Autobibliography by Rob Doyle - review by Paul Genders

Paul Genders

Who’s Afraid of Nathalie Sarraute?

Autobibliography

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The category of non-fiction increasingly has the quality of dry land, of open and inviting country, for writers brought to a state of despair by the novel. This seems especially true for the more ambitious writers working today. Where fiction comes with too many formal obligations and a suffocating set of prescribed subjects, in non-fiction it seems you can write about almost whatever you like, and in something closer to your own voice too.

Of the fifty-two titles covered in Rob Doyle’s Autobibliography – a record of the books that, according to the author, ‘formed me’ and even ‘deformed me’ – under half are works of fiction. If we’re tempted to keep count, it’s because Doyle has already alerted us to the recent drift in his reading habits. ‘When I was in my twenties,’ he says in the introduction, ‘novels were … the primary means by which I understood the world.’ Nowadays, though, there’s more immediate succour to be found in ‘criticism, philosophy, aphorisms, history and books about what the internet is doing to me’.

Autobibliography grew out of a weekly column (limited to 340 words) written for the Irish Times in 2019, each one providing a capsule description of a particular book. Although he established himself as a novelist – his debut, Here Are the Young Men, was published in 2014 –

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