Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle

Those who read to escape reality, to immerse themselves in a fictional world more interesting and more exciting than their own, probably won't be very taken byBullfighting, Roddy Doyle's second collection of short stories. Unless, that is, they happen to find something particularly exotic in the everyday lives and inner-most thoughts of thirteen middle-aged, middle-class Dublin men.

Famous for realistically, humorously, and empathetically chronicling the lives of often overlooked Dubliners in novels like The Commitments, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, and the Booker prize winning Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, Doyle now turns his attention to fathers and husbands of a certain age, quietly puzzling over or simply going about their lives. Some of them, like Hanahoe in “Recuperation,” have lost track of things. On his daily walks up the highway for exercise (doctor’s orders following a brief, unexplained health scare) he wonders when and how things got so bad between him and his wife without him even noticing. Others, like George in “Animals,” obliquely question their purpose now that the kids are grown and out of the house. But others, like the narrator of the final story, “Sleep,” are – more or less – content, “shockingly happy” even, by what life has brought them. Doyle explores these states of mind and being without the slightest trace of sentimentality or unwarranted cliché. The stories are not the most exciting or action-filled, but then, neither, for the most part, is life.Bullfighting is all the more important and moving for that very honesty and plainness

– Sheila Langan (215 pages / Viking / $25.95)