I read Doyle’s first book, the novel Here are the Young Men. Although very enjoyable and quite unique as far as Irish writing goes, based on the strength of some of his short stories and non-fiction with which I was familiar with, I thought Doyle was falling slightly short of the mark given the prodigious talent I believed him to be. However, with This is the Ritual, I think he is growing into the writer he is capable of being.
It’s a collection of short stories with some highly experimental flourishes. A 30 page section of the book is a disjointed series of vignettes in what appears to be postwar Europe starring two doomed lovers like some Beckettian romance; a series of fictional biographies of unsuccessful writers is presented with all credibility and sincerity; and haunting the collection like a bad smell is the (possibly) semi-autobiographical spectre of Doyle himself. But amidst all of the fictional failed writers, it’s uncertain how much Doyle is in these figures and how much of it is Doyle having a long, sustained and cynical laugh at himself.
Besides the experimental flourishes and the spectral authorial self-insertion, the more conventional stories are all very strong making this an excellent collection.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.