Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
PHOTO BY AL HIGGINS
Rob Doyle, who holds a first-class honors degree in philosophy and an MPhil in psychoanalysis from Trinity College Dublin, “has a remarkable way of articulating the innermost thoughts of young men,” according to the Irish Independent.
The context was commentary on his debut novel “Here Are the Young Men,” which the author told us is “about a group of young guys in Dublin who finish school, then drift into a world of extreme drinking, drugs, pornography, alienation and, ultimately, severe moral transgression.
“It is set in 2003, at the height of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy,” continued Doyle, “but Matthew and his friends are bored and disgusted by the vapid, newly affluent society around them. Kearney, a psychopathic 18-year-old hooked on brutal video games, snuff movies, and 9/11 footage, returns from a trip the U.S. with plans for real-life carnage…”
The Irish Times, citing the examples “A Clockwork Orange,” “Less Than Zero,” “Trainspotting” and “Fight Club,” said that “delinquent fiction warrants a bookshelf of its own. Rob Doyle’s debut novel, ‘Here Are the Young Men,’ merits special attention,” while the Independent praised it as a “dark and intoxicating debut.”
In a similar vein, the Sunday Times described it as “darkly exhilarating” and said of Doyle, “a new literary star is born.”
Date of birth: September 1982
Place of birth: Dublin
Published works: “Here Are the Young Men.” “This Is the Ritual” (forthcoming).
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I don’t really have a routine. I write when I have something to say, when I feel like writing. I find that it’s important not to force it. The only ideal condition is that of being inspired: for me, that often involves travel, or living somewhere that excites me. I’ve recently moved to Paris, and it’s hard not to feel inspired here.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I’m with Donald Barthelme on this one: read your way through the entire history of Western philosophy. Then read the Eastern stuff. Then read all of literature, politics, history… In short, read everything. That will make you a better writer. If you worry that you are not reading enough, then you are right. Read more. The rub: you might never reach a point where you feel you’ve read enough, but that doesn’t matter. Good writers are almost invariably major readers.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
Too many to choose from. But okay, here’s three: Roberto Bolaño, “2666”; Geoff Dyer, “Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It”; Colm Tóibín, “The Testament of Mary.”
What book are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation,” which I admired the hell out of. I’m currently reading Oslo, Norway, the second novel by John Holten, a wonderful Irish novelist living in Berlin, and also slowly getting through Michel Houellebecq’s “Soumission,” too impatient to wait for the English translation.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Not exactly, but I do have a healthy, emulative envy for writers who have managed to discard the conventions, forge their own forms and achieve originality: Milan Kundera, Houellebecq, Borges, Geoff Dyer and the likes.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
Zadie Smith’s “NW.” I had thought perhaps she wasn’t the novelist for me, but I read this one when it came out and it’s marvelous.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
It would probably have to be Friedrich Nietzsche, though I can’t imagine what we would say to one another. I’d just sort of gaze at him, fascinated, like some weirdo.
What book changed your life?
Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals.” It shocked me to the core, with its turning on its head of the entire Christian morality. There was no finding my way home after that one.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
The cliffs out at Howth, or Killiney Hill, or an outside table at a café in Temple Bar on a midweek afternoon, or one of Dublin’s bookshops, or one of any number of pubs. Or else the southern Atlantic coast at Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry. I was on a writers’ retreat down there last winter, staying in a remote cottage by the cliffs, and it amazed me. The monks used to live out on the forbidding, rocky island of Skellig Michael.
You’re Irish if…
…you agree that the Pogues are the greatest of all bands, ever.