Autobibliography of Rob Doyle’s Criticism – Charming Provocateur | Autobiography and memory

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In 2019, while living in Berlin, Irish writer Rob Doyle wrote a short weekly column on his favorite books for the Irish time. The series started with The non-female face of war, the oral history of Soviet war widows by Svetlana Alexievich, and ended, 51 books later, with The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller’s 1941 travel memoir in Greece. In between, well, everything from Virginia Woolf to Virginie Despentes, including Carl Jung, Philip K Dick and Tibetan Book of the Dead, each introducing with unbridled critical acuteness and startling comedic hyperbole: “Is it absurd to suggest that Fyodor Dostoevsky prophesied the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the seething hate pits of social media?”

Readers of Doyle’s autobiographical novel Threshold We will not be surprised that these chronicles, collected in his new book, fall the hardest for writers with mischievous and dismal gazes – Michel Houellebecq, say, or the Romanian author EM Cioran. that of Freud Civilization and its discontents gets a boost for his “honest theoretical recognition of the unbridled aggression, depravity and thirst for annihilation which is an individual’s dirtiest secret in society”, while Nietzsche Of the genealogy of manners “Could be one of the greatest horror novels ever written”; by Joris-Karl Huysmans Backwards, “A sort of 19th century American psychopathAbout a sickly aristocrat’s outraged self-help program, which Doyle read while tripping over psychoactive cacti in Bolivia, is simply “evil.”

Between those snippets of high-quality consumer advice are longer, looser written thoughts on Doyle’s return to Ireland in early 2020, a visit that has turned into a long-term stay because of you know what. So the book turns into a tour of Doyle’s psyche during the Covid era, as he reflects as he is stuck at home on a wandering youth past in drugged squats and roommates in London and in Paris, rummaging through Asia and Latin America with the money earned sorting supermarket coupons on an industrial area in Dublin.

Most important in her mind is sex, relegated by the pandemic to a memory, except for half-hearted clicks on PornHub (“like a nightmarish wandering through an endless wet market”), to say nothing of a “loving visit” who breaks the lockdown on his girlfriend. Amid wet memories of a threesome at a Berlin nightclub or the Vietnamese lover he followed to San Francisco, we’re told how Doyle didn’t try to be faithful, even in a relationship. serious. In the darker days of 2020, he lost his temper writing a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post that he feared his friends would take seriously, as it actually wasn’t quite light: ‘S’ there is a silver lining in all of this, and that is that the new generation will not be able to take advantage of the freedoms that I have made such a beast to exploit. “

Doyle’s self-guided impulses make him good company on the page. When he imagines writing a book like Thomas Bernhard’s My prices, in which the Austrian writer reviews his experience of accepting various awards (Doyle’s version is said to be composed of “scathing speeches to mark the literary awards that I made not to win “), the rant that follows on” someone[ning] the latest popularity contest with his “bullshit book” is funny, not just bitter, in part because Doyle admits he’s no stranger. He talks about an ex-lover who is an acclaimed French novelist and says that Geoff Dyer (a strong influence) always texts him about an epic night they once shared; Rachel Kushner told him that, inspired by an idea of ​​a scholar of Houellebecq that he had abandoned after 10,000 words, she was going to make the French writer a character in his next novel.

Contradiction, or multiplicity, is one of the pleasures of this charming provocative enterprise, as you can imagine for the author as much as for us (the catalog of his drug taking, for example, left me stunned that he managed to read so much, let alone write). But if navel-gazing rubs you the wrong way – as Doyle well knows, easily providing a three-page preventative list of objections to his own work – there’s always the Consumer’s Advice: Arthur Koestler’s Debut Novel. , gladiators and that of Marguerite Duras Practical aspects are just two of the books I can’t wait to pick up after reading what he says about them and it’s not the least of Doyle’s paradoxes that this self-proclaimed hater should be such an infectious enthusiast.

Autobibliography by Rob Doyle is published by Swift Press (£ 12.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply


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