‘Bullfighting’ by Roddy Doyle

Doyle, Roddy 2008

Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle, 2008

The magic trick:

Starting with middle-age men living out typical lives as husbands and fathers and gradually, scene by scene, pulling them farther and farther away from those lives and roles

I love the movie “The Commitments.” I like the novel The Commitments. I don’t much like this story.

For a writer who is so confident in his ability to write dialogue that he’ll let entire novels be carried almost entirely by conversation, the banter between the four friends in this story is pretty awful. They never talk about things we don’t understand. No inside jokes. No personal references. It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, let’s talk magic. It is interesting the way the story gradually pulls our four friends farther and farther from their nuclear family lives. It starts with fatherhood. Then we join them for bar night with the boys once a week. Then we take the party to Spain for a boys weekend. Finally, we reach the bullfighting ring. It’s a complete trip away from age 48 and back to the (relative) thrills of independent mid-20s. And that’s quite a trick on Doyle’s part.

The selection:

He went inside and, a minute later, Donal was listening to “The Love Cats.” Gerry came back with a pot of good, solid coffee. The other two got up. They chatted. They swam. They read. They ate some bread and cheese. They got bored with the Cure, so Gerry changed it to Echo and the Bunnymen. Donal was definitely getting an iPod. He’d forgotten these bands had existed.

—D’you remember Japan?

—They haven’t aged well.

—Have they not? What about Madness?

—Kids love Madness.

I love Madness. Talking Heads?

—They’re next.


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