“There are those nights when you’re pushing thirty and life seems over. When you feel like you’ll never tie up any ends and no one will ever kiss your lips again.” I felt this way for approximately five minutes sometime around March of 2001, so it was excellent timing that I happened to read Eureka Street right at that moment. I fall in love with books all the time, but it’s rare that something captures exactly how I feel, exactly when I’m feeling it. Those lines in the first chapter gave me a serious lit crush on Jake Jackson, narrator extraordinaire.
Rereading Eureka Street 16 years later was kind of like reading an old diary. There were some cringe-worthy bits, and it doesn’t need to be so long, but it was mostly a nostalgic joy. I was so engaged by this story of Jake Jackson, 20-something Irish Catholic boy trying to find his way through life and love and The Troubles in 1996 Belfast. This is kind of like High Fidelity, with a more charming protagonist, and a more sobering setting, and without the pop culture obsession, and maybe it’s not really that much like High Fidelity after all, but it’s the same ballpark.
Not all of this worked for me as well as it did the first time around. It definitely feels a little long. While I appreciate shifting points of view, I was always less invested in the Chuckie chapters than in the Jake ones. (Chapter 11 is stunning and could easily work as a standalone short story.) And of course, at 44, I relate a little less to a group of single 20-somethings than I did when I actually was a single 20-something. But overall I really enjoyed this, and I still find Jake as crush-worthy as I did back then. That early quote doesn’t strike the same chord with me anymore, but I was pretty charmed by his reaction when a friend comes out of the closet. “I felt like a liberal parent presented with a homosexual child. I was delighted to be able to demonstrate my permissiveness.” If you’re looking hard enough, you’re going to find some problematic bits here, but I feel like that’s going to be true of just about any straight white male. So while Jake isn’t perfect, in his own words, “I don’t care because this is enough.”
Of course it helps that I always pictured him being played by one of my biggest movie crushes.