Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Banned Books Week: Day IV

Now that the scare is over (for now), we can continue my little venture into some of my favorite books.

I think I'm going to continue doing a series, but this one is only a two-booker:

Ready for it?

Roddy Doyle's THE LAST ROUNDUP

If you ever wanted to read a fictional tale of the man who believes he reshaped both Ireland and America yet no one today truly knows or cares, then you should read the tale of Henry S. Smart.

His parents were attracted to each other by their names, Henry Smary and Melody Nash. His father was known to be a bouncer for an adult club and a hit man when required to do so. Oh yes, Henry Sr. also has one leg . . . he gets around using a wooden replacement. In fact, that wooden leg is also used as a weapon in his bouncing and hitting deals. No one thought that these two could ever be in love.

Henry was born in Ireland in 1901, and he was considered a child from the heavens. Absolutely beautiful in every physical way . . . he was reputed to have a thick head of hair and a full set of teeth on his birth!

As he grows up, Henry becomes a powerful player in the Easter Rising and in the Irish Revolution. He eventually even becomes a right hand man for Michael Collins himself.

But as the tale grows, it's clear that Henry isn't as big as he think he is. Clouded by his vain, he has no realization that the people he is currently fighting for will eventually turn on him, in an effort to take out any future potential troublemakers, of which he is the best in the business.

His efforts to escape the grasp of the IRA will take him to Ellis Island in 1924 . . . soon after he becomes a jack of many trades, including a sandwhich card salesman, a dentist, and a bootlegger. But these jobs fly by until he is asked by none other than Louis Armstrong to be his personal Guard and right hand man. Henry takes up the offer, and finds several similarities between he and Louis . . . especially in how both of them - no matter how successful they can be - will always have to answer to somebody, whether they be the white people (because Armstrong is a black man), the IRA (because they want Henry dead), or of each other (Louis is Henry's boss, yet Henry is the white man of the team). In the end, you can only find an amazing tale.

The series I specifically mention this week because while I doubt they have been brought into question for banning, they do indeed have alot of foul language, deaths, and sexuality . . . but for Henry, that's only the beginning. He is a man everyone wishes they could know more of, but there is not chance anyone would ever want to be him. No matter how resilient the man is (and trust me, this guy should have died more than once), he still remains proud, vain, stubborn, ruthless, and above all . . . ignorant. Even when he sees things are not the way they should be, he still can't get out of the world which he has driven himself into.

It really is a fascinating story.

Here's the pics of the first two books. Roddy Doyle has hinted of a third and final installment, but it has never become more than that. If he is indeed writing one, I'd expect it no earlier than 2009.

The Last Roundup
A Star Called Henry (1999)
Oh, Play that Thing (2004)

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