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book review

Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints shows the modern world through the eyes of two middle-aged Irishmen.Brett Beadle/The Globe and Mail

This slim book, all dialogue, takes Roddy Doyle back to the beginning of his writing career, to the two plays he wrote for a small theatre company in Dublin – Brownbread (1987) and War (1989) – which were written and performed just as his 1987 novel The Commitments was making him internationally renowned. Dialogue, especially in the flavourful, salty Dublin vernacular, was Doyle's strength then and now. It has largely disappeared from his recent novels and was sorely missed by many readers of his early work.

Here, in what is clearly a stocking-stuffer book, we get only the short, sharp conversations of two middle-aged men having a pint in a Dublin pub. They talk about home, wives, kids and whatever is in the news.

From the deaths of Whitney Houston and Donna Summer to U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner using Twitter to post pictures of certain parts of his body – "He sent his langer to some woman – by Twitter, yeh know?"/ "Cheaper than the post, I suppose." – and local Irish matters, the world is seen through the eyes of two men with a very funny, very Dublin perspective.

Most of Two Pints – it was written and posted on Facebook over the past two years – cannot be reprinted in a newspaper. It's eff this and eff that, in the way that many Dublin people use the f-word, and worse, to punctuate conversation and give rhythm to it.

There are rare instances of poignancy – the death of Maeve Binchy elicits something melancholy – but almost all the conversations are raw comedy and utterly plausible as pub talk in Dublin. They are spectacularly hilarious too, and even if some details will pass over the heads of a non-Irish reader, and those who don't follow soccer, this Irish-born reviewer and soccer fan can vouch for the authenticity.

And further, you haven't really put the career of Tom Cruise in perspective until you've heard what these two guys have to say about it. It takes as long to read this book as it does to drink a pint, and it's just as intoxicating and refreshing.

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic.