Lit Tuesday: Edna O’Brien

Now that we are solidly into March, I thought I’d take this month to attempt to do some research on a certain country and region. There are many things that come to mind when I think about March and what I associate with it, but Ireland is at the top of the pack. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go to and I think Celtic mythology is fascinating. Of course, when I think of Ireland, I also think of Scotland, so I’ll talk a bit about scotch this month, too. Scotland is another place I’d love to go to.

While I am going to cover some more general topics (researching Irish authors to read, Irish literary festivals, and a review of some series that utilize Celtic mythology), I’m going to be specific to one author today: Edna O’Brien.

I first read Ms. O’Brien’s work in college. It was for one of my senior writing classes. We had to pick an author and a book of their short stories to review. I wound up picking Ms. O’Brien’s Saints and Sinners collection. Let me preface this by saying I’m really not a fan of reading short stories. I much prefer novels. But when I finished Saints and Sinners, I was awed. Her writing is lyrical, evocative, raw, and real–she is credited with bringing Irish women’s issues and sex lives and internal monologue to the pages and attention of the world. I haven’t read her fiction again in a while, but her ability to clearly draw the Irish countryside for the reader is one thing that remains with me to this day.

Ms. O’Brien won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2011 for her work in Saints and Sinners. She has won a number of awards for her writing.

Now, having said all that, I recently read her autobiography Mother Ireland. While her fiction writing style shows through in this short autobiography, this book was a bit more difficult for me to slog through. She wrote it in a stream-of-consciousness style that was hard for me to follow along with. Now that I’ve read some of her background on Wikipedia and Goodreads, I can see connections with some of the scenes she relayed (her parents were very much against literature and her mother tried to burn some of her books). It was still wonderfully lyrical, but I find stream-of-consciousness to be hard to follow along with (or I have to be in the right frame of mind for it).

I have one more book of hers sitting on the shelf: A Fanatic Heart. It’s another collection of short stories. I’m looking forward to reading it at some point. I’m just not sure when that will be. I have lots of books to read at some point.

If you see Edna O’Brien on the shelf and one of her books catches your fancy, check it out, buy it, whatever. Then save it to read for a rainy day to capture the appropriate sense of melancholy she evokes in her readers.

(Picture taken by me. I’ll learn how to stage books and prepare pictures ahead of time one day.)


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