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Oh, Play That Thing Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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Oh, Play That Thing is a fast-moving picaresque sequel to Roddy Doyle's novel about the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, A Star Called Henry. On the run from his former commanders, IRA assassin Henry ends up in the USA and copes indifferently with the gang-dominated New York of the early 1920s, and the worlds of Chicago jazz and the migrant workers of the Depression. Henry is a charming chancer, and a survivor, but this does not mean that he has an especially nice time for more than moments--his own ruthless past continually returns to haunt him.
Doyle does a nice line in memorable unpleasant images--a bunch of homing pigeons swollen and dying from bathtub gin; a wooden leg smouldering unnoticed from closeness to a campfire. There's also a strong sense of the changing language of immigrants trying to belong; this is, among other things, the story of how his Irish hero learns to think and speak in the American vein. The vignettes of real people--notably Henry's friend the young Louis Armstrong--are more than just decoration. In the Depression chapters, Doyle writes powerfully about the way folklore grows up. In places, this is a jerkily structured book, but it is always a highly intelligent one. --Roz Kaveney
"Sequels often disappoint, but here is one that's every bit as sharp, as surprising and as satisfying as the original . Niall Buggy switches accents seamlessly - Dublin, Brooklyn, mafia, vamp, Satchmo. His repertoire is inexhaustible and awesome." (The Guardian)See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
However I was bitterly disappointed with Doyle's follow up to what I think is by far his best novel. Henry Smart is no longer the charming, cocky, wonderfully loveable character we follow in 'A Star Called Henry'. At times this side of his character shines through, however these moments are, sadly, few and far between. Henry has almost become a parody of his previously charismatic, ambitious self. He is directionless. A character like this needs a purpose if he is to retain his lovable qualities. Instead we are presented with a Henry who is led by his trousers and not much else. He claims to miss his wife but makes no attempt to look for her, leading us to doubt his sincerity - something which was previously one of the qualities which made him so attractive.
The plot concerning Louis Armstrong is distracting and dare I say, boring. Doyle obviously has a strong interest in music, as seen in previous novels, such as 'The Commitments' but it just doesn't fit in with Henry's story. The music is Armstrong's purpose, not Henry's, and it leaves Henry with little room for movement or development - he faffs around the outside of the cause but it is never believable that he really cares about it - as seen in his political involvements in 'A Star Called Henry' he is in it solely for companionship and a sense of belonging. Henry is still looking for a sense of identity, but the idea that he thinks he will find it in the black American music scene verges on the ridiculous. WHat was touching and understandable in the first novel has become, as I have mentioned before, a parody.Read more ›
The setting is America in the 1920s and Henry Smart, under a wonderful variety of aliases, has fled there from his native Ireland to rub along as best he can with no assets beyond his prodigious though sometimes misguided wits. There's a wealth of interesting stuff about Prohibition and the seemy side of gangland New York and jazz-land Chicago. The imagery is often startling. The book has one of the most hauntingly brilliant openings I have read for years, describing the tired & frightened immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. The language often corruscates with dark humour. So...?
So the problem is with Henry himself. His path through life was always eccentric but in 'A Star Called Henry' there was a momentum driving him forwards, and in the sequel it isn't there. This older Henry spends too much time wandering directionless. The va-va-voom has gone out of him.
Of course, sequels are always a bain. Writing a novel isn't a linear process, you jump back and forth developing and tweaking your character to fit the twists & turns of your storyline. A sequel allows none of that, he's ready-made, pre-packed. Unfortunately, Roddy Doyle has compounded his difficulties by including another ready-made character because a real one, Louis Armstrong. And worse, the author clearly hero-worships him. Hero worship does not come well off the page. He has done a great disservice to Armstrong, who comes across as a caricature, and that's something we never thought we'd say about a book by Roddy Doyle.Read more ›
Unfortunately, the same formula applied to Henry Smart's continuing adventures in the america of the 1920s and 1930s does not work as well. Apart from the fact that this approach has been overdone from Ragtime onwards, large tracts of the story are incredulous - bordering on the bizarre, if not the ridiculous (sudden escapes from the jaws of death etc). Having moved on from courting Louis Armstrong to Dutch Schulz and a host of further legendary figures of the period, there are further plot twists (e.g the Bonnie and Clyde and Holywood movies episodes) which seem to drawn their inspiration from Woody Allen's Zelig (and that was a comedy movie). On top of this, the dialogue is stilted and is difficult to read.
Roddy, on this occasion, has bitten off too much to make for a decent book. Hopefully, there is not another sequel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not the same flow as in "A star..." But as entertaining as one could wish from a bookPublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
A great book by any other author's standard but, I though, a bit below par for Roddy. It's the sequel to A Star Called Henry, featuring Henry Smart as the central character. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Canned Globule.
Really hard to follow a "Bat out of Hell" type equivalent piece of writing is it not? personally having read and listened to ASCH it blew my mind.. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Jonnyboybegorah!
I actually bought this for my husband and he read it straight away so I assume he liked it! - came very promptly as well.Published on 15 Jun. 2014 by Mrs. V. J. Charles
I think he is a great author & very informative.
For anyone who wants to know more about the situation in Ireland at this time, it is a must. Read more
Henry's relocation to America is impressive. His role as a dentist at one point is very amusing. One of the best scenes describes one of the characters looking through a shop... Read morePublished on 9 Feb. 2014 by Heraclitus
I just simply love Roddy Doyle, and was very happy that I could buy all his work at amazon. The book arrived in good time, so I could start reading it just a couple of days after... Read morePublished on 16 Nov. 2013 by Rita Varga
Love most of his work and thought the first in the series was not bad. But book 2 was a struggle. Hard to follow and hard to believe. Kept hoping it would improve. It didn't.Published on 2 Nov. 2013 by Kindle Customer