland, I think. The element of storytelling, using real history to tell a story – I think that intrigued a lot of people. But probably to the average American reader there’d be more that was familiar than to the average British reader, for example. Dave: When was it published in Ireland? Doyle: Where am I now? What day is this? The fourth of October? It came out about six or seven weeks ago. Dave: Has there been any kind of divided reaction from the different parts of Ireland? Doyle: No, not that I know of, but I’ve only been home five days in the last five or six weeks, so I feel a bit out of touch. I found an Irish Times in the shop just below the hotel and dashed back to the room to read it only to discover it was a week and a half old.
Even with the Irish Times web site, it’s hard to keep in touch. But when I did my readings in Belfast and Cork and Dublin, there had been a very enthusiastic first response – and the best reviews I’ve ever gotten, which doesn’t measure a book’s success, by any means, but it’s one thing. A couple of the tabloids had shock horror stories about me mocking the heroes of 1916. But when it came to the events I expected at least one person – not necessarily in Belfast, but maybe in Cork or Dublin – to stand up and give out, but there was no one. Dave: How do you see your writing having evolved into this book? Doyle: It’s a gradual process. It could never have been a first or a second book.
I suppose what I was doing was reacting to the last book, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, which was the most difficult thing I’ve written. I was a thirty-nine year old woman as I was narrating that book. Every word was a terror – I thought the man in me would take over – anything to do with sex or fantasy. Even when she was describing her alcoholism. I’m not an alcoholic, but I enjoy a drink, and I can imagine the few steps to needing it. I found that easy enough, but then I had to take into account the gender.
As a man, you can be drunk and alone in a pub and nobody will comment on it. There are very few places in Dublin where you’d see a drunk woman by herself. It’s a shock. One expects the man to fall over, but not the woman.
I thought, probably the woman who are drinking are doing it in private. This time around I wanted freedom. I was very happy with Woman Who Walked Into Doors, but I wanted to make reality wobble a bit this time, to see it through a distorting glass. I wanted impossible things to mix with possible, real and fictional people to shake hands. Not to trivialize it, but I wanted to have fun. I wanted to go over the top.
For instance, the descriptions of his physical prowess are way over the top, and deliberately so. Mixing his grandmother in there, learning to read at the moment he was born – in that way it was a departure from what I’d been doing in the past. I’ve always been a slave to realism. I’ve always tried to make sure that everything that was said and done could, in fact, happen.
This time around I didn’t give a toss. Dave: Do you find it ironic at all that the short summaries of this book, the ones that don’t get far past its surface, are calling it “Historical Fiction,” and yet you ” re explaining how this was a chance for you to take a step away from realism? Doyle: It is ironic and it’s not. I can see why it’s being called that. We all need labels, convenient words to bandy around. “Historical” isn’t a word I can dispute; it’s packed with history. It’s crammed with angry opinion – opinion that I wouldn’t not share with Henry, if that makes grammatical sense.
When I was describing his childhood, I wanted it to be a really roaring race of a read, but also, I wanted to capture the relative poverty of the time, the direness of it, the awfulness of it. To an extent, I wanted to suggest why there was an independence movement in the first place, without saying, “That was why… .” What I find interesting about the reaction to the book is how many people are seeing different books. It’s a love story for some people.
It’s a damning indictment of the modern Irish state for others. A Bonny and Clyde on a bike for others. That I like. I suppose because there’s so much in there, people can choose what they find most memorable. That’s what been the most gratifying. Dave: That’s what I meant when I said it’s incredible to realize he’s only twenty at the end.
For instance, you ” re only about fifty or sixty pages into the book when his father disappears, but his father is one of the main characters. Doyle: Because his father is still a memory. Henry imagines him throughout. The first three books I wrote were fairly linear plots. They meandered a bit, but basically, they started at A and ended at C. Since then, I’ve become more experimental with plot.
There are different ways of bringing characters in, of inserting a piece of information. In The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, there are hints of things going wrong at the beginning which are revealed later on, by which time anybody reading with a certain care will know what’s going on – so it’s not a melodramatic moment when she’s hit the first time by her husband. As an analogy, the difference for me between a good film and a very good film is the quality of the walk-ons. If the same attention is put into the walk-on parts as the major roles, it can be a marvelous film.
These guys only have a line or two and they walk away, but you remember them. I tried to do that with everybody in this book. Even though Henry’s dad disappears, he’s a presence all the time. The mere fact that his leg is there with Henry until the end of the book. Granny Nash, I could have got rid of her quite early on, but she allowed me to give Henry the answers to mysteries that he couldn’t possibly have known. It doesn’t matter in the context of the book that it’s highly unlikely she’d have the answers – how would she? she’s in a room all day reading women’s fiction! – but within the context of the book it’s completely believable.
Initially, when I sat down to write the book, I didn’t see her going much further than that early wedding scene. But having decided to make her read, I got the notion of having her read virtually everything she could, then gradually the notion of Henry having to rob virtually every book written by a woman in virtually every house in Dublin. The idea of letting her learn to read at the moment of his birth was pure comedy, and boastfulness on his part, and went on to become an important part of the plot. Dave: At what point did you decide Henry was going to tell his own story? Doyle: From the very beginning.
Dave: Did it take a while for you to figure out how that was going to happen? Doyle: I plan as I go along. I don’t plan the book and then sit down and write it. I wouldn’t be physically capable of doing that, or I wouldn’t have the patience. Part of the challenge is to get in there as far as you can and put a certain shape on it. It’s a lot of work, a lot of rewriting. And very frustrating days.
There are times when I don’t go forward at all. I’m just trying to make it all knit together. I don’t know where the decision to start off with his parents came from, really. What normally happens is when I start a book I go into it very vaguely. I start off and I get to know the characters a bit. Generally, the first thirty or forty pages that I write end up in the bin because they ” re not doing anything.
They ” re dull; there’s no point. I think that happened. I began to pare down the nonsense, and I gradually came across this couple. And because this narrator knew more than the average narrator could possibly know, I liked the idea of him almost being present when his parents met. When the book starts, the mother’s already a ruin, there on the steps looking up at the stars. I like that kind of storytelling, plunking something there, then doubling back.
But it’s very hard for me to pinpoint when that became apparent. There’s an awful lot of rewriting. With this book, I stopped at what was now about half-way, after the 1916 rising. I stopped for a couple of months and just put that section of the book into proper shape before I moved on. So I would know at least what I had on my hands.
People ask me how many drafts I do. Some pages it’s one. Others it’s twenty-seven. Dave: You ” ve got your “Vote Music” pin on. Doyle: I was given it on Saturday, yeah. Dave: This book, Paddy Clarke, certainly The Commitments…
in all your stuff, music plays a prominent role, and yet, other than The Commitments, they ” re not about music at all. Doyle: In The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, music allowed me, without getting boring and pedantic, to put a kind of date on her life. Her first slow dance with her husband is Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You.” Immediately, you ” re back there somewhere in that mush that was the mid-seventies. Also, her favorite musician is Van Morrison.
She obviously loves the music. But after she was hit, there was none. She talks about the soundtrack of her life, but there’s none for the nineteen eighties. Nothing. She was on the floor, basically, and getting up off the floor.
The music works in different ways, according to each book. It’s country and western for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. This book, there are really two things that drag the music into it. One was my decision to use Piano Annie and the piano of the spine, Henry’s spine – or any other spine she’s working on.
She wanted a piano, but she also wanted escape; she wanted out of there. I was very keen to get across the notion that even way back then people were listening to and singing American music. They were listening on their old gramophones to American music, often sung by John McCormack and other Irish singers, but it was essentially American music. Another reason why there’s music was the use of the ballad as propaganda.
That’s what sucks Henry into the second half of the War of Independence: hearing his name in a song that doesn’t exist. They were brilliant propagandists. They would grieve at the death of a friend – like Thomas Ashe, who died while being force-fed. They genuinely grieved, but they’d have the sheet music on the streets within hours of his death.
They were brilliant propagandists. So that comes into it, as well. Going back to a time when sheet music was sold on the street. That’s how the money was made. I wanted to capture that.
In The Van, there isn’t that much music, but what’s there is escapist. Light pop: The Beach Boys and things like that. What gave me that idea – do you know that film, Michael Moore’s documentary, Roger and Me? The guy, Rivet head, he’s talking about being laid off, how after losing his job he was driving home and The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice came on the radio. How that song was used in the film, it was a perfect counterpoint. A glorious and fantastic song, then bang! – the reality of a middle-aged, working class life. Dave: Hearing you talk just a bit about Chicago, I’d imagine that music would play a big role in the next book.
Doyle: To put it mildly, a very important part. It’s strange how in The Commitments, both Joey the Lips and Jimmy Rabbit te tear jazz apart, and here I am now when I’m working at home, listening to it all day, every day. I don’t want to give anything away, but essentially, when he hears this music, he feels he’s being baptized. He’s new. He feels he’s gotten away from Ireland.
He’s gotten away from the misery of it all and he’s listening to this glorious celebration. Dave: As a writer becoming more fascinated by jazz music, does that parallel a movement in your own writing away from anything linear, structurally? Doyle: No, in fact, these books are generally quite old-fashioned. It messes around, but instead of A-B-C-D it might be A-D-B-C. Essentially, it’s going in a straight line. This one isn’t as adventurous as either of my previous two books in terms of the plot, I don’t think.
Then, you know, there’s jazz and there’s jazz. Louis Armstrong singing Saint James’s Infirmary – it’s the Blues as much as it’s jazz. It’s the late 1920’s. It’s not John Coltrane or Charlie Parker, people like that. The people who went to those clubs to dance weren’t going there to hear the absence of melody. Dave: That was years away.
Doyle: It was, thank Christ! Because there’d be lots of empty pages in the book, otherwise. No, I’m not trying to write a jazz novel. I won’t even read any. Dave: What do you read? Doyle: I don’t read enough. I’d love to read more. Time is the enemy, you know? In my free time, it’s fiction that I read, usually novels.
I have to do a lot of reading for research now, as well. I’m going to be reading a good deal of Charles Bukowski in the next few months because I’m going to do an Introduction to a British edition of one of his books. I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov because I haven’t read a good, long nineteenth century classic in a good while, and I thought, seeing as I’m going to be in planes an awful lot the next few weeks, I might as well do it. It’s my goal to have it finished by the time I land in London.
I just might make it. I recently finished Charming Billy by Alice McDermott, which I thought was wonderful. And Birds of America by Lorrie Moore, which was marvelous, as well. I also recently read an old book which is out of print called Chicago by Studs Terkel.
That would be part research and part pleasure because I love his work. Dave: A Star Called Henry is filled with some very violent scenes. Paddy Clarke is violent, too, but in a very different way. I’d read it years ago, and rereading it, I felt that it was one of the most subtly achieved powerful endings I’d ever read. Doyle: Thank you. Dave: It’s little things, like when they light Sinbad’s mouth on fire.
Around sixty pages later you say something in passing about how his lips look. All of a sudden, as a reader, you realize he’s still suffering from that. Page by page, that felt like one of the least linear things I’ve read. Doyle: That’s the challenge, trying to capture the world of a ten year old kid.
If it works, it’s because every word he gives us is true, dead and earnest. The violence was easy to achieve in some ways. It was a gradual process, remembering what it was like to be a kid at ten or thereabouts. The freedom, but also the fear. The gang: one would never be a leader, but one had to make sure one was close enough to the leader to avoid being hammered.
It came back quite clearly to me. If I feel guilty at all about things in my life, it’s that I used my humor maliciously a lot when I was a kid, in some ways to save myself. I was never a fighter and never going to be. I used to compose silly songs about people, give them nicknames, things like that. When I came around to writing the book, I began to imagine how they must have felt.
But you move on, you know. I think it would be ludicrous for me to hunt down a forty year old man with four children to apologize for a rhyme I wrote about him when he was eight; we’d both be equally embarrassed by it. Gradually, it came back. That book took a year and a half. There wasn’t much in the first half of that time.
It was very slow. The biggest achievement of that book was putting it all together because it was all sorts of little episodes. I knew there was a shape, but I couldn’t find it. It took a long time, putting pages together. I was trying to capture a different kind of link. It wasn’t a logical one, not in the adult sense.
It was a bit like subtle film editing. I was doing that a lot more than I had in the past, constantly going over things again and again. I’ve told people that a good day’s work is often a page. That’s because I spend a lot of my day going over other pages. Dave: You can feel that reading it. Because it’s not as if you took a bunch of fragments, tossed them in the air, and laid them out into the book randomly.
Any particular passage in the book contains bits from three different strains of the novel – which is where I thought it became more effective, more true to the unpredictability of a ten year old’s mind, more of a craft. One of the reasons I liked the ending so much was that you avoided all the easy cliches. You see Patrick’s loss in those moments, but looking forward – reading between the lines, what you don’t say – there’s a lot of hope. It’s balanced in a very credible way. Doyle: I think all the books have that to a certain extent, they show a certain resilience.
Part of the human package is loss. We can try to protect our children as much as we can, but that would be the biggest loss of all in some ways; you’d end up with them in the chicken coop – becoming chicken. An essential part of living is that loss, fear and cruelty, confronting it and triumphing over it. It seems like there’s a balance that has to be achieved, a certain protection, but letting-go at the same time.
He’s unleashed into the world just a little bit early. It’s no tragedy, though. Parental breakdown, it’s sad, but it’s so common. Most people survive it quite intact. And other than that, he’s just growing up. So the drama had to come from somewhere else.
Dave: Will Miss O’Shea be back? Doyle: I’m not telling you that. No, I can’t tell you that. It would be a mistake for me to say who will and won’t be back. Sometimes I have fixed plans and they don’t work out. It sways away from the original intention.
The book you read is not the one I sat down to write in many ways. That’s the same with everything I’ve done. Dave: That’s why I asked about the trilogies. If you ” re sitting down with a vision that far ahead – it just seems like such a long way ahead to be thinking. Doyle: It is. I had a vague idea about the last one.
And I know how the second one will end, vaguely. My hope is that when I get to the end of the second one, the third one will begin to take some kind of shape. But if it doesn’t, I’m fucked. I’ll be hoping that a truck hits me! Dave interviewed Roddy Doyle on October 4, 1999 prior to his reading here in Portland. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle Seeker And Warburg, London, 282 Pages, $24. 99 Reviewed by Cynthia Flood Slum scum (his ma smacked Paddy for saying that).
Gorillas in Vietnam. Brilliant. Gick. Knick-knocking. Diddy. Mickey.
Grand. gulliver, jelly, spa. Geronimo. The thicks’ class.
Dis you do the eccer? Will we be in the war? Trellis trellis trellis! Bucko bucko bucko! Substandard substandard substandard! Did you hear about the leper gambler? He threw in his hand… Weird words for weird worlds in Ireland and beyond, all open for discovery by young Paddy Clarke. Doyle, author of The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van, starts off his novel with “we were coming down our road.” There’s the faintest echo of a tale told by another Irish child, in which the moscow comes down along the road to baby tuck oo. If it were possible for these fictional children to meet, Doyle’s hero would be a fine companion for Joyce’s Stephen. Paddy has a similar love for language, philosophical curiosity, and sensitivity to emotional atmosphere, but he has in addition a robust, wholehearted enjoyment of life lived here and now.
He would make solemn Stephen laugh and laugh, just as he does the readers of this fine book. Ten in 1968, Paddy lives in suburban Barrytown with ma and da. Both love him deeply, and to him they are certain and wonderful. He has an awful but essential younger brother Sinbad (really Francis), and two baby sisters who hardly count, although putting their boiling wet nappies through the mangle is fascinating.
A tight cadre of friends surrounds Paddy for all his waking hours. Together they roam the neighbourhood. They fight, insult, harass, explore, attack, race, build, mock, destroy, laugh, scream, burst into tears. They also go to school.
As his child-time passes, each of Paddy’s three great worlds — home, community, and classroom — is in movement. Such is the skill of Roddy Doyle’s first-person narration, however, that readers often hear the grinding of the continents long before the boy does. His parents’ marriage is dying. Bewilderingly, da no longer loves ma, hits her, hits her again.
Paddy feels terror, responsibility, and helplessness because he can’t make Sinbad understand that when their parents are silent they are fighting. Also, new construction in his suburb makes Paddy’s mountains and tunnels and muddy caves disappear: Our territory was getting smaller. The fields were patches among the different houses and bits left over where the roads didn’t meet properly. They ” ve become dumps for all the waste stuff… good for exploring but bad for running in. And at school, boys and masters alike, and Paddy too, fail and lie, betray and fear.
A child drowns. Paddy’s friends do not understand his family’s pain. Some acts of enjoyable cruelty do damage that brings wakefulness in the night. Gradually or with sudden power, these changes in Paddy’s worlds generate a past for him, a past as irrevocable as it is loved. All this is an old old tale — shades of the prison-house begin to close, etc. — yet the voice has such verve and intensity that the story reads as new.
Roddy Doyle’s diction, a wonderful blend of present child and retrospective adult, engages the reader’s every sense: You could see the track-marks of Tootsie’s fingers in the cream on the cakes on the tray on the fridge behind the counter. The cream was yellow, hard and permanent. The fridge was small and fat, for ice-pops and blocks of ice-cream. I crept behind the counter and pulled out the plug… St. Peter kept falling asleep but I didn’t, not even once.
I made a corner in the bed, and sat up in the dark. I stopped myself from slipping under the blankets. I hit my head off the wall. I pinched myself; I concentrated on how hard I could go.
I went to the bathroom and threw wet on my pyjamas so I’d be cold. I stayed awake. The cock crew. There was no more fighting. I went up to my parents’ door and listened without breathing. I could hear my da’s sleep breathing and my ma’s — his noisy, hers trying to keep up.
I got away and took a breath, and then I started crying… Liam broke his teeth playing Grand National. It was no one’s fault except his own. They were his second teeth, the ones he was supposed to have for the rest of his life. He split his lip as well. — His lip’s gone! That was what it looked like when it happened.
The blood and the way he was holding his hand up to his mouth made it look like his whole mouth had been cut off… Blood, pain, mud, guts of rats, wrestling, throwing, smashing of glass, teeth, bricks, pride, bones — Paddy’s world is tough. Some of its toughness derives from class but also from gender. For a female reader, this one anyway, Paddy’s childhood might as well have taken place on another planet. I felt both appalled at the violence and envious of the freedoms, the physical risk-taking and exhilaration.
Yet this is no stereotyped portrait of brutal male youth, for these boys love each other. Similarly, Paddy’s home, though classically riven by male and female roles, is no simplistic gender battleground. Love lives there too. The nature of love puzzles Paddy. Where has his da’s love for his ma gone? What was wrong with her? Nothing. She was lovely looking, though it was hard to tell for sure.
She made lovely dinners. The house was clean, the grass cut and straight and she always left some daisies in the middle because Catherine liked them. She didn’t shout like some of the other mas. She didn’t wear trousers with no fly.
She wasn’t fat. She never lost her temper for long. I thought about it: she was the best ma around here. she really was; I didn’t reach that conclusion because she was mine. His two friends, Liam and Aidan, have lost their mother.
Why does Paddy feel funny, in their house, seeing Liam sit in the mother’s place at the table? There were two other families with dead mas or das. The Sullivan’s had a dead ma and the Richards had a dead da. Mister Rickard had died in a car crash. Missis Sullivan had just died. And what exactly is it he feels for his little brother, so often the victim in the games he plays with his friends yet, increasingly, a person was that he was my little brother and that was all; I didn’t really hate him at all. Big brothers hated their little brothers.
They had to. It was the rule. But they could like them as well. I liked Sinbad. I liked his size and his shape, the way his hair at the back went the wrong way; I liked the way we all called him Sinbad and at home he was Francis. Sinbad was a secret.
Of course Paddy finds no answers; in fact, his story ends with “How are you?” , asked of his father, back on a visit to the family home. Paddy asks it with deep love. He has not, on his parents’s epa ration, been compelled to choose one and reject the other. His father’s humour, strength, and intelligence are clear to him and sustain him still, even though he knows that his father drank, hit, failed, lied to him about the autograph on George Best’s book. Paddy’s generous acceptance of such contradictions seems the central process of his wonderfully-told story, rich in amazement at the world and in humour. Ha Ha Ha indeed.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is this year’s winner of the Booker Prize. Cynthia Flood is the author of My Father Took a Cake to France. ABOUT THE BOOK Annotation In this national bestseller and winner of the Booker Prize, Roddy Doyle, author of the “Barrytown Trilogy, ” takes us to a new level of emotional richness with the story of ten-year-old Padraig Clarke. Witty and poignant — and adored by critics and readers alike — Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha charts the triumphs, indignities, and bewilderment of Paddy as he tries to make sense of his changing world. print.
From the Publisher It is 1968. Patrick Clarke is ten. He loves George Best, Geronimo, and the smell of his hot water bottle. He hates zoos, kissing, and the boys from the Corporation houses.
He can’t stand his little brother Sinbad. He wants to be a missionary like Father Damien, and he coerces the McCarthy twins and Willy Hancock into playing lepers. He never picks the scabs off his knees before they ” re ready. Kevin is his best friend.
Their names are all over Barrytown, written with sticks in wet cement. They play football, knickknack, jumping to the bottom of the sea. They shoplift. Robbing Football Monthly means four million years in purgatory. But a good confession before you died and you’d go straight to heaven. Paddy wants to know why no one jumped in for him when Charles Leave had been going to kill him.
He wants to stop his da arguing with his ma. He’s confused: he sees everything, but he understands less and less. From The Critics Publisher’s Weekly Winning the 1993 Booker Prize propelled Doyle’s fourth novel from its original spring publication to a December issue date. While retaining the candid pictures of family life, the swift, energetic prose, the ear-perfect vernacular dialogue and the slap-dash humor that distinguished The Van, The Snapper and The Commitments, this narrative has more poignance and resonance. Set in the working-class environment of an Irish town in the late 1960 s, the story is related by bright, sensitive 10-year-old Paddy Clarke, who, when we first meet him, is merely concerned with being as tough as his peers. Paddy and his best friend Kevin are part of a neighborhood gang that sets fires in vacant buildings, routinely teases and abuses younger kids and plays in forbidden places.
In episodic fashion, Doyle conveys the activities, taboos and ceremonies, the daring glee and often distorted sense of the world of boys verging on adolescence. As Paddy becomes aware that his parents’ marriage is disintegrating, Doyle’s control of his protagonist’s voice remains unerring, and the gradual transition of Paddy’s thoughts from the hourly-burly of play and pranks to a growing fear and misery about his father’s alcoholic and abusive behavior is masterfully realized. While some topical references may bewilder readers unfamiliar with life in Ireland, other background details — the portrayal of small-town society, of the strict teacher who shows sudden empathy for Paddy — have universal interest. Most notable, however, is the emotional fidelity with which Doyle conveys Paddy’s anguished reaction to the breakup of his family. (Dec. ) Library Journal Paddy Clarke is ten years old.
He lives with his ma and da, his younger brother Sinbad (”at home he was Francis”), and two baby sisters in the Dublin working-class neighborhood of Barrytown. Paddy spends his days with his friends Kevin, Aiden, and Liam, roaming local construction sites (it’s the late 1960 s, and suburbia is creeping over the Irish countryside), writing their names in wet cement, conducting Viking funerals for dead rats, and torturing Sinbad (”Big brothers hated their little brothers. They had to. It was the rule.’ ‘).
At night, Paddy listens vigilantly for the sounds of his parents fighting, whispering the magic word ”Stop” to end it.
Filled with the same earthy humor and pungent Irish dialog that marked Doyle’s earlier novels (The Commitments, Vintage, 1989; The Snapper and The Van, LJ 7/92), this book is also a vivid and poignant portrait of a little boy trying to make sense of the adult world. As Paddy Clarke himself would say, it is ” brilliant,’ ‘ well deserving of the 1993 Booker Prize. The U. S. publication date of this book was changed from April 1994 to December after it won the prize.
— Ed. — Wilda Williams, ”Library Journal” School Library Journal YA-A look at the daily exploits and thoughts of a 10-year-old Irish boy. As the story progresses, readers become more and more aware of the anguish that Paddy Clarke is feeling as he becomes conscious of the impending breakup of his parents’ marriage. They may find it disconcerting to see the pain he inflicts on others (preferably younger or weaker boys) for the sheer ”fun” of it and the dangerous antics of Paddy and his friends.
The novel is powerfully written and slowly draws readers into the protagonist’s complex personality. However, in spite of the critical acclaim the book has gotten, its lack of a straightforward plot and its violence and petty lawlessness to the exclusion of the character development may limit its appeal to YAs. -Shirley Blues, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA AudioFile – Julie A. Bell Roddy Doyle’s novel offers a ten-year-old boy’s impressions of friends, parents and school through colorful sketches and vivid images of Ireland in 1968.
Recounting Paddy’s adventures in the first person, the multi-faceted Aidan Gillen captures both the author’s literary voice and the eagerness of the boy telling the story. Wonder, curiosity and disbelief come through beautifully thanks to Gillen’s rhythmic, fast-paced, clear, Irish lilt. He is consistently successful with characters of both genders and several generations. This book is superb in audio because the experience of hearing Paddy’s accent, enthusiasm and boyishness brings his character to life. J.
A. H. An AUDIOFILE Earphones Award winner audiofile, Portland, Maine Carolyn See – The Washington Post A beautifully written book; it may be one of the great modern Irish novel. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha > Customer Review #1: “childhood lived, not just recalled… .” Roddy Doyle, whose novel, “The Commitments” was made into the famous hit movie in 1991, is one of those writers whose dialogue and observations put you in the protagonists mind. In Paddy Clarke, that mind is one of a ten year old working class Irish boy.
The winner of the Booker Prize, this little novel is sometimes wildly funny, poignant, and sometimes hard and frustrating at the same time. The author puts us into Paddy head and we are given a better understanding of the thrill of the harmless pranks, the concern of the need to “fit in” with the bigger boys, the frustrations of trying to understand why your parents no longer get along, and the gradual awareness of both self and others. Many of the reviews of this book repeat the theme of a “childhood lived, not just recalled”, and this is very accurate. This is not a book about an adult remembering the days, but an adult who has captured the voice of the child as he is experiencing his life every day. ^A Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha > Customer Review #2: Touching…
Roddy Doyle does an amazing job of staying in a childs perspective, while evolving the character, the child, into something more than a kid, and more of a person. The reader feels connected with Paddy, the main character, but at the same time feels sorry for him because the reader understands more of what Paddy is seeing. There are moments throughout the book that are poignant representations of childhood, that hold no nostalgia for Paddy, but the older reader can see traces of their childhood in them. All in all, a good, light read with strong emotions, though the first hundred pages or so are kind of uneventful. Stick with it – the middle, what Paddy goes through and how he changes, redeems it all.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha > Customer Review #3: Paddy Clarke is good. This book was an very good book. To relive your life as a ten-year old is amazing. The mindset of the book reminds the reader of things that they may have done when they were they younger. There were some confusing parts but it is easily understood if you think about it. The langauge is really funny since it is Irish and many of the words that they boys use are not used today.
I would not recommend reading this book in sections because it does get boring after a while. I would say read some pages and put it down until you want to read it again. There are no chapters in this book so you can stop whenever you want and pick it up at that same spot. Roddy Doyle does a good job of capturing the imagination of the ten-year old and does sibling and friend relationships at a young age.
Read the book and see if it grabs your attention because it surely did grab mine.