Tuesday, November 26, 2013
In the room with Louis
Title: Oh Play That Thing
By: Roddy Doyle
A beautiful performance by actor Christian Conn, who creates the gorgeous Irish voices, varied New York accents, and a believable rendition of Louis Armstrong. Conn gives every word its worth, adding meaningful richness to the often spare dialogue. Oh Play That Thing is the second title in The Last Roundup trilogy that began with A Star Called Henry. I recommend that you do what I didn’t, read the first title before listening to Oh Play That Thing, as there are character references and flashbacks that you will want to understand. I was sucked into the story anyway by the language, the depiction of American culture in the 1920’s, and Conn’s performance. I was appalled and intrigued by the Henry’s experiences on the run from Irish hitmen ("I walked until my ears felt very far from home"). He’s full of himself, "stretching the day to new limits, forcing new seconds into every minute," a foolhardy but gutsy risk-taker whom one can’t help applauding even as one deplores his behavior.
It’s a wonderful fiction to hear for the first time. And the second time? I felt like I was in the room with Henry and Louis, that’s how entrancing the reading is.
While listening to this book, you might also listen to some Louis Armstrong performances from that period. The Okeh, Columbia & RCA Victor recordings, 1925-1933 includes a number of songs mentioned in the book. And try to visualize the naughty dance scene (track 36 in the MP3 audiobook) to Gershwin’s “Sweet and Low Down,” also recorded in 1925 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.