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Literature / Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly is the protagonist of a series of novels by Irish journalist Paul Howard, satirising the obsessions and habits of Ireland's privileged (and unprivileged) classes, particularly centering on the capital city, Dublin. For those unfamiliar with Dublin, it can be roughly divided into the North side (unprivileged), and the South side (privileged). The characteristics of both sides are highly exaggerated in the name of Rule of Funny. Ross, naturally, is from the south side, and is a spoilt, vain, womanizing, wealthy braggart who can't go two minutes without offending someone.

The books represent themselves as Ross's memoirs, to the point that Howard's name cannot be found on the cover. The novels follow Ross's life covering about one year apiece, and closely follow real time in Ireland. They begin in the late nineties, with Ross in his late teens, satirizing(primarily) the private school system in Ireland. They soon progress, with Ross, through university, organizing weddings, children, and the large number of subplots involving Ross's family and friends usually cover other topics. In the latest book, the Oh My God Delusion, Ross is approaching thirty, and he and his friends are not coping well with the recession.


Fourteen novels have been published so far:

  1. The Miseducation of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly (revised edition titled The Miseducation Years) (2000)
  2. Roysh Here, Roysh Now... The Teenage Dirtbag Years (revised edition titled The Teenage Dirtbag Years) (2001)
  3. The Orange Mocha-Chip Frappuccino Years (2003)
  4. PS, I Scored the Bridesmaids (2005)
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightdress (2006)
  6. Should Have Got Off at Sydney Parade (2007)
  7. This Champagne Mojito Is the Last Thing I Own (2008)
  8. Mr S and the Secrets of Andorra's Box (2008)
  9. Rhino What You Did Last Summer (2009)
  10. The Oh My God Delusion (2010)
  11. NAMA Mia! (2011)
  12. The Shelbourne Ultimatum (2012)
  13. Downturn Abbey (2013)
  14. Keeping Up with the Kalashnikovs (2014)

There have also been three plays (The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger, Between Foxrock and a Hard Place and Breaking Dad) two semi-non-fiction books (Ross O'Carroll-Kelly's Guide to (South) Dublin: How To Get By On, Like, €10,000 A Day and We Need To Talk About Ross) and a spoken-word album.


Tropes include:

  • Alpha Bitch: Many, but Erika deserves the prize.
  • Alternate Continuity: The stage plays are designed very much as standalone entities, and their events don't always align fully with the books or the newspaper column.
  • Badass Teacher: Fr. Fehily, the rugby coach, is subjects the boys to an strict training scheme, disregards academics, and is highly implied to be an ex-nazi. Ross worships him.
  • Bridezilla: Ross's bride to be, Sorcha, unsuprisingly. She's even worse when they renew their vows nine books later.
  • Book Dumb: The first book prints Ross's Leaving Cert (final school exam) papers unedited. It is not pretty.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sorcha, the tree hugging humanitarian who has put up with so much from Ross, loses the rag when her boutique closes down and responds by driving down the pedestrianised Grafton Street and crashes intentionally into the window of Brown Thomas's, another boutique. The judge even lampshades it at the hearing:
    "Am I hearing the correct case here?"
  • Born Winner: Ross thinks he is this, he expects the call to be on the Irish Rugby squad to come any day now
  • Bumbling Dad: All of Ross and Ronans interactions
  • The Casanova: The amount of women Ross goes through is mind boggling, he rarely remembers their names, and it regularly come back to haunt him
  • Children Are Innocent: Completely averted by Ronan, Ross's son raided on the northside, at eight years old, this child's wants to be a career criminal when he grows up, and is already preparing for the profession.
    • His second child (that we know of), Honor, is even worse - less a harmless criminal and more a complete psychopath. Even her parents are terrified of her, and have almost no ability to control her.
  • Creator Provincialism: Invoked, Ross's knowledge of geography outside of Dublin is intentionally terrible.
  • Dublin: The setting is "Dublin's fair city", which is not all that fair, in any sense of the word.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Oisinn is the winner of the Annual UCD Iron Stomach competition.
  • Fake Pregnancy: In the first book, Sorcha leads Ross to believe she is pregnant for several months, purely to miss with his head.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Ross's mother, Fionnuala, frequently describes her gourmet meals in detail.
  • Five-Man Band: The Rugby Boys
  • Flash Forward: The entire play Breaking Dad is set roughly a decade into the future, where Bertie Ahern has just led Fianna Fail back into power and Ross has to cope with the first time his daughter brings a boy home.
  • Funetik Aksent: Used constantly, even in narration, some accents are nigh incomprehensible without reading aloud. Howard isan excellent mimic. Some of the examples frequently used by Ross emphasise the soft "t" and the broad vowels eg. Right=Roysh, car park= cor pork. It is used frequently as a means of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: These books are not too shy about crap in full view of the radar, but they make use of the more impenetrable aspects of Dublin slang to keep it in full view where it might not otherwise be allowed. For instance, Sydney Parade is the second stop on the Dublin train line, so "I Should have Got off at Sydney Parade" refers to Ross not finishing his trip.
  • Hollywood Spelling: Inverted with many names: Jayne with a y, Leesa with two e's, etc.
  • Homage: The first novel is a lengthy one to American Psycho, with Ross as an affluent, obnoxious Unreliable Narrator comparable to Patrick Bateman (except without, you know, all the murdering people). Emphasized in a scene in Eddie Rocket's in which the dialogue of Oisinn and Ross comparing fashion tips is copied almost word-for-word from a similar scene in American Psycho.
  • Idiot Hero: At least he's aware of it (some of the time).
    "Sometimes I'm slower than focking Mass."
  • Jerkass: Ross.
  • Jerk Jock: Ross, and all of his team mates.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The novels are presented as Ross's memoirs, "as told to" Paul Howard.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Most of the novels.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Twice, once with Ross discovering his eight year old son Ronan, and once with Charles revealing that Erika is his daughter
  • Manipulative Bastard: Charles pays off Ross's pregnant ex so that she won't inform Ross about the child, Ronan
  • Meaningful Name: Ross O' Carroll Kelly, and his parents, Fionnuala O' Carroll Kelly and Charles O' Carroll Kelly get a lot of jokes poked at their initials.
  • Money to Throw Away: In an iconic scene, Ross and friends throw money out the window in a poor part of Dublin, yelling "Affluence!" A few young readers actually imitated him.
  • Mood Whiplash: Aoife's anorexia and bulemia, her efforts to count her points, her asking how many calories lettuce contains etc. are all played for laughs. The hospital trip is not. Nor is her death.
  • My Nayme Is: Tons of them — Erika, Oisinn (the spelling Oisín is far more common), Leesa, Jayne
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Played with, Ross compares every woman he meets to a real life celebrity, partially as flattery, and partially to save the author the trouble of describing them. Real life Celebrities are frequently referred to in conversation, often as an Appeal to Wealth. Derek "One F" Foley, a friend of the real-life author, is the only real person to feature prominently
  • Nouveau Riche: The Celtic Tiger is a relatively recent phenomenon in Ireland, so many of the characters are this by default. Ross's family was not so wealthy when he was a young child.
  • Retcon: Tons of it in We Need To Talk About Ross, blaming an Unreliable Narrator. Also Hand Waves several continuity errors (did Ross meet Christian in primary school or at Castlerock? Did Ross's dad go to school with Hennessy or did they meet later? Was Ross 15 or 17 when he met Sorcha?)
  • Rich Bitch: Most of the women, but especially Erika
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Ross does pass through several jobs, but in between times he is this.
  • Rule of Funny: this is the fuel on which the plot runs.
  • Shout-Out: The titles are all references to other bestselling books.
  • Surprise Incest: Averted (not for want of trying) with half-siblings Ross and Erika.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: Practically every girl or woman Ross finds attractive will be described as such.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ross himself.
  • Unwanted Glasses Plot: Ross comments frequently on his somewhat more bookish friend's glasses. Poor Fionn.
  • Updated Re-release: the first two books were published cheaply by the Sunday Tribune's own press as The Miseducation of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly and Roysh Here, Roysh Now… The Teenage Dirtbag Years); they got higher-quality rereleases with added material as The Miseducation Years and The Teenage Dirtbag Years)


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