i first read the Barrytown Trilogy years ago, back when i was dating exMate Sarah and living in Boston. or maybe i was dating exMate Cara and living in Delaware?
i don't know, i was dating somebody and living somewhere years and years and years ago.
whenever it was, it was before i was doing LiveJournal book reviews, before i had a LiveJournal even, so i figured i would would read the trilogy again, officially, for the record.
i picked up my copy of the Barrytown Trilogy the last time i was back in my room in my Parent's house in New Jersey intending for the PSE to read it.
i really enjoyed the Barrytown Trilogy and i thought she might as well.
the PSE never bothered and the book sat on our shelf here in Fort Worth for the better part of a year but eventually i decided to pick it up for a re-read.

The Commitments:
The Commitments is the first book in the Barrytown Trilogy.
it tells the story of a bunch of Irish twenty-somethings in Dublin in the late 1980s trying to form a soul band.
when i first read The Commitments i thought it odd that anybody would want to start a soul group, any music that mattered was punk rock when i was in my early twenties.
i don't know that i could have given you a comprehensive definition of what soul music was but now that i'm older and a bit more cultured, sure, the idea of a bunch of Irish trying to embrace that Motown sound makes sense. why not?
so, ten or twelve different characters get together and one of them happens to have some experience touring around the States with different Soul groups so he teaches the rest of them to be hip.
the group plays several shows and then breaks up right when their manager gets them a modest record deal, the end.

one of the first things that stands out about The Commitments is the complete and total lack of conformity to any proper rules of grammar and punctuation.
like Finnegan's Wake, but good.
for a book that is largely dialog there isn't a single quotation mark in the entire thing.
as for the plot, there isn't really all that much to The Commitments, but, that doesn't really matter all that much.
the appeal of The Commitments is the banter between the characters.
The Commitments is just 140 page of different characters shit-talking each other.
shit-talk is my very-favorite art form which gave me a special appreciation for the book,
while Blacks do the dozens and Jews bicker and the Gays throw shade, people from the U.K. banter.
they have a laugh, they take the piss.
this was just a book about Irish twenty-somethings bantering back and forth and it was charming as shit. contagious, too.
i can guarantee that after reading The Commitments the first time i picked up a whole bunch of Irish slang affectations [perhaps that's where i started calling things 'shite'] and, upon re-read, i did it again.
for, like, three weeks after i finished The Commitments i would say things like “fair play to yis” or i would call someone a “fookin eejit” or i would mutter “up my gooter” though, i don't have the slightest idea what that last one means.
for being a book predicated entirely on the charm of the Irish and their considerable talents for shit-talk, The Commitments earns a 7.5/10.

The Snapper:
The Snapper is the second book in the Barrytown Trilogy.
it tells the story of a bunch of a nineteen or twenty year old girl carrying a pregnancy to term, and her family's involvement in her pregnancy, especially her dad.
a “snapper,” apparently is Irish slang for a baby? or maybe an illegitimate child?
i would have assumed “snapper” is slang for a puss, i expected this to be a story about somebody's vagina, but i guess thats a cultural misunderstanding between me and the Irish.

the first time i read The Snapper many years ago what stood out to me was what a terrible parent the girl's dad is.
he's got six kids and he's always cussing at them and chasing them around their small house trying to beat them and he spends most of his time going out drinking with his buddies at the local pub.
when i was in my early-twenties, not too far removed from my own upper-middle class childhood, parents who behaved like that were thankfully unfamiliar.
but, i've been around enough America trash in the intervening years to have learned that, yeah, sometimes people's parents don't know how to act like adults.
upon a re-read, the father in The Snapper is more endearing, his interest in his daughter's pregnancy is touching and his efforts to try to connect with his other children are admirable, though, he still does try cuss at his children all the time and he spends most of his free time trying to get loaded.
you can't make the Irish not be Irish, i guess.

looking at the plot through the lens of 2017 America, the girl in The Snapper was the victim of either a rape or something rape-adjacent.
she got blackout drunk one evening and was propositioned in the parking lot of the local bar by one of her friend's fathers.
modern American popular culture has really been putting an emphasis on the importance of affirmative consent for sexual activity and that's really, really important.
but, i guess in the slums of Dublin in the late 1980s grown men taking sexual liberties with nearly-unconscious neighborhood girls was just par for the course.
the neighbors would joke about the situation but it wasn't much more then a subject of ridicule.
the perpetrator left his wife and family and tried to get the girl to run away with him but she she turned him down he returned to his family and resumed the normal course of his life.
everybody knew what happened but there was no police or social services investigation.
which is really pretty dark, but wasn't the point of the book at all.
mostly, the book was just about the girl and her dad bonding over the arrival of this new baby.

another dark bit of anachronism is how much the main character drinks while she's pregnant.
even after she knows that she is expecting she still goes to the smoke-filled local bar several times a week to pound back Vodka and Cokes.
reading that in 2017 America it's hard to not get mad at this fictional character and her child abuse but i guess in the time and setting of the story, it just wasn't that big of a deal?
even though i have to believe that even in Dublin in the late 1980s they knew about fetal alcohol syndrome.
but again, you can't make the Irish not be Irish.
drinking while pregnant is what makes them all turn orange.
for being a good story, for taking the charm of The Commitments and toning down the humor and adding more tender, human moments, The Snapper earns a 7.0/10.

//[ab irato ad astra]

October 2017

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