PATRICK FREYNE IS best known as a journalist, but scratch the surface of his life and you’ll find lots of unexpected stories lurking.
Think camping on wasteland with his equally hapless mates in Bremen; working in an anarcho-syndicalist pirate radio station; jumping out of a plane while believing it will lead to his death; or touring with his band in a decommissioned hearse.
The Dublin-based, Kildare-raised writer is well-known for his humorous yet scalpel-sharp takedowns of Irish popular culture (or “taking the piss out of telly” as he puts it) in his TV reviews for the Irish Times, as well as his considered handling of difficult subjects in his socially-driven features.
But for his debut collection of essays – titled OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea – Freyne turns the spotlight on himself. Those expecting to leaf through a book of his witty thoughts about Dermot Bannon’s cultural power or the filthiness of Mary Berry’s cakes, though, are going to have their presumptions about the breadth of his work dashed.
While Freyne thankfully retains his trademark humour (and there are quite a number of genuine laugh-out-loud moments in the book, which often tend to involve his friend ‘Corncrake’), he has also written sensitively and honestly about some of the tougher experiences that life throws at us.
There’s his time as a care worker, where he comes to realisations about how caring – and being cared for – can push people to their limits. There’s his writing about his family, where you sense his respect for his elders and his familial history. Then there are two of the standout essays in the collection, one of which (‘Brain Fever’) depicts his various mental health experiences including hypochondria and OCD, and ‘Something Else’, where he writes about how he and his wife, who is also a writer, do not have children.
Though the past decade has thankfully seen a shift in the dynamics around how men write about their own mental health, the topic of children is something that’s typically seen as a ‘woman’s subject’. But that’s not a binary that Freyne adheres to, thankfully.
Freyne doesn’t write to pretend that he’s the only man who’s had certain experiences. It’s clear that he’s writing solely from his own perspective, and that there are places he’s not willing to bring us. He’ll bare his soul only as far he wants to, which in an age of often over-sharing feels like a generous thing to do both for himself and his readers.
|OK Let’s Do Your Stupid Ideas||2020|