Character Comebacks: Roddy Doyle Brings Back Jimmy Rabbitte
Roddy Doyle wrote two more books after he published The Commitments in 1987, completing what came to be known as the "Barrytown Trilogy" (named for the fictional Ireland town in which they all took place). But the two follow-ups were about Jimmy's family members. It's been 26 years, and while his family serves a larger role now than they did in the original, we're once again focusing on not-so-young-anymore Jimmy, Jr. in The Guts, due out January 23, 2014.
As part of our Character Comebacks series, we catch up with where Jimmy's been and "What's Goin' On" now.
How we knew him: A twenty-something Dublin lad who lives with his parents and uses his passion for music to build and drive an Irish soul band to the brink of success.
Last scene: Jimmy was (at least physically) where he had been when the story started --in his room with a few mates listening to music. Only this time he had the benefit of some hard-learned lessons: the soul band he created and managed disintegrated just when they were on the verge of a big break, and instead of Motown classics, it was the Byrds he was playing for his crew as they plotted their next project.
Where are they now: When we catch up with Jimmy, he's 48 and has a wife, four kids, and devastating news for all who care about him. Music is still his business: helping musical acts that have faded away find new life in the digital age. He's a "musical fascist" (as his wife puts it) who'd rather spend more on an electric guitar than buy an acoustic that will turn his son into a singer-songwriter. A couple of his old band members come into the picture, and old goals set the circle- of-life spinning again for Jimmy and his old dreams.
Why we love him: When it came to music, young Jimmy was opinionated, bossy, stubborn, but above all passionate and well- meaning. He had a knack and a special spark that just made us root for him. Now, middle-aged Jimmy is facing one hell of a challenge, sending him spiraling into questionable behavior. Still we're rooting for him not just to survive, but to truly live.
According to Doyle: I started thinking about Jimmy again soon after the Irish economy collapsed. Many of the early reports on, say, Irish radio were almost gleeful and nostalgic; explanations of the word, 'recession', were often accompanied by a 1980s soundtrack. I wrote The Commitments in the mid '80s, a time of deep recession, and I began to wonder how Jimmy and his family would be coping with this new recession. I was also interested in seeing if I could give vibrant middle-aged life to a character who had previously been a very young man. I wanted to inflict the misery of middle-age on Jimmy and see what he -- actually, I -- could do with it!
A sneak peek inside the new book:--D'yeh do the Facebook thing?
--Wha' d'yeh mean?
They were in the pub, in their corner. It wasn't unusual anymore, having a pint with his father. In the early evening, before he went home after work. He'd phone, or his da would phone. It wasn't an organized, regular thing. It had started the day his da got his first mobile. His first call was to Jimmy.
–How's it goin'?
–How are yeh?
–Not too bad. I'm after getting' one o' the mobiles.
–I'm usin' it now, like.
–Will we go for a pint? To celebrate.
–Grand. Good. Yeah.
Jimmy's da had still been working when he got the phone. But he'd retired a while back. –There's fuck-all work, he'd told everyone when he'd made the announcement on Stephen's Day, when Jimmy had dragged the kids to his parents' house to collect the presents and kiss their granny. – So I might as well just stop an' call it retirement.
Jimmy's own job was safe – he thought.
–Well, said his da now in the pub. – Facebook. Yeh know it, yeah?
–I do, yeah, said Jimmy.
–What d'you make of it?
–I don't know.
–Yeh don't know?
–No, said Jimmy. –Not really.
–But you've kids.
–I know tha', said Jimmy. – I've four of them.
–Is it the four you have? Said his da. – I thought it was three.
–No, said Jimmy. –It's been four for a good while. Ten years, like.
This was what Jimmy liked. It was why he phoned his da every couple of weeks. His da was messing, pretending he didn't know how many grandchildren he had. It was the way he'd always been. A pain in the hole at times, but, today, exactly what Jimmy wanted.
Order The Guts now.