Imagine you’re on a flight. The captain has just lit the seatbelt signs and told you that you’re on the final approach but it’s going to be somewhat bumpier than he’d like. You brace yourself for turbulence. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as anyone expected. You land thanking the captain and all of the great good gods for overseeing your arrival. Now I want you to imagine yourself in a bookshop, picking up Two Pints, the latest offering from Roddy Doyle. You’re the passenger and I’m the captain whispering in your ear. You’re holding the book in your hands and you’re thinking, at 89 pages, this is somewhat slight for a £12 book. You’re right, I whisper. It is somewhat slight. You open the book and you see that it’s essentially a series of conversations (in the Roddy Doyle pilfered from Joyce style of hyphens instead of quotemarks). The cover, which shows two men sitting at a bar, gives you a clue as to what to expect. Here are a series of almost-asides, half page, one page, sometimes, rarely, a page and a half or two page back and forths about whatever was in the news (presumably) when Doyle wrote. Over the course of the book, we hear our two fellas talking about everything from the Irish elections through the Olympics through to foreign acts of terrorism and The Apprentice. You might think, as you’re stood in the bookshop weighing Two Pints in your hand, that there isn’t much to snag you here. Didn’t Gordon Burn do this a little more substantially in Born Yesterday? Brace yourself for turbulence, right?
Surprisingly, no. Two Pints is, for all of its slightness, a bit of a chuckle. There are very definitely chuckles to be had here. One of the auld fellas has a nephew who has a fondness for collecting animals (jackals, polar bears, tiger cubs etc) and it makes for an enjoyable running joke that reaches its apotheosis in a small lament upon the death of Maeve Binchy. The Maeve Binchy joke is arguably worth the price of admission. These two fellas are Doyle’s everymen (or perhaps Doyle himself – there is a strange Sydney aside that feels like it has relevance outside of the book but passes by as a little more than a strange moment here), as emblematic of his oeuvre as the laid off white collar types who appear within Springsteen songs.
When you’re done reading, the only actual criticism you can level at the book is that it feels like it goes one pint too far. The penultimate pint (in which we have our last update on the animal loving nephew) feels like a better close to the book than the actual close (which goes on to make the whole feel somewhat random). #
Any Cop?: I’m not sure this is a book anyone is waiting for, particularly, or a book that would even see the light of day if it wasn’t written by Roddy Doyle but, for all that, if it winds up in your Christmas stocking, you could do a lot worse than while away a couple of hours with the chuckles contain herein.