The National Catholic Review
Tom Deignan
In his 2007 book, Ireland Now: Tales of Change From the Global Island (Univ. of Notre Dame Press), William Flanagan described the disorientation experienced by an Irish-American tourist in western Ireland. Everywhere he stopped, Pakistanis or Indians were running the shops and hotels. There were people with Eastern European accents. Eventually, the befuddled tourist asks, Whats become of Ireland?

With The Deportees, his first collection of stories, Roddy Doyle sets out to answer this question in a raucous, if at times superficial, manner.

For two decades now, Doyle has been sending out fictional dispatches about the state of Irelandor at least Dublin. He was thrust into prominence in 1986 with The Commitments, later made into a scruffy, well-received movie by the director Alan Parker.

One of the more memorable lines from the book had one character, a working class Dublin musician performing in a soul band, calling the Irish the niggers of Europe. In a short but useful foreword to The Deportees, Doyle says that given Irelands profound economic, ethnic and racial changes, he would not even think to use that line today. The line, Doyle admits, would make no sense.

The stories in The Deportees first appeared in Metro Eireann, a weekly Irish newspaper edited by Nigerian journalists.

The first thing readers need to know is that Doyles stories follow strict conventions. They unfold in 800-word chapters, each with a Dickensian, cliff-hanger ending. This is fairly restrictive, so readers should not pick up this book expecting the type of raw complexity Doyle exhibited in his Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Van, The Snapper), or his more recent forays into historical fiction (A Star Called Henry and Oh, Play That Thing).

Yes, the stories are plotted very tightly, and some characters (particularly several of the noble new immigrants to Ireland) seem shallow or stereotypical. Still, there is much to praise in The Deportees. The stories often have the feel of a sharp sitcom or short film screenplay.

Doyles humor, meanwhile, is in top form, even in the opening story, Guess Whos Coming to Dinner. The plot is hardly inventiveit basically updates the Hepburn-Tracy moviebut the execution, coupled with the spectacle of the storys traditional Dublin Da being harried by his reflexively progressive daughters, more than makes up for the shortcomings.

The title story, meanwhile, revisits the main character of The Commitments, Jimmy Rabbitte. He is more or less happily married now, yet is suddenly itching to round up a band again. This time, though, it will not be a bunch of working-class Dubs but instead a multicultural group meant to reflect the New Irish. The story ends with a scene of global music ecstasy, seemingly meant to drown out a menacing racist who has been threatening Jimmy. Again, the specific devices Doyle uses to execute the story could be stronger, but the effect is powerful. As with many stories in this collection, the whole of The Deportees generally is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Bear in mind, as with much of Doyles work, American readers should be prepared to slog through a good many Dublinisms, from howyeha to hoor to cop on.

One of the books stronger stories, which transcends Doyles stated interest in the new Irish melting pot, is New Boy, which unfolds in the reliably compelling setting of the classroom and schoolyard. On his first day in class, the young black immigrant Joseph is harassed by a classmate (named Christian, no less). The bully goes so far as to call the boy Live-Aid, a reference to the African relief concert organized by Irishman Bob Geldof. Efforts by the teacher to shield young Joseph naturally only make things worse. But by the end, for better or worse, boys will be boys. Christian and Joseph realize that rather than attack each other (like the boys in Lord of the Flies), they can instead focus their collective energy on the bumbling woman in the front of the room. In this sense, the differences arising from national origin seem less significant when compared to the much more profound sense of alienation that springs from the human conditioneven when you are a meek (or snotty) 11-year-old boy.

As Doyle and by now countless other observers have noted, Ireland has undergone a radical transformation in the past 20 years. It will take decades to assess the ramifications authoritatively. This most distressful country is peaceful and prosperous. This once devoutly Catholic nation is increasingly secular. This land of cead mile failte (a thousand welcomes), which has sent its children abroad for centuries, is now asking indelicate questions about foreigners.

The new Ireland will certainly soon inspire Joycean works of epic fiction. Until then, you can turn to Roddy Doyle for hilarious, acidic observations about 21st-century Ireland.

Tom Deignan, the author of Irish Americans: Coming to America, is a columnist for The Irish Voice and Irish America magazine.

Comments

XANGELX | 3/18/2008 - 11:09pm
DUBLINS NOT A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE ANYMORE.THERE IS NO WORK AND NO COLLEGE PLACES.IF YOU GO FOR A JOB NOW YOUR NOT ASKED ABOUT YOUR EDUCATION,YOU ARE ASKED 'HOW LONG ARE YOU IN IRELAND?'AND 'DO YOU SPEAK MUCH ENGLISH?'IF YOU SAY IM IRISH THEY NEVER CALL YOU FOR THE JOB.I WILL HAVE TO MOVE TO AMERICA TO GET A JOB.
JoeMorgan | 3/11/2008 - 2:35pm
From article: "The story ends with a scene of global music ecstasy, seemingly meant to drown out a menacing racist..." When the politically correct use the term racist, they simply mean white Gentiles who discriminate. It is a racial slur directed only at white Gentiles. Racist = honky, or honky-ish. So, the translation of your quote would be: "The story ends with a scene of global music ecstasy, seemingly meant to drown out a menacing honky..." While collective behavior is encouraged among Jews and nonwhites, and their right to promote discrimination when in their ethnic interests -- (and of course this is never called kike-ish behavrior, or nigger-ish behavior, etc., by the politically correct) -- the demand of white Gentiles is to keep our hands tied behind our backs. This is important. Given the predatory nature of our species, for any group to accept the ground rules during tribal conflict that they cannot have group defined leaders and cannot organize along group lines is dangerous and foolish, especially when the opposing tribes are encouraged to organize and follow leaders. Imagine if the Iraqis accepted that in their conflict with the Americans that they cannot create organizations to counter it and must be leaderless. They can only fight as individuals, without Generals and Captains, etc., and must be devoid of any organizational structures. You'd call them idiots. Yet, those are the ground rules under political correctness, with the coalition that calls itself "the minorities." They are encouraged to organize along racial lines, to follow racially defined leaders and to promote discrimination when in their ethnic interests -- while white Gentiles are immediately called honkys (racists) when they attempt the same and are punished. In other words, when Jews and nonwhites organize along racial lines and follow racially defined leaders, they are never called kikes, niggers, spics, etc., and are never punished. What is a racial slur? It is something directed only at one group, is meant to be derogatory, and its use is racially motivated. Someimes a racial slur is used against another group: a white could call another white a nigger, but obviously he is not calling him black, but simply using it as a pejoritive. This is the context whenever a Jew or nonwhite is called a "racist." They are being described as acting like a honky, or being honky-ish. 99.99% of the time that you hear the word racist in the mainstream media, it is directed a white Gentile. On the rare occasion that it is directed at a Jew or nonwhite, it is usually not attached to their name. Louis Farakhan isn't called "the racist Louis Fakhan" by the politically correct. When the term is directed his way, it is usually phrased "some say Louis Farakhan is a racist." It suggests a mystery or confusion. For even a man like Farakhan who represents a genocidal element within the black community, applying the term racist seems a source of confusion. When Fuzzy Zoelller said "fried chicken" around Tiger Woods, nobody suggested Zoeller believed that the races evolved differently phsychologically, or that one race is superior to another. Fuzzy Zoeller became a "bad" white Gentile, one that did not know his place, and was forced to do the "white man's crawl," because he directed perceived ethnic aggression towards a member of a race that is allowed to discriminate, an alpha race. The only time Jews and nonwhites have the term racist directed their way, it is when they engage in some sort of street aggression, when they say something "bad," or when they engage in physicial aggression for racially motivated reasons. (But usually they are not called racist for doing this, but rather that they did something racist," (something honky-ish). That is largely irrelevent, given this term is not given to Jews and nonwhites when they organize along racial lines, follow racially defined leaders, or when they promote discriminati