A GREAT FEAST OF LIGHT by John Doyle

A GREAT FEAST OF LIGHT

Growing Up Irish in the Television Age
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Toronto Globe and Mail television columnist Doyle debuts with a memoir featuring, among other things, an account of what he watched on the telly in the old country.

As a lad in Tipperary, young John witnessed the advent of TV in Ireland. For him, puberty and modern life arrived simultaneously: Bat Masterson and The Donna Reed Show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart gave way only to airing of the daily angelus. Schooled by the Christian Brothers, he found the world of church, communion and confession informed and enlarged by broadcasts from elsewhere. “It was a mad, carefree way of life those people were living in America. They were afraid of nothing.” Not everyone was happy about it. As one politician famously declared, “There was no sex in Ireland before television.” And, while English Monty Python flew into Irish homes with its circus, more immediate matters also appeared on the screens. There, before all eyes, was the new rising against English rule in the North. Along with Upstairs, Downstairs, TV showed the struggles for Irish rights and women’s rights. It also deferentially presented the first papal visit to the land of St. Patrick, one broadcast that didn’t meet with the author’s approval. Despite all the evocative detail, television is simply the cement that binds a personal coming-of-age story. Doyle was quiet lad who watched and listened avidly to his parents and the colorful townsfolk in Nenagh Town and Carrick-on-Shannon. Then he was a Dubliner, a college student encountering famous poets and drinkers. Finally, he traveled across the Atlantic to become a Canadian, though he’ll always be an Irishman. Doyle writes with fine Hibernian garrulity and ease, not a bother on him. For an Irish narrative, he’s yer fella.

A bit about old television and a bit more about being Irish, all proficiently presented.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 2007
ISBN: 0-7867-1814-5
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2006