Monday, 1 November 2010

The Books That Bullied Me Into Becoming a Writer - by Roddy Doyle

I read a lot when I was a teenager, probably three or four books a week. There are three books that stand out, nearly forty years later, books that made me want to write.

The first is THE EXORCIST, by William Peter Blatty. If I read it today I probably wouldn’t like it much. But back then, when I was 15, I read it in two nights, and loved it. It scared me so much, I wasn’t able to stop reading. I was almost literally afraid to put it down and turn off the bedroom light. I loved the way words on the page could terrify me. I remember thinking, ‘How does he do that?’ I had my doubts about religion and the existence of God but THE EXORCIST made me hesitate – for about a year – before I declared myself an atheist. Even then, I half-expected the next girl I asked up to dance to turn her head 360 degrees and vomit nails straight back at me. Luckily, she didn’t do that. She just said, ‘No’.

The next one is CATCH 22, by Joseph Heller. It’s probably still the best book I ever read. A funny book about war – I didn’t know you could do that, write dark jokes about death and cruelty. I was shocked, thrilled, as I read it, and it got better and better. I remember thinking, ‘I’d love to do that.’ I wanted to write a book. It was the first time that idea had occurred to me.

Then there’s SLAUGHTER HOUSE 5, by Kurt Vonnigut. It’s another funny book about war. (There are actually a lot of very funny books about war.) There were two things that stood out. Firstly, the story was set during the bombing of the German city of Dresden during the Second World War, and it was also set on a different planet. History and science fiction – I thought this was brilliant, being able to mess like that. Secondly, it was written in the simple, almost childish, language. That was one of things that made it so funny. I remember thinking, ‘I could do that.’

Roddy Doyle

(click on the photo of Roddy above to read a short bio (courtesy of the National College of Art & Design, Ireland). Roddy, with his friend Sean Love, currently runs a superb creative writing workshop in Dublin - "Fighting Words" - for pupils of all ages. Pupils (and staff) from Carndonagh Community School recently went to the workshop, met the man himself and had a great time!...Cheers to Roddy and all at Fighting Words who help ensure that our future writers have 'the right to write'!)

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