OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea: hilarity, pathos and midlife crisis

Irish Times writer Patrick Freyne consoles and entertains but his essays work best when the stakes are low

Patrick Freyne: his style of leaving the real thing unsaid is sometimes a delicate and moving effect and sometimes a failure to follow through. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Patrick Freyne: his style of leaving the real thing unsaid is sometimes a delicate and moving effect and sometimes a failure to follow through. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Patrick Freyne’s episodic memoir, OK Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea, begins with a conversation with his friend Corncrake, who says: “If I was going to read about someone’s life, it would be someone like Julius Caesar, or Napoleon, or some famous general.” If you are of Corncrake’s mind, this is not the book for you; Freyne is experimenting with the writing of ordinary life.

The difficulty is that ordinary life is shapeless, and most of the “whole genre of work” with which Freyne defends himself recounts a life change: Amy Liptrot’s recovery from alcoholism in The Outrun, Sinéad Gleeson’s negotiations with frailty and medicine in Constellations, Ian Maleney’s loss of and return to rootedness in Minor Monuments; in each case there is a story with, approximately, a beginning, a middle and an end.

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