This week’s New Yorker features a short story from Roddy Doyle, called “The Photograph.” It’s not bad, clearly the work of a skilled practitioner. But I’m not sure if it deserves its occupation of what are probably the most coveted pages in Anglophone letters.
Doyle’s style–which might be dubbed “proletarian stream of consciousness”–is beginning to look a bit threadbare. For a start, this interior monologue approach is supposed to capture the narrator’s unique perspective. But in this story, Martin’s humdrum observations seem similar in tone to the ones proffered by Paula Spencer, which I read in a recent extract from the eponymous novel. Second, in Doyle’s hands, the interior monologue is not the elliptical record of how the senses feed the mind (think of Joyce’s famous but initially baffling “Plasto’s high-grade ha”). Instead, the voices in Doyle’s recent work seem too literal, too tied to the duty of walking the reader through the routines and objects that constitute the character’s exterior world. Oddly, this is an inner voice that robs its speaker of an inner life.
On occasion the end result can veer close to the parody of Paula Spencer, which appeared as part of the Digested Reads series of the The Guardian:
No, Doyle is better than that. However, he should think twice before comparing himself, as he did during a recent interview at the Dublin Writers’ Festival, with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
By the way, the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced on Thursday, 12 October, at 1.00 PM CET (or noon Irish time). Check this site for updates.