From the Writers & Company archives: Roddy Doyle

This summer, the Writers & Company weekly podcast featured some of the best shows from the show's archives. We hope you enjoyed this opportunity to hear these programs that haven't been available as a podcast before.

Every week in July and August, CBC Books has been bringing you the Writers & Company podcast, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

The final podcast in the series features Eleanor's 1996 conversation with the popular Irish writer Roddy Doyle. His latest book is a collection of stories called Bullfighting. He's also on the jury of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

This interview originally aired on June 2, 1996.

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Roddy Doyle's novel Paddy Clark, Ha Ha Ha won the Booker Prize in 1993, and it was the award's biggest seller until its record was surpassed by Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, the 2009 winner. In this conversation, Eleanor and Roddy Doyle talked about his then new novel, The Woman Who Walked into Doors.


Before winning the Booker in 1993, Doyle was best known for his novel and screenplay, The Commitments — a raucous and lively story set in working-class Dublin. Specifically, in the fictional northern suburb of Barrytown.

Doyle's next two novels, in what became known as the Barrytown Trilogy, were The Snapper and The Van, both also made into films.

Roddy Doyle's work offers an expletive-ridden and, as he says himself, a "speeded-up and larger than life portrait of Dublin." It's very dialogue-driven. As he puts it, "The best way to reveal a character is to get them to open their mouths." And as one critic said, "These books are funny all the way down to their syntax."

The Woman Who Walked into Doors is told from the point of view of a 39-year-old battered wife who's an alcoholic. It's a different kind of story for Doyle, but it also has the same exuberant language and astute sensibility that made the Barrytown Trilogy so popular.

In the interview, Doyle explained what drew him to the story of Paula Spencer, and the topic of domestic violence. He also talked about the challenges of writing in the first person from the point of view of a woman. The character is about the same age as Doyle was, so he could draw on his own experiences for some of the details of her life — the dance she meets her husband at, the music she listens to. He found it harder "to try and describe how Paula copes with pain, trying to level it out, trying to rise above it."

Doyle also talked about growing up in a lower middle class neighbourhood on the edge of Dublin, his strong sense of it as home and its connection with his writing. You can listen to the whole interview in the audio player above.

Note: The interview includes two readings in which there is a bit of rough language.