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NPR Arts & Life

Book Review: 'The Guts,' By Roddy Doyle


"The Commitments" was the first novel from Irish writer Roddy Doyle. The story introduced us to a young Dubliner named Jimmy Rabbitte, the founder of a neighborhood soul band. Subsequent books stayed with the Rabbitte family, detailing life's trials as they've aged. Well, now a new novel and we have the story of a middle aged Jimmy Rabbitte recovering from cancer surgery.

Alan Cheuse has our review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: "The Guts" brings Jimmy Rabbitte's story up to date. And at first glance it's not exactly cheerful with the once feckless music entrepreneur having just emerged from the hospital, after having had part of his bowel removed and lining up for his chemotherapy sessions which he calls Chernobyl. Fortunately, Jimmy has still got his love of soul music and a lot of people who love him. Comforted by his wife - she gives him the gift of a stray dog - and ready to make peace between himself and his long-estranged brother, Des, who gives him the gift of a trumpet, Jimmy tries to learn how to play his own music.

He certainly talks a kind of soul, talking truth about his illness with his children, including Marvin, his musically-inclined eldest. Renewing friendships with some of his old pals from commitment days, all of them sounding off almost line by line with the foulest mouths in contemporary fiction

"The Guts" is made up mostly out of this dialogue, however salacious, and the lively speech of this Dublin crew becomes the music of the story, along with plenty of twist and shout. Everything, shouts Jimmy's son Marvin and his band at a Dublin music festival at the novel's end.

Everything, everything going to be alright this morning. You can hear it yourself. Despite all the poverty and adversity and illness Doyle depicts here, he's written a novel filled with so much joyful love and life and song that it might - picture this - it might even have made his stern-faced Irish ancestor in the business of creating fiction out of dramatic speech, it might even have made Samuel Beckett smile.

SIEGEL: Roddy Doyle's new novel, "The Guts," bringing smiles to Alan Cheuse. Alan teaches writing at George Mason University.



This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.