Brought to Book: Rob Doyle on Keith Talent, Nietzsche’s morals and stone-cold classics
‘I’m grateful to the authors of shorter books, because my concentration is shot from the internet and all the coffee’
Rob Doyle: “I’m grateful to the authors of shorter books, because my concentration is shot from the internet and all the coffee”
Rob Doyle was born in Dublin, and holds a first-class honours degree in Philosophy and an MPhil in Psychoanalysis from Trinity College Dublin. His first novel, Here Are the Young Men, is published by the Lilliput Press. His fiction, essays, and criticism have appeared in The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, Gorse, The Moth, The Penny Dreadful and elsewhere. Having spent several years in Asia, South America, the US, Sicily and London, he lives in Rosslare, Co Wexford. Here Are the Young Men is reviewed by Peter Murphy in The Irish Times on Saturday, June 21st.
What was the first book to make an impression on you?
Voyage of the Dawn Treader, CS Lewis
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Witches, Roald Dahl
And what is your favourite book or books now?
The Trouble With Being Born, EM Cioran; Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer; Nazi Literature in the Americas, Roberto Bolaño
What is your favourite quotation?
“The essence of punk rock is having exemplary manners for your fellow human beings.” – Joe Strummer
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Keith Talent in London Fields by Martin Amis
Who is the most under-rated Irish author?
I don’t know. But when I read Aidan Higgins’ Balcony of Europe, I wondered why everyone wasn’t talking about him all the time. After years abroad, I’m still catching up with contemporary Irish literature.
Which do you prefer: ebooks or the traditional print version?
Print. I’ve never read an ebook.
What is the most beautiful book you own?
The little hardback of Bolaño’s Antwerp, or a book of paintings by Jack B Yeats.
Where and how do you write?
It could be anywhere, any way, any time. Even after all the years, a clear system has yet to emerge.
What book changed the way you think about fiction?
JG Borges’ Fictions; Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Geoff Dyer’s Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It; Knut Hamsun’s Hunger.
What is the most research you have done for a book?
23 years growing up in Dublin.
What book influenced you the most?
Probably Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, because it cast everything I had been taught to believe into disrepute.
What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?
Some stone-cold classic with an edge, like Notes From Underground or Lolita. That way I’d get to corrupt the youth without the parents being able to say a thing.
What book do you wish you had read when you were young?
A book on meditation, maybe. Or something mammoth and canonical, like Middlemarch, that I’ll never have the concentration for again.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Alienate everyone and die in a hail of gunfire.
What weight do you give reviews?
It depends on how much a reviewer’s sensibility resonates with my own. I love reading (and writing) book reviews in general.
Where do you see the publishing industry going?
A big question. I’m just relieved to have had a book published in the format I love before such objects cease being produced.
What writing trends have struck you lately?
I love the trend towards essayistic fiction – Coetzee’s later books, Teju Cole, Geoff Dyer, Milan Kundera, Michel Houellebecq and the likes. Novels which aren’t strictly faithful to the primacy of fiction, or which don’t even uphold a firm distinction between fiction and non-fiction. I like autobiographical novels, and books in which ideas have at least as much importance as character or plot. Also, I’m grateful to the authors of shorter books, because my concentration is shot from the internet and all the coffee.
What lessons have you learned about life from reading?
Most of them. The others came by way of relationships or psychedelic plants.
What has being a writer taught you?
The virtue of persistence.
Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Oscar Wilde, Marguerite Duras, Hunter S Thompson, Aidan Higgins, Roberto Bolaño, Virginie Despentes, William Blake, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Michel Houellebecq, Albert Camus, Kingsley Amis, JG Ballard. We’d skip dinner and go straight to the digestíf.
What is the funniest scene you’ve read?
Pretty much anything in Martin Amis’s Money, or the darts scenes in London Fields.
What is your favourite word?
The “thunder word” from Finnegans Wake.
If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?
The man who, without warning, was blown into the air by an immense blast one August morning in Hiroshima. Bewildered and frightened, hoping to locate his family, he staggered across the countryside until he arrived, three days later, in his home city of Nagasaki...