Madeline Poage ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Part memoir, part extended travel brochure, one hundred percent true story, Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks is, as he puts it, “a tribute to what can be achieved as a result of a shabby night of booze.” Published by Ebury Press in 1998, the story follows the grand adventure of one man trying to fulfill a bet made while shamelessly hammered for one hundred pounds. The bet? That he, Tony Hawks, cannot hitchhike around the circumference of Ireland within one month with a fridge in tow. Determined to win that one hundred pound prize, Hawks immediately spends 130 pounds on a small, unassuming fridge that will become his traveling companion for the next few weeks and heads on to Dublin, where his odyssey begins. He has no plan, no knowledge of what awaits him, and definitely no idea of how great a story his endeavor will become when put on the page.
One of the book’s defining features is the humor and wit splashed through every sentence, far drier than the rainy roadsides on which Hawks often finds himself, desperately hoping for a ride. Hawks, a comedian by profession, recognizes the ridiculousness of his quest and anticipates the hardships on the road ahead. Written in an exploratory style, he seems just as surprised as the reader with the way events transpire. When he expects to spend days walking on the side of a road, thumb outstretched with no luck, he gets picked up almost instantly by drivers earnestly asking, “Are you the Fridge Man?” When he figures he’ll have a few days of smooth sailing, he ends up in a high-speed death trap of a car, careening through the hostile territory of Northern Ireland. Turns out it’s hard to explain a fridge to armed nationalists.
But the fridge, initially conceived to be a hindrance, emerges as the unsung sidekick of Hawks, attracting the curious attention of locals and backroad drivers. And with Hawks’ narration and the fridge looking on, it’s the people of Ireland who take center stage in a rotating cast of irresistible characters who cannot help but support such a crazy quest. Steadfast guides on his journey, the pub owners, drunks, bed-and-breakfast managers, and many benevolent drivers color the book with expletives and enthusiasm, turning a simple from-here-to-there trip into a spirited celebration of life.
Embracing the absurdity of his identity as “the Fridge Man,” Hawks becomes something of a foolhardy folk hero to the Irish people, who in turn are determined to see his bet won. With his new mythic status, Hawks garners their respect, admiration, and endearment, developing his own “philosophy of the fridge,” an ideology that praises purposelessness. Relying on the freely given Irish goodwill, he sallies forth in an experiment of pointless romanticism that, nonsensical though it may be and laughable though it certainly is, remains an advocate for the unpredictable and the outrageously fun.