ONE of the best selling Irish artists of all time is back on the music scene. Long live Jimmy Rabbitte!
If the name doesn't ring a bell, perhaps it's because he does not exist in real life. He sprung from the mind of author Roddy Doyle back in the nineties.
Rabbitte was the fictional band leader of the Commitments, the Irish soul band that inspired a book, movie, blockbuster CD, and a touring band that still haunts clubs for this day.
Rabbitte has returned again in The Deportees, the first collection of short stories from Booker Prize-winning author Doyle.
For the past few years Doyle has written stories for Metro Eireann, a magazine by and for immigrants to Ireland. Each of the stories takes a new slant on the immigrant experience, something of increasing relevance and importance in Ireland today.
The Deportees now brings those stories together for all of Roddy's devoted readers, and it offers further proof that Doyle is one of the best Irish writers not currently buried underground.
The Deportees is not only the book's title, it 's the name of the band that Rabbitte brought back to life. He looks around and sees many different colors of skin around Dublin and decides to harness the different cultures into a band he hopes will make it further than the Commitments, who famously imploded before they got their first record deal.
Rabbitte puts an ad into Hot Press magazine looking for band members and has a hilarious audition over the phone. If the applicant says he likes the Corrs, Rabbitte hangs up on them. He eventually assembles the ingredients for this world music stew, and the band soon gets to work on songs from Woodie Guthrie and other folk greats.
Using his trademark sharp dialogue, ribald wit, and touching characters, Doyle crafts fantastic stories that chronicle the prejudicial ways of the Irish, the fears associated with being a stranger in a strange land, and the hatching of the immigrant dream within the gritty streets of the Emerald Isle.
The first tale, "Guess Who's Coming to the Dinner?" follows Larry Linnane, a man who prides himself on how his daughters can have open sexual conversations around him. In a hilarious turn of events, Linnane is forced to confront his own racism when one of his daughters brings a black man to the dinner table.
"Black Hoodie" is another winner. It is the story about turning the tables on racist shop owners who follow a Nigerian girl around the store while white Dubliners make away with stolen merchandise.
"Home to Harlem" is another great story about a black Irishman who comes to America to discover his roots and to make a case for James Joyce being influenced by Harlem writers.
It's been a good while since we got a great Doyle movie treatment. The Snapper, The Van and The Commitments, part of his Barrytown Trilogy, still stand as the top three Irish comedies of all time in my mind.
The Deportees is full of stories that can shine a light on the vibrant, more complicated tapestries that is a Dublin neighborhood now that every race and creed can be found in its thread. Let's hope Jimmy Rabbitte gets his spotlight once and for all!
No U.S. release date is set for The Deportees.
Check out some of the International bookselling sites like Amazon.com for more information.