- 02 Nov 20
If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (These Memories Will)
Doyle’s ear for Dublinese dialogue is without parallel, you only have to think of Jimmy Rabbitte – who will always wear Colm Meaney’s face – to start laughing, and the Becketty-but-actually-funny Two Pints would put a smile on a statue.
Here, his talking-over-pints technique fleshes out middle-aged pals, Davy and Joe, who meet up to dissect where they’re at. Davy is home from England to look after his ailing Dad, Joe’s existence has been thrown into disarray by the reappearance of Jess, a haunting beauty from their youth. Running into her at the parent-teacher meeting has brought to the surface his feelings of redundancy at where life has left him. Rather than wait for it all to pass, as anyone sensible might, given that his life doesn't seem too bad as is, Joe has jacked in his marriage and shacked up with this cello player from yesterday. The two lads having a pow wow over a feed of the good stuff prompts a fantastically scripted meditation on love, life, family, getting old, being an eejit of a man, and the pints.
As he’s back in Dublin for his father’s imminent passing, Davy naturally takes stock of his own life. He also had the hots for Jess back in their heyday, but as he remembers how he got together with his wife Faye – first when she gave him very positive indications at a wedding, and then down in the Gorey she had been left orphaned in – it’s clear to both him and the reader that fate left him in a much better place. It’s one thing to go on about Doyle’s mastery of dialogue – and he even has Davy delighted to be speaking Dublin again – but it is episodes like Davy's Da’s reaction to Faye, where the son can see how his father is saddened by Faye's vivacity as it makes him mourn all the more what he lost when his own wife died, that illustrate Doyle's empathic understanding of the human condition. It is masterful work that would reduce the hardiest of bastards to blubbering wrecks.
As the night progresses, and a fairly heroic amount of pints are sunk, we go back and forth through time in Davy’s memory and Joe’s stories, as he tries, in vain, to describe the seismic effect this re-kindled emotion has had on his life. While he falls over himself attempting to get the words out, it is Davy’s love for his wife and father that shines through, and Doyle expresses this with such subtle artistry that it only hits you after you’ve put the book down.
It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s moving, and it’ll make booze hounds who have held up the bar in The Palace more than once howl out for what we’re missing - and don’t even get me started on the way he describes George’s Pub because, if you do, there really will be waterworks. Doyle can do all that and then, just to add insult on top of injury, and just as the ending of Smile knocked you to the floor, he can craft something as marvellous as Love’s last thirty pages, which will break your heart.