Threshold by Rob Doyle - review by John Phipps

John Phipps

Sex, Drugs & Buddhism



Bloomsbury Circus 316pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In Here are the Young Men (2014), Rob Doyle’s debut novel, a drug dealer called Scag, a drunk teenager and two Scandinavian backpackers are sitting in a Dublin pub discussing Knut Hamsun. ‘Do yis know him?’ asks the drug dealer.

‘He wrote Hunger. It’s a book about my life story; this lad comes to a foreign city and does fuck all, and he has no money and goes round the bend a bit. It’s a great book.’

Here are the Young Men is about how young men abandon their lives, stitching all-night benders into panic attacks, getting addicted to drugs and grief. In that novel and his subsequent story collection, This is the Ritual, Doyle outlines a world of mental terror, where sex is traumatic, pornography more so and literature arguably worse than both.

Scag’s summary of Hunger might be a description of Doyle’s latest, the novel-cum-memoir Threshold. The conceit is this: the narrator, Rob Doyle, is a literary hell-raiser set hard against the grain who spends his youth living in cities across Europe, reading, imbibing and failing to write a book.

Even in the

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter