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one city one book

Roddy Doyle's latest project was launched in the most fitting way

His Barrytown Trilogy will be part of a book initiative in Dublin next month.

Updated at 8.45pm

EXPECT TO SEE lots of people with their nose buried in a very big book next month: Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy.

You might have seen the films, but now is the chance to read the Commitments, the Snapper and the Van, three of Roddy Doyle’s best known works, in one tome.

The trilogy has been chosen as this year’s Dublin City Council’s Dublin: One City One Book, with April dedicated to all things Barrytown.

To hit that point home, today’s launch featured a chip van (inspired by the van), musical figures such as Niall Stokes from Hotpress (a nod to the Commitments) and even a plaque to the Snapper on the wall of the Rotunda.

“Its great, and they didn’t wait until I was dead, so I can enjoy the month,” said Doyle at the launch.

When asked if the themes and humour in his books are still relevant today, he said:

People still are unemployed, young kids still form bands. They still talk much the same way they used to – the city has changed, but it’s still the same place.
I find it extraordinary when people say ‘nothing’s the same any more’. I remember when I gave up teaching, within a couple of months people were saying, ‘it’s nothing like it used to be when you taught’. And it is. Yeah, things change, but things also stay the same.

Doyle noted that the books came out of a recession.

“I didn’t know it was a recession, we didn’t use the word back then,” he recalled. “It seemed like normal life in Dublin. And it was only in the 90s that we realised ‘oh, that was a recession’. I think hard times seem to give birth to good humour.”

The notion of people going around Dublin with their head in your book must be a great one for an author, but it’s not what drove Doyle to take part.

I’ve had those moments: The Commitments, when the film was released it broke box office records; when Paddy Clarke the novel won the Booker Prize; I was going around seeing people reading the books. I love the idea of people reading the book but I’ve been very lucky, I’ve been in full theatres listening to people laugh at my jokes.

He loves the idea of people reading the books, but describes it as “just kind of like gravy. I’ve had me dinner.”

Creating a legacy

Doyle became a huge name through his Booker Prize win and film adaptations of his work, and admits that this did make him consider the trajectory of his career.

“When I was younger and when the Commitments film came out in particular, I thought I might be cursed with this for the rest of me life, because people wanted just to talk about the Commitments, film producers wanted to meet me with the possibility of a sequel to the Commitments,” he said.

“But 25 years later I’ve written seven more novels since the Van, so I can look back on that now quite fondly and not worry. If the Commitments had been the only moment in my literary life, you could end up being a bit bitter, maybe.”

It’s nice, it’s relaxing. I can enjoy the reaction to books I’ve written years and years ago.

He may be laid-back about that, but Doyle isn’t letting go of all of his anxiety:

“I’m still anxious when I work. That’s an important tool in any writer’s life – if you’re not anxious, it’s probably crap you’re writing.”

“His books gave a voice to Dubliners”

Jane Alger of Dublin: One City One Book told that librarians in particular pushed for the the trilogy during the selection process.

“It was always going to be chosen at some stage, but two staff members in particular made a very strong pitch.”

“His books gave a voice to Dubliners,” she said, saying Doyle dealt with issues like teenage pregnancy and unemployment in a “very positive, constructive way, but not in a preachy way”.

Dublin in the 80s was very grey, very sort of depressed. His books didn’t ignore that, but they were also a laugh. What also comes through in his books is the solidarity of the family.

A wealth of events have been planned to go along with the Dublin: One City One Book month, and the information can be found on the official website.

The Barrytown Trilogy is available in print, large print, audio CD and MP3 to borrow from libraries across Dublin.

Read: The Snapper has finally been commemorated with a good-sized plaque in Dublin>

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