If you were to see Roddy Doyle in the street and have no clue who he was, you’d probably think he was a character in Star Trek: The Next Generation. A genial engineer, perhaps. Good at quantum mechanics and quick with a joke.
Actually, that’s not too far from the truth, provided you skip the space travel component. And while I can’t speak to his knowledge of quantum physics, I bet he’s read Stephen Hawking and understood him. He has that air of a man who knows things. Furthermore, he makes you want to know things, too.
Some of this may come from his background as a teacher. Without having spent a minute in a classroom with him I’m fairly confident in saying Doyle was more interested in instilling a desire for knowledge in his students than a recitation of facts. “If you understand why something happens, you’ll know how it happens,” he’d say. I can’t remember if I heard that myself from a former teacher, or it’s an adage from Lord Peter Wimsey.
Anyway, I wax whimsical (see what I did there?), and you’re waiting for me to tell you about Mr Doyle’s visit to Kells and what he got up to at the Hay Festival.
Well, he was fabulous. Naturally. It was a packed house and we were all thrilled to be there. Obviously. The man himself was on splendid form. If you were there as a fan of his books, you were unquestionably entertained. If you were there as a writer (or a humble blogger), you got an education.
Though he doesn’t dwell on it, it’s apparent he’s a highly intelligent, gifted, versatile man. No sufferer of fools, and protective of his inner self. I got the impression that being Roddy Doyle can, on occasion, be a bit of a pain in the neck. Still, though, like Shylock, he bears it all with a (mostly) patient shrug.
In the space of an hour — was it really only an hour? — Mr Doyle talked about dialogue: “Seeming real is much more important than being real.” His career: “The Woman Who Walked into Doors is the best thing I’ve ever done.” And his involvement with the Fighting Words project: This is his attempt to open writing to children who might not otherwise get a chance at anything.
He was happy enough to be here, to endure the adulation, but you could tell it was a bit of an intrusion into his proper job — writing. He’s working on a new book, he says, and is itching to get back to it. Twice he said how he couldn’t wait to sit down the following morning and listen to the voices of his characters.
Someone in the audience said, “Can you tell us what it’s about, Roddy?”
He wasn’t being disagreeable or sly, only protective of the tale that’s still cooking. You take the lid off the pot, you let out all the steam.
He refuses to buy into the whole writing mystique. There’s no elevated poetic status here.
“There’s a lot of bullshit written and spoken about writing,” Roddy says. “But there are things that make it easier. Just write something. Get it down. Sure, you can always change it later.”
That’s the last of my Hay Festival in Kells blogs for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. You might be interested to know, these posts have been viewed by more than 1200 people from the following countries:
Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the Philippines, Norway, Sweden, and South Africa.
Wow! Thanks, everyone for reading. I really appreciate the support. And thanks, too, to Belinda Higgins for sharing this blog far and wide; to the visitors, and everyone involved in the Hay Festival in Kells. Let’s do it again next year.