The Commitmentsby Roddy Doyle
In the first volume of the Barrytown Trilogy, Roddy Doyle, winner of the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, introduces The Commitments, a group of fame-starved, working-class Irish youths with a paradoxical passion for the music of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and a mission—to bring Soul to Dublin. Doyle writes about the band with a fan's enthusiasm and about Dublin with a native's cheerful knowingness. His book captures all the shadings of the rock experience: ambition, greed, and egotism—ans the redeeming, exhilarating joy of making music. The Commitments is one of the most engaging and believable novels about rock'n'roll ever written, a book whose brashness and originality have won it mainstream acclaim and underground cachet.
• "An Irish version of The Blues Brothers... authentic and brilliantly funny." Literary Review
Meet the Author
Roddy Doyle is the author of eleven novels, two collections of stories, two books of dialogues and Rory & Ita, a memoir of his parents. He has written seven books for children and has contributed to a variety of publications including The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Metro Eireann and several anthologies. He won the Booker Prize in 1993, for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
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First, I have to admit that prior to reading this novel, I had already seen the movie. Not only had I seen the movie, I had seen the movie about 10 times. Therefore, I did go into my reading assignment somewhat biased. Right from the beginning, the novel was not what I expected at all. The only thing that I recognized was the characters' names. Other than that element, it was a whole new story. The novel takes you in, mostly through Doyle's unusual dialogue style (there is almost no descriptive narrative in this book; dialogue tells the whole story). through the offhand words of the characters, the reader gets a true sense of their lives and the circumstances that have led them to this point, to this band. The one thing shared by all of the characters (Jimmy, Imelda, Natalie, Deco, James, Derek, Outspan, etc.) is the fact that they are trapped, by social and economic standards, in their lives. This group, this music, gives them a chance at a freedom they never thought they could know; it offers them a shot at a better life, away from the poverty of their Dublin neighborhood. Natalie, for instance, works in a factory gutting fish. What young girl (Doyle infers that she is only about 18) wouldn't jump at a chance to reach for the stars? The same applies to the rest of the group. Except for James, a medical student, none of the group will ever have much chance of making a better life outside of the slums of Dublin. This group represents something much bigger to them, and to anyone who ever had a dream. All in all, I enjoyed the novel very much. I found the, shall you say, colorful language to be appropriate to the situations in the novel (how many college students do you know that speak the same way?) and the rapid, dialogue-driven pace kept my attention the entire time; in fact, I finished the book in about 3 hours. I recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in Ireland, music, or life.
I have read Roddy Doyle¿s The Commitments, and watched the movie as well. In some aspects, the book resembled a movie script with constant dialogue. A closer look reveals a perspective on each person¿s search for identity. At first glance the book didn¿t interest me whatsoever. It took ten to fifteen pages for me to even get the story line straight (ex. Who was saying what and about whom). The movie script style was a turn-off for me, too untraditional. Then there was the fact that they said F---- at least once a sentence. I realize it was an attempt on the author¿s part to represent the working class, but every sentence? That was a little too much. However, the fact that it was an assignment, as well as my desire to understand more about the Irish culture made me continue. As I read further, I began to inspect what people were saying as though I was inside their minds. ¿The Commitments¿ were struggling with the concept of identity. Each joined the group searching for him/herself. Jimmy and Joey the Lips convinced the band that soul was the identity of the working class of Dublin, Ireland. As Jimmy put it on page 9, ¿Your music should be abou¿ where you¿re from an¿ the sort o¿ people yeh come from. -¿ The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads¿An¿ Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland¿An¿ the northside Dubliners are the niggers o¿ Dublin. - Say it loud, I¿m black and I¿m proud.¿ By pursuing soul, ¿The Commitments¿ were connecting with other minorities, particularly the African Americans of the 1960¿s. As humans, our identities are constantly in flux, just as the identity of the band changes. The original band, ¿And, And! And¿ gives way to soul and ¿The Commitments.¿ ¿The Commitments¿ dissolves and a country-punk band, ¿The Brassers¿ is born because half of Ireland is made up of farmers. According to Jimmy, country music is the kind of stuff they listen to ¿ only they listen to it at the wrong speed. (p. 164) The change represented by the band represents our constant change. We continuously change to adapt to the current norm, which changes as we change our perspectives and motivation in life. The creative approach taken by Doyle grew on me the more I read. Once I understood where he was going with it, I really began to enjoy myself. Constant dialogue made it seem more realistic. Real life isn¿t mostly narration ¿ it¿s dialogue. Doyle¿s book wouldn¿t have such an impact if he had used any other style of writing. After reading the book, the movie was a bit of a disappointment. While it cemented the characters and helped to distinguish the dialogue elements, after the first half-hour I knew what was going to happen next. I found the characters and the acting falling short of my expectations. In my opinion, the Irish ¿brogue¿ was its only salvation. Reading the book allows you to find someone in your own life represented in each character. Watching the movie makes it more difficult to relate because you actually see a person, perhaps totally different than the one you would have imagined on your own. I would definitely recommend reading the book over watching the movie. It allows one to reflect and really ¿experience¿ the search for identity through the band. So, read the book or if you have no imagination, watch the movie. Whatever you do, enjoy it, laugh out loud, but think about the deeper message. It¿s worth it, if you can get beyond the bad language.