Thursday, February 19, 2009

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle won the Mann Booker Prize for Paddy in 1993, and this wonderful novel is my latest attempt to read all forty Booker Prize winners. I already have completed 15, so the list is down to 25 right now.

Paddy Clarke, at ten years of age, sees the world through innocent eyes. The summer of this novel involves sleeping late, playing a variety of games with his friends, including his best friend, Kevin and two brothers named Aidan and Liam, and interacting with his parents, a younger brother Sinbad, and his infant sister, Catherine.

The snatches of adult conversation Paddy picks up come across as funny bits of gossip the young boy does not understand. However, Doyle accurately captured the wonder and innocence of a ten year old along with the humor that comes from the mouths of children. Try this quote: “We didn’t need bikes then. We walked; we ran. We ran away. That was the best running away. We shouted at watchmen, we threw stones at windows, we played knick-knack and ran away. We owned Barrytown, the whole lot of it. It went on forever. It was a country. Bayside was for bikes” (150). What ten-year old hasn’t had these thoughts! I know I have, dim as those memories are now.

The only problem I had with the book involves some slang terms. I could deduce a few from the context, a few I knew from my reading of James Joyce, but many bewildered me. I wonder if there is a dictionary of Irish slang to go along with my Webster’s Dictionary of American Slang. My favorite mystery word, “pruned,” seems to resemble some sort of “wedgie.” Quite a few Gaelic words have footnotes for translation.

Also, a couple of jokes evaded me. For example,

“---Where was Moses when the lights went out?
I answered.
---Under the bed looking for matches.
---Good man, he said.
I didn’t understand it but it made me laugh” (145).

Doyle uses Joyce’s convention of dashes to indicate dialogue. Makes me want to go back for another reading of Portrait!

Nevertheless, a delightful, pleasant, thoroughly enjoyable way to while away some hours with a cup of tea, a lap full of cat, and a handful of doggie ear. 4-1/2 stars

--Chiron, 2/20/09


Anonymous said...

I know this is very late, but there is an online dictionary of Irish slang here:

According to which, pruning is: Pruning (v): when you get your testicles grabbed and squeezed hard usually by a few guys holding you down or sometimes suddenly by one bully!

(I, too, had suspected that it referred to a wedgie, but alas...)

Toni said...

This is EXTREMELY late, but I'm re-reading Paddy Clarke and I Googled to find the meaning of "pruning", so thanks to Anonymous above!

I can help with the joke though. The original goes:

- Where was Moses when the lights went out?!
- I don't know, where was Moses when the lights went out?
- In the dark.....!