Roddy Doyle, "Home To Harlem"

A black Irish college students goes to New York City under the auspices of studying a link between Irish literature and the Harlem Renaissance, but really he’s looking for his grandfather.

(from McSweeney’s, #16)

There’s something distinctly cinematic about this story. It’s not just the way scenes are spliced together in a way that momentarily confuses and then pleases your internal compass. It’s also the simplicity of the story’s grander gestures. Like when Declan goes to Ellis Island. It’s overt in its intentions. It’s honest about its desired influence on the reader. It’s also, to a small degree, corny in its sentimentality and unashamed about it. It has a neat little halyard knot at the end. (And yes, I just Googled “types of knots” to come up with halyard. We should always be learning.)
I also want to say that this character was so subtly and warmly revealed. Nice.
Couldn’t sleep, so I read. Oh man I have so much work to do tomorrow, too. Now this story has woken me up. So much better than that horrorble story Roddy Doyle had in the Enchanted Chamber.

Now all that’s left in McSweeney’s issue 16 is the Ann Beattie novella (which isn’t a short story so what do I do?) and the comb (which, have you seen my hair?). I kinda want to be the first person ever to read a whole issue of McSweeney’s. That’s my patented brand of optimism mixed with cyncism, topped with a growing need for a time machine. Oh man, the things I’d do with a time machine.

One thought on “Roddy Doyle, "Home To Harlem"

  1. what

    hey, patrick. just found this entry. can you tell me, please, what is the “neat little halyard knot at the end” of the roddy doyle piece “Home to Harlem” you say you found? thanks. (thinking of teaching this story this term in my freshman comp class.



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