SWEET LIBERTY by Joseph O’Connor


Travels in Irish America
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 A young Dublin-born novelist takes a lighthearted journey across America, visiting nine towns named Dublin (in nine different states), a number of cities in which Irish immigrants created distinctive communities, and some other, more uniquely American, sites, including Graceland and the Grand Canyon. More often than not, O'Connor (whose 1992 novel Cowboys and Indians was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) found few traces of Irish origins in the American Dublins; one was named after two colonial inns that were joined together and named ``Double-inns.'' He did discover an Irish-American population consumed with sentiment for the imagined old country, a vision at odds in many ways with current realities in the Irish republic. His obvious narrative skills are somewhat dissipated by the inclusion of brief, rather formulaic descriptions of some of the sites he visited. The writing is further marred by some severely strained metaphors- -perhaps the result of attempts to satisfy a reader's expectation of proverbial Irish wit. O'Connor lampoons some of the dark elements of American culture, ranging from the antebellum South to rip-off cabbies, from Boston slums, porn shops, and movies to social corrosion and the butchery of the English language, from school security guards with metal detectors to greasy fast-food joints. He admires our freedom of religion in contrast to Ireland's religious/political warfare, and comments persuasively on the influence of Irish music on American country ballads. O'Connor seems never far from a pub in his boozy travels, and these visits are invariably followed by fierce morning hangovers. He gives the impression of searching too desperately for the fresh, the odd, and the hilarious. Little that is startling or new.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-57098-105-1
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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