Aoife Rooney shares her thoughts on the comedic and atmospheric writing of Patrick’s Freyne’s debut novel.
What to read...
OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea is the first book by author and Irish Times features writer, Patrick Freyne. His beautifully written collection of musings on his life thus far has quickly set the standard for books that I will be reading this year. Throughout the course of the book, Freyne educates the reader on the quintessential Irish upbringing, in the sense that it was entirely unpredictable and unique to the author. He details his freedoms living as a youngster in both Newbridge and the Curragh Camp, where his family moved to accommodate his father’s work in the army. The first anecdote of Freyne’s father and himself in the Wicklow mountains is my favourite. Patrick thought he was embarking on an innocent camping trip in the foothills in the Wicklow mountains as an act of bonding but it turned out to be a cover for looking for IRA training camps. A young version of the author was accompanied by an actual babbling brook, while his father was more preoccupied with the threat of stumbling across IRA rangers.
This is one of the many light-hearted, Bridge to Terabithia-like stories that lay amongst the pages of the book, showcasing with utter brilliance the astute humour the author was capable of portraying and his talent as a writer. This strand continues in other stories about early adulthood, Freyne and his friends finding themselves rotting in Bremen for a summer, dealing with racist kebab shop co-workers, and security of peat briquettes. Even in the funny stories, Freyne captures the essence of youth that many leave the age bracket without experiencing. On his time in Bremen, he wrote, “As I cycled to work on this bike in the warm dawn sunlight, I realised that, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t sad. I was happy.”
While there are many stories in this work of nonfiction, some of his best work is enhanced and colourised by Patrick’s gorgeous friends, Paul, D and Corncake (whose name I have determined to be Cormac). These stories are equal parts humility, heartbreak and benevolence. The story of his family’s trip to Coolmountain in Cork brought me to tears. His excellent storytelling skills jarring with the not always good times his mother’s family experienced in rural West Cork before moving to the city. Still, there is a great love for the homestead. Freyne constantly hits on feelings I too experience when thinking about home: “As we stood there that day in Coolmountain, the sun glinting off the leaves and swallows diving down the roads between the hedgerows, you’d wonder why anyone would ever want to leave.”
After finishing the story about Freyne’s last encounter with one of his best friends and subsequently finishing the book, it cemented in my mind with the worth which I would now assign this collection of works. Freyne reassured me that I am not the only one who feels that “my reality has downloaded as a lower resolution.”
...And where to read it.
I read this book in mid-December when I had spent the day working through assignments in the Dawson Street Starbucks. I started the book on the bus in, which was a mistake because when I arrived at the coffee shop, I opened my laptop at my table, alluding to the notion of work, but was compelled to read 50 pages before getting to the actual task at hand. I sat there daydreaming about Freyne being one street parallel to me, accosting innocent commuters in an attempt to have a chat. I imagined what his desk setup would be in the Irish Times building or if he even required a desk, as he was out of the office so frequently, making use of cafés like myself at that moment.
For a split second, I thought of getting the Luas to Heuston to catch the one o’clock train to Cork, where I would make my way to Coolmountain. Not too sure what I would do there, but Freyne’s writing assures that it would feel less far away from familiarity than it really was.
I read as I waited for the bus back to UCD, where I had abandoned my car, and the 145 to Ballywaltrim came first so I hopped on that. On the way back I read stories of adolescent Freyne and Corncake, when his gastronomically named friend worked in a petrol station and was aggrieved by a young girl daily. The shenanigans reminded me of his trip to the Wicklow mountains with his father. I considered staying on the bus and riding to its terminus, and then remembered that my knowledge of the Wicklow mountain range didn’t extend further than Bray Head, where I used to go sledging with friends. Instead, I went home and made a point to remember to annoy my friends about the book until they inevitably buy a copy, and maybe when they see what I’m talking about a trip to Coolmountain might actually be on the cards.