Radical juxtapositions


From December 2014, Breffni Cummiskey’s excellent interview with Rob Doyle (gorse nos. 1 & 2).

Sitting on the table under the thick Mailer bio is the draft of This Is The Ritual. This is Doyle’s collection of short stories set to be published in 2016 by both Lilliput and Bloomsbury as part of his two book contract. He picks it up and thumbs through the manuscript.

“I wouldn’t write a book like Here Are The Young Men now and that’s ok because you don’t necessarily want to be repeating yourself. You want to be moving forward all the time, changing and developing as a writer. Now I look at it and my relationship with it is just one of pride. That was a straight A-Z linear narrative. And I needed to write that. To prove to myself and the world that I could do that. Now I want to write something different.”

How did you decide which short stories you’d include for This is The Ritual?

“I’ve been laying the stories out on the floor here trying to get the order correct and driving myself a bit nuts. Nearly half of these stories have been published as short stories in Gorse, the Dublin Review and various other publications. I knew those ones were strong. Then I had some new ones. Whatever you write most recently tends to loom largest and your style has developed.

“My favourites are the ones written this year. Outposts is the strangest thing in there. It is not going to be everyone’s … but I completely love it. It’s fragmented and experimental. That story came out of a boredom with straight narrative. I just couldn’t do it for a period. I’d done it for four years with the novel but now I wanted to write in a way that was more random, plucking pieces of narrative from here and there – radical juxtapositions. Then ordering them in a way that resonates.”

The abandoning of the normal narrative might have something to do with the way we read on the internet and daily now.

“I feel that people are resistant to the way things are changing when as a writer you don’t have to be. My own imagination has already changed and instead of fighting that you can acknowledge that this is symptomatic of a more general condition – this internet explosion of concentration. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. So you think what can I do with that? How can I use that? As a reader I love fragments and aphorisms so I want to go with that as a writer and see where that takes me at an intuitive level. Prose is the vehicle, not novels. Prose can fit into all sorts of different forms and experimenting with it is a way of trying to get at a greater form of readability and accessibility.

“Experimentalism can be seen or interpreted as increased difficulty but it can be the opposite and by finding ways to convey meaning and use language in more accessible ways for people who are bored or are unable to interest themselves in the 19th century narrative arc. But I veer away from the extremist views on this, there is room for both formats – the novel as we know it and new forms that entertain in new ways. The writer will always have recourse to words whatever happens to the novel or the imagination or the way we interact with the world through technology. Sebald said, ‘The novel is not my medium, prose is my medium.’ So the writer will always have to find a way to write no matter what happens the form.”

‘Outposts’ can be read in full in gorse no. 2.