(By Roddy Doyle. First Published in 1990.)
The middle installment of The Barrytown Trilogy, “The Snapper” has to be Dublin novelist Roddy Doyle’s outstanding comic work.
When teenager Sharon Rabbite turns up pregnant, it’s a bit of a shock to her friends and family, especially her father, Jimmy Sr.; but, in their earthy way, the Rabbites learn to deal soon enough. When Sharon refuses to divulge the baby-daddy’s identity, rumors spread that it’s one of her father’s friends, and Sharon is forced to invent a story about having had a one-night stand with a foreign sailor.
As with any Doyle story, the plot is not really the point. The point is family love and craziness — and how it is revealed through passages of slang-laden insults that even Harold Pinter must have been jealous of. Jimmy Rabbite’s speech, in particular, makes him one of the most memorable of contemporary fictional characters:
-Don’t go, Sharon.
-I have to.
She stopped messing with the clothes.
-Yeh don’t have to.
Jimmy Sr. looked across, out the window. His eyes were shiny. He kept blinking. He gulped, but the lump kept rising.
-I’m cryin’, Sharon, sorry, I didn’t mean to.
He pulled the sleeve of his jumper over his fist and wiped his eyes with it.
He looked at her. She looked as if she didn’t know how she should look, what expression she should have on.
-Em — I don’t know wha’ to fuckin’ say. That’s the first time I cried since your granny died. Hang on; no. I haven’t cried since I was a kid.
-You cried last Christmas.
-Sober, Sharon. Drunk doesn’t count. We all do stupid things when we’re drunk.
-Fuck, sorry; I didn’t mean it like tha’!