sixteen delicious and delirious hours with edna o’brien. @littlebrown


the jet lag has descended and not-having-our-reading-glasses (grrr, Delta Airlines Lost Property has Not responded as yet) means that we bought some shop-bought ones but they appear to have given us a halo dizzy shimmery effect out of the Right eye.

but the good news is that we spent the past sixteen hours (when not asleep – and we only managed to sleep off and on for a few of those) with the GLORIOUS edna o’brien (the Los Angeles County Library had sent us an email – how modern – while we were away in Manhattan last week saying her Memoir Had Arrived – we Dashed over there yesterday at 5.45PM promptly).


ah (or ach) – what glorious and delicious and delirious hours those Have Been.

she’s a storyteller and no mistake.

and what a Grand Life (said in both the Irish and the NYC sense – big, good, epic, gorgeous).


the pain, the peril, the love, the anger, the anguish, the signing-over-the-royalty-check/cheque (when a woman could not have her own bank account) to her husband, the torture of leaving one’s Land and yet the necessity to do that in order to survive and have a Very different Life to the one expected or planned for you that you threw into the sea and picked up your tatty coat and ran away to London (ah yes, we knew all the streets she talked of walking – just a few decades later but little changes when one is Young and terrified and broke and so horribly unbearably excited about the Future). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe read in bed and when we got tired of doing that we got up and read on the sofa and then went back to bed.

all 300+ pages of it.



and EPIC.

not many women get to have a life that grand or with such magic in their veins just waiting to be set down on paper.

as Mr. McCrum* writes in The Guardian (of England):

I have saved the best for last, Country Girl (Faber £20), the memoir that Edna O’Brien says “I swore I would never write”, begun in her 78th year. As a Celt, O’Brien holds a secret communion with the mystery of things. She believes she “saw things before I actually saw them” – ie that her words were always within her. Certainly, hers is one of the most natural and lyrical voices to have come out of Ireland. Her literary DNA is both magical and forensic. No one can nail a scene, or a character, with quite the same perfect brevity. She has lived many lives and known many loves……….

*you may recall that we found Mr. McCrum most comforting during our medical leave, day 15, to be exact.

we usually avoid the first chapter or so of a Memoir – all small people have a depressingly similar experience of either idyll or hostage-kept-by-crazy-parents and neither of which is by choice – but Ms. O’Brien’s enchantment of the mind while still very young is a treasure to pore over and relish and, if we may risk a little disrespect, actually more interesting than the middle years where stars came-and-went for lunch (and did not go for hours during which time she clearly lost Writing Hours but was under the spell of some swarthy type or another).

but, ah, the tender years – she saw Everything and missed not an emotion in Taking It Down.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 10.30.42 AM

here’s a Terribly English podcast, recorded in Ms. O’Brien’s own home.

now a quick Edna O’Brien anecdote for your pleasure, darlings:

when we worked on a British Newspaper in London one of our Editors was writing a story about Edna O’Brien and She CALLED the OFFICE.

it was a glorious moment.

our editor (Irish, himself and a fine impassioned writer) picked up the phone and shrieked (which he did a lot in those days) and held the phone slightly away from his ear so the five of us in the office (which also housed, on a part-time basis, a forthcoming award-winning novelist herself who, at the time, was writing witty beauty reviews) could Hear her strong Celt voice and rich fruity deeply sexy-naughty laugh.

Edna O’Brien herself.

as we live and breathe.

the rest of the day was a wash after that.

we all filed our copy and left early in a daze.

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