Roddy Doyle's sequel to A Star Called Henry is a "high-energy picaresque romp across 1920s Jazz Age America." (Newsday
Praised as "a masterpiece" by the Washington Post, A Star Called Henry introduced the unforgettable Henry Smart and left Roddy Doyle's innumerable fans clamoring for more. Now, in his first novel set in America, Doyle delivers. Oh, Play That Thing opens with Henry on the run from his Irish Republican paymasters, arriving in New York City in 1924. But in New York, and later Chicago--where he meets a man playing wild, happy music called Louis Armstrong--Henry finds he cannot escape his past.
A highly entertaining cross-country epic and a magnificent follow-up to A Star Called Henry, this prodigious, energetic, sexy novel is another Roddy Doyle triumph.
"The action is fast, the language authentic and earthy... Henry Smart may not be admirable, but he is unforgettable." --The Boston Globe
"The terse, slang-studded rhythms of Doyle's prose have a striking musicality... A remarkable performance in language. --Chicago Tribune
"Doyle is arguably the finest fiction writer to emerge from Ireland since World War II." --The Denver Post
"Together, [A Star Called Henry and Oh, Play That Thing] constitute one of the most remarkable achievements in recent irish and American literature." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Doyle stumbles somewhat in this sequel to his excellent 1999 bestseller, A Star Called Henry. Beginning with Irish revolutionary Henry Smart's arrival in New York City in 1924, the story follows Henry's subsequent adventures in advertising, bootlegging, pornography, unlicensed dentistry and keeping ahead of the former associates who'd like to see him eat a lead sandwich. After encroaching too much on a mobster's turf--and getting lucky with another powerful fellow's kept lady--Henry hightails it to Chicago, where he becomes the unofficial manager of a young Louis Armstrong. Though serendipitously reunited with his beloved wife and the daughter he's never met while trying to rob her employer's house, Henry soon heads back to New York to help Louis make it big. While just as brash and lively as Doyle's earlier novels, this one isn't nearly as focused; the dialogue-heavy narrative is interspersed with shifts in setting, time and plot, and characters appear and disappear with little consequence, their spoken parts hasty, repetitive and often perplexing. Worse, Doyle takes Henry Smart's charm for granted; readers unfamiliar with his previous adventures may roll their eyes at his arrogance and incessant sexual encounters. There's just too much material; any of the novel's numerous strands could have been fleshed out into its own book. That said, the novel is still a lot of improbable fun.
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October 24, 2005
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