Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America

Overview

Award-winning novelist and journalist Joseph O'Connor's passion for America began during his childhood holidays in the beautiful west of Ireland wilderness of Connemara, populated by Gaelic speakers, sheep, and American tourists. His growing love affair with all things American inspired the adventure that "Sweet Liberty" chronicles: a tour across the United States to visit nine towns called Dublin, with stops at the great cities and landmarks in between, including New York, Las Vegas, Graceland, and the Grand ...
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Overview

Award-winning novelist and journalist Joseph O'Connor's passion for America began during his childhood holidays in the beautiful west of Ireland wilderness of Connemara, populated by Gaelic speakers, sheep, and American tourists. His growing love affair with all things American inspired the adventure that "Sweet Liberty" chronicles: a tour across the United States to visit nine towns called Dublin, with stops at the great cities and landmarks in between, including New York, Las Vegas, Graceland, and the Grand Canyon. Along the way, he wittily deconstructs the legends of a whole pantheon of Irish-American heroes, from John F. Kennedy to Billy the Kid. Joe offers illuminating insight into the musicological culture of America, revealing its many immigrant influences, not least when he ponders Elvis' Irish roots and uncovers the secret relationship between William Butler Yeats and The Everly Brothers. Hilarious, poignant and unforgettable, "Sweet Liberty" transcends the usual boundaries of travel writing as it explores today's social concerns, and celebrates the breathtaking diversity of the Irish influence on America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
O'Connor, who was born in Dublin, set out to write a book on the U.S. based on the nine towns in America named Dublin. Arriving from Ireland, he lands in Boston, where he sees his first pornographic movie, is awed by the Boston accent, which reminds him of sheep talking, and suffers tremendous hangovers. In Dublin, N.H., he finds disappointment, as the town "was so small it was almost portable." Then a side trip to New York City, where he admires drag queens in Greenwich Village, incorrectly describes the Brooklyn Bridge as towering over the Hudson and observes that "New Yorkers are basically children." His condescending attitude continues as he visits Dublins in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and California. The author, the brother of Irish pop icon Sinad O'Connor, seems only to enjoy himself on a side trip to Nashville, where he enthusiastically worships at the shrine of Elvis and contemplates the connection between the Everly Brothers and the poetry of William Butler Yeats. A travelogue for the hip who won't be upset with snide comments passing as humor and insight. Sept.
Library Journal
O'Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland, and has won several literary awards, including the 1990 Time Out Travel Writing Prize. Curious to see how the Irish people have influenced America, he traveled to nine cities named Dublin in America as well as visiting such Irish bastions as New York City and Boston and exploring Dallas, Graceland, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas. O'Connor livens up his narrative with personal anecdotes about the perils of a New York City motel room or the difficulties of trying to buy a beer on a warm Sunday in a dry Southern town. He muses on why the great accounts of travel never discuss laundry and the longevity of Elvis Presley's popularity. All along the way, strains of Irish music follow him, and he discusses the influence it has had on America. Highly recommended for any travel collection.Katherine Ellerton, Missouri Research & Ed. Network MOREnet, Columbia
Kirkus Reviews
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.

From the Publisher
“The laureate of the rising Irish generation.”
Irish Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570981517
  • Publisher: Rinehart, Roberts Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He has written ten widely acclaimed and bestselling books including the novels Cowboys and Indians; Desperadoes; The Salesman; Inishowen; Star of the Sea; and Redemption Falls.

Good To Know

In our interview, O'Connor shared some fun facts about himself:

"As a university student, I once had a summer job selling plastic refuse sacks over the telephone. Rather worryingly, I was not too bad at it."

"I was born on 20 September, 1963, the anniversary of the day on which various pieces of Robert Emmet, the great 19th century Irish patriot, were separated from one another by British uniformed persons with the aid of an axe and scaffold. As a result of this haunting coincidence, my parents very nearly named me Emmet O'Connor. Quite a good name for a novelist, actually."

"I have always wanted to write a novel called The Old One-Two, but I haven't the faintest idea what it might be about."

"I'm afraid I have little time for hobbies, other than music, which I've mentioned above. My wife and I sometimes go to the opera. We're lucky enough to get to travel a lot, often because of work -- she's a screenwriter. As the father of a lively three-year old boy, I occasionally catch Barney or Clifford, the Big Red Dog. But secretly I prefer the ,I>Bear in the Big Blue House -- better stories and more moral ambiguity."

"Other ways of unwinding include regular and deafeningly loud doses of J. S. Bach, the great Muddy Waters, or George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. As for literary dislikes, I do have one big one. Despite its newfound popularity, I must confess that I simply don't get the point of Tolkien's work, that sad little circus of hobbitry and Elvish. How profound must one's weariness of the real world have become to want to burrow into the recesses of Middle Earth like a disappointed mole. Some people I love swear that The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece, but I am firmly on the side of C. S. Lewis, who is said to have sighed, on reading an early draft: ‘Oh, for God's sake, Tolkien. Not another elf story.'"

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    1. Hometown:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 20, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      B.A., University College, Dublin, 1984; M.A., 1986; University College, Oxford, 1987; M.A., University of Leeds, 1991

Table of Contents

Introduction: How the West Was Won 1
Pt. 1 The Greenfields of Amerikay 19
1 A Good Ride in Boston 20
2 Irish Spring 57
3 Who Do You Love? 87
4 The Hitch-hiker's Guide to a United Ireland 107
5 Sean 126
6 Rebel Music 138
7 Woollybacks! 151
8 Pennsylvania Uber Alles 171
9 Duke and Alison 184
10 Sharing a Taxi with Randy Newman 199
Pt. 2 The Coast of Gold 219
11 Venezuela My Ass 221
12 The Devil in Disguise 244
13 Honky Tonk Angels 270
14 Love Hurts 286
15 The Long Way Home 307
Historical Bibliography 319
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