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Oh, Play That Thing (2004)

de Roddy Doyle

Sèrie: The Last Roundup (2)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
7941828,011 (3.14)31
On the last page of A Star Called Henry, the first volume of the The Last Roundup trilogy, we left Henry Smart on the run from his Republican paymasters, the men for whom he had perpetrated murder and mayhem. He flees from Dublin to Liverpool and from thence to Ellis Island, New York, America. And this is where Oh, Play That Thing begins... It's 1924, and New York is the centre of the universe. Henry falls on his feet, as a handsome man with a sandwich board, and - this being Prohibition - behind his sandwich board a stash of hooch for the speakeasies of the Lower East Side. When he starts hiring kids to carry boards for him, he catches the attention of the mobsters who run the district and soon there are eyes on his back and men in the shadows. It is time to leave, for another America: Chicago. In Chicago there is no past waiting to jump on Henry. The place is wild, as new as he is, and newest of all is the music. Furious, wild, happy music played by a man with a trumpet and bleeding lips called Louis Armstrong. His music is everywhere, coming from every open door, every phonograph. But Armstrong is a prisoner of his colour; there are places a black man cannot go, things he cannot do. And the mob is in Chicago too: they own every stage - and they own the man up on the stage. Armstrong needs a man, a white man, and the man he chooses is Henry Smart. This is a novel of prodigious energy and invention. Its language and its rhythms are as breathtaking as the music it celebrates. It shows yet again that as a writer Roddy Doyle is unequalled in his vision, his ambition, his ability to surprise us with each new novel. It is nothing less than a triumph.… (més)
  1. 10
    'Tis (i tant) de Frank McCourt (bergs47)
  2. 10
    Half Blood Blues de Esi Edugyan (bsiemens)
    bsiemens: Taken at face value, both books are about the jazz subculture during the early 20th century: 'Half Blood Blues' is set in France during the 1930s & 'Oh, Play That Thing' is set in America during the 1920s. The writing style is also quite similar.
  3. 00
    On Canaan's Side de Sebastian Barry (charl08)
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» Mira també 31 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 18 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Louis Armstrong is portrayed as one of the characters in the novel
  JimandMary69 | Aug 18, 2023 |
(7.5)One bad reading experience almost had me casting this aside, as well as Doyle’s writing style failing to engage me, initially. However, I persevered. Doyle relies heavily on dialogue to tell his stories. The dialogue is often terse sentences with no guidance as to who is speaking and can leave the reader feeling very confused. Eventually I adjusted to the rhythm and tenor of the story.
This is a sequel to A Star Called Henry and commences with Henry’s arrival in New York in the 1920’s fleeing the IRA and seeking a new life.
He turns his hand to any number of odd jobs but starts up his own sandwich board advertising business. He soon steps on the toes of the local mobsters and flees New York for Chicago. Here he meets Louis Armstrong after hearing him play at a club. Armstrong feels a prisoner of his colour and decides he needs a white man as his companion to gain him access to places he can’t go. This is early in Armstrong’s music career and at times they resort to crime to survive.
On one such breaking and entering escapade, Henry discovers his wife. (a little far-fetched).
Doyle creates a picture of depression America. The book is far from uplifting but I did manage to finish it. There is a third in the series which I should read sooner rather than later. ( )
  HelenBaker | Feb 25, 2021 |
I love the work of Roddy Doyle. It started when I read The Commitments when it first came out and it has never wavered. His unique voice, complete with Irish as it’s spoken on the ground and in the neighborhoods of Dublin, is just a pure pleasure to read. I picked up this book before I realized that there was a book that came before it. I am given to understand that this is a kind of prequel or sequel to the other. Either way, I am glad I read this one first.

Henry Smart was a paid assassin for the IRA in the early 1900’s. He is forced to live on the run in Ireland and so leaves his wife and child to hide out and re-invent himself in the roaring twenties in America. The book opens with Henry exiting the boat on Ellis Island with all the other early immigrants of that period who came with the same idea – reinvention of self.

Henry starts out on the streets of New York. He is a bit of a grifter and born with the gift of Irish gab. He sets up his own business with street signs - people standing with sandwich boards over their shoulders advertising anything and everything. And, since Prohibition is in full swing, they also sell illegal hooch from their pockets beneath the boards.

Although Henry misses his wife and child, he is still a young man in a relatively new world and he takes up with a variety of women of all ages. But he can’t escape his IRA past and the streets of New York have plenty of keen eyed Irishmen willing to turn Henry over to the Irish mob for some pieces of silver.

Henry and one of his molls end up running a scam that runs them out of town and almost gets Henry killed. He does a little time and in an effort to put more land between Ireland and himself, he hot foots it off to Chicago. There, he starts to earn some money the way many Irishmen before him did – settling in the Back O’ The Yards and working in the meat packing plants. But for Henry, this is merely a pit stop in his adventures.

He meets a young musician on the rise – Louis Armstrong. He becomes Armstrong’s bodyguard, driver and general all-purpose man. Chicago is good to both of them. To help themselves survive, they take up petty theft and during the nighttime robbery of the widow of Marshall Field (yes, that one, of department store fame and Frangos), Henry discovers his wife and child. His wife has been searching for him, and now works as a housekeeper. His daughter was a baby last time he saw her and is now a savvy seven year old.

From there, more and more things happen. Both good and bad and reflecting well America from about 1924 to 1938 or so. The story has wonderful highs and some sad lows. In this time of great discussion regarding race relations in America, the book has some thought provoking ideas on same. If for no other reason, it might be a timely read for that alone.

It is a great story about America and the individuals who choose to come here and have always chosen to come here to re-invent themselves. Perhaps that is more the real American dream than any other. And that re-invention is a constant. The story also touches on organized crime, wealth and poverty, the immigrant experience, the outlaw as myth and fact and jazz.

Roddy Doyle has a writing style that for those that have not read anything by him, at first may be distracting. Sentences can be short and choppy as voices overlap. He writes in a way that reflects how people actually speak. Once you get into the rhythm of the work however, you become used to it and appreciate just how unusual and unique that voice is – and also, distinctly Irish. He uses a lot of Irish slang and some Celtic words. I love it personally.

The other thing I found is that his style of writing complements the jazz presented by Armstrong. Jazz has a unique musical voice itself. It stops and starts and bebop’s along and the words felt like jazz, if that makes any sense. That choppy stop and go with fast, crazy action complimenting slow, melancholy layers. Not only could you picture the jazz clubs and gangsters but you could almost hear in your head the music.

I love Roddy Doyle’s work and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story. He is a fantastic teller of tales and you won’t be disappointed. He is also not confined to fiction. He has written at least one non-fiction book, some plays and some children’s stories. He also has a great facebook page and he often writes little ditties as a day to day practice which makes it one of my more entertaining social media stops. ( )
  ozzie65 | Sep 13, 2016 |
I had high hopes for this book as I really loved A star called Henry.
We now move on a few years from the previous book.
Henry is on the run heads to America meets some dodgy people and Louis Armstrong. Set in 1920s with Bootlegging and Gangsters all over the place.
I really wanted to enjoy this book but I didn't like the style or the characters.
Very disappointed not for me.
Not for me to silly,far fetched and ( )
  Daftboy1 | May 26, 2016 |
Man! That was a mouthful!! This is a sprawling novel that might have been better shorter, or made into two seperate books. There was much to absorb between Henry's New York, Chicago and western US adventures. I chaffed a little at the unlikely partnership between Henry and Louis Armstrong, but kept at it. At times it had the flavor of Joyce's Ulysses. It was an effort of will to perservere through some points in the novel, but it was worth it. Not as good as the first installment and now I'm on the hook for the third! :^)

Henry Smart is on the run. Fleeing from his Irish Republican Army paymasters, the men for whom he committed murder and mayhem, he has left behind his wife, Miss O’Shea, in a Dublin jail, and his infant daughter. When he lands in America, it's 1924, and New York is the center of the universe. Henry, ever resourceful, a pearl gray fedora parked on his head, has a sandwich board and a hidden stash of hooch for the speakeasies of the Lower East Side. When he starts hiring kids to carry boards for him, he catches the attention of the mobsters who run the district. It is time to leave, for another, newer America.

In Chicago there is no past waiting to jump on Henry. Music is everywhere, in the streets, in nightclubs, on phonograph records: furious, wild, happy music played by a man with a trumpet and bleeding lips called Louis Armstrong. But Armstrong is a prisoner of his color, and the mob is in Chicago too: they own every stage—and they own the man up on the stage. Armstrong needs a man, a white man, and the man he chooses is Henry Smart. ( )
  DuffDaddy | Mar 26, 2012 |
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On the last page of A Star Called Henry, the first volume of the The Last Roundup trilogy, we left Henry Smart on the run from his Republican paymasters, the men for whom he had perpetrated murder and mayhem. He flees from Dublin to Liverpool and from thence to Ellis Island, New York, America. And this is where Oh, Play That Thing begins... It's 1924, and New York is the centre of the universe. Henry falls on his feet, as a handsome man with a sandwich board, and - this being Prohibition - behind his sandwich board a stash of hooch for the speakeasies of the Lower East Side. When he starts hiring kids to carry boards for him, he catches the attention of the mobsters who run the district and soon there are eyes on his back and men in the shadows. It is time to leave, for another America: Chicago. In Chicago there is no past waiting to jump on Henry. The place is wild, as new as he is, and newest of all is the music. Furious, wild, happy music played by a man with a trumpet and bleeding lips called Louis Armstrong. His music is everywhere, coming from every open door, every phonograph. But Armstrong is a prisoner of his colour; there are places a black man cannot go, things he cannot do. And the mob is in Chicago too: they own every stage - and they own the man up on the stage. Armstrong needs a man, a white man, and the man he chooses is Henry Smart. This is a novel of prodigious energy and invention. Its language and its rhythms are as breathtaking as the music it celebrates. It shows yet again that as a writer Roddy Doyle is unequalled in his vision, his ambition, his ability to surprise us with each new novel. It is nothing less than a triumph.

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