Journalist Patrick Freyne has been acclaimed for his work with The Irish Times, where he's been an astute and often hilarious chronicler of popular culture; now he's published his first collection of essays, entitled OK, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea (published by Penguin) - read an extract here.

We asked Patrick for his choice cultural picks...

FILM

I recently watched Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à part for the first time (because my wife has spent the pandemic on a fantasy tour around Europe) and it’s kind of amazing how he and the other New Wavers invent modern cinema. In this one, he mucks about with the tropes and grammar of modern cinema so stylishly you barely notice that he’s making it up as he goes, that passers-by are staring at the camera (they were filming without permits) and that the philosophical and narrative structure is half-baked at best. It’s still amazing. Like punk music, it demonstrates that you don’t need big budgets or slick skills or even coherent plans if you’ve got a unique vision, a load of ideas and the absolute gall to carry it off.

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And after that everyone should detox by watching my brother David Freyne’s funny and moving coming of age drama Dating Amber about two queer kids in the Curragh in the 1990s. It’s brilliant and on Amazon Prime.

MUSIC

Because my book of essays OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea, involved me delving into the past a lot, I’ve been listening to my friend and bandmate Paul Clancy’s album Road to the Heart, which he finished recording shortly before he died in 2010. It’s a beautiful, gentle heartbreaking folk record and more people should know it. You can find it all on YouTube, but here’s the single Hope in Your Heart to get you started:

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BOOK

I loved Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie because it’s an epic novel in just 110 pages and is basically the cold-eyed antidote to Dead Poet’s Society. I loved John Crowley’s cult fantasy novel Little Big for the opposite reason, it’s a deceptively small story about a man marrying into an imprecisely supernatural family spread over five hundred pages. And while I’m at it let me plug my wife Anna Carey’s beautiful YA novel about the 1913 Lockout, The Boldness of Betty.

THEATRE

I really liked Hamilton and got to see it in London but I’m aware that this selection makes me a very basic bro. Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tunetastic hip-hop story of the foundation of America was created at a tragic fault-line in that nation’s contemporary history. That makes it resonate. It’s also just really catchy.  

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TELEVISION

My favourite types of television programme, I’ve realized, are things that are "better than they ought to be." So, while I love The Wire and Succession and Orange is the New Black, I feel even more affectionate towards things that were meant to be exploitation romps and actually turned out to be amazing, like Press Gang or My So-Called Life or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Being Human or Z Nation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular changed television drama by stealth, introducing formal experimentalism and long story arcs and postmodernity long before prestige shows had even considered doing so.

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GIG

The last gig I saw before COVID killed music was, luckily, a brilliant one. Richard Dawson was touring his 2020 album and he brought it to Whelans in Dublin back in February. His music is weird, beautiful, folky, rifftastically metally and his lyrics are tender but unflinching stories that seem to speak directly about contemporary British identity confusion. The experience was enhanced by the fact I met him for an interview at his local in Newcastle a few weeks previously and he invited me to stay for a pub quiz. He is very much the sort of person you’d want to do a pub quiz with. That said, we came sixth or seventh.  

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Art (either an artist or an exhibition)

I’m a great person for wandering in a vague wispy trance through the National Gallery or the Hugh Lane Gallery, but I’m not great at going to exhibitions. The last one that really impacted me though was Nan Goldin’s Ballad Of Sexual Dependency in the Tate Modern in London last year, a slideshow of intimate photographs from Goldin’s personal life and the lives of those around her in the gay subcultural New York in which she lived. It’s raw, tender and deeply moving.

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RADIO

I love Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 show In Our Time which surveys the history of knowledge on history, philosophy, literature and science topic by topic. There’s a huge reservoir of knowledge in that archive that’s been building for over twenty years. I really enjoy how Bragg gently bullies his panel of experts until they’re clear and understandable in a way that later allows me to bore my friends in the pub. "I am very intelligent," I think to myself as I do so.

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TECH

I’m not really a techy person but I’ve recently started ripping pieces of paper and using them to cover the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of my computer while I’m writing. I find clock watching to be very distracting when I’m trying to work. Now, a ripped piece of paper used to obscure a digital clock, can that be classed as a technology? I think so. I mean, if a crow or monkey did this we’d call it "tool use" so I’m going to go with that as an answer: A ripped corner of paper to obscure an electronic clock.

THE NEXT BIG THING...

I thought Naoise Dolan’s novel Exciting Times was fantastically incisive and funny and real, I’m expecting more and more great things from her (No pressure, Naoise).

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Pic: Chris Maddaloni