"Who's afraid of Edna O'Brien?" asks an early interviewer in Conversations with Edna O'Brien. With over fifty years of published novels, biographies, plays, telecasts, short stories, and more, it is hard not to be intimidated by her. An acclaimed and controversial Irish writer, O'Brien (b. 1930) saw her early works, starting in 1960 with The Country Girls, banned and burned in Ireland, but often read in secret. Her contemporary work continues to spark debates on the rigors and challenges of Catholic conservatism and the struggle for women to make a place for themselves in the world without anxiety and guilt. The raw nerve of emotion at the heart of her lyrical prose provokes readers, challenges politicians, and proves difficult for critics to place her.
In these interviews, O'Brien finds her own critical voice and moves interviewers away from a focus on her life as the "once infamous Edna" toward a focus on her works. Parallels between Edna O'Brien and her literary muse and mentor, James Joyce, are often cited in interviews such as Philip Roth's description of The Country Girls as a "rural Dubliners." While Joyce is the centerpiece of O'Brien's literary pantheon, allusions to writers such as Shakespeare, Chekhov, Beckett, and Woolf become a medium for her critical voice. Conversations with contemporary writers Philip Roth and Glenn Patterson reveal Edna O'Brien's sense of herself as a contemporary writer. The final interview included here, with BBC personality William Crawley at Queen's University Belfast is a synthesis of her acceptance and fame as an Irish writer and an Irish woman and an affirmation of her literary authority.
About the Author
Alice Hughes Kersnowski, San Antonio, Texas, is a professor of English at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. She is coeditor of Conversations with Henry Miller (University Press of Mississippi).
Table of Contents
Who's Afraid of Edna O'Brien Mary Maker / 1967 3
Edna O'Brien Talks to David Heycock about Her New Novel, A Pagan Place David Heycock / 1970 8
Our Edna-A Song of S.W.3. Elgy Gillespie / 1972 13
Miss O'Brien Recalls Hostile Reception Experienced by Chekhov and O'Casey Peadar Macgiolla Cearr / 1974 18
Edna O'Brien, The Art of Fiction No. 82 Shusha Guppy / 1984 21
A Conversation with Edna O'Brien Philip Roth / 1984 40
Edna O'Brien Takes the High Road Ken Adachi / 1988 49
Dame Edna Eileen Battersby / 1992 53
The Books Interview: A Schooling for Scandal Peter Guttridge / 1999 58
Deep Down in the Woods Robert McCrum / 2002 62
Iphigenia Francine Stock / 2003 66
Conversation with Edna O'Brien Glenn Patterson / 2007 69
Edna O'Brien Mark Lawson / 2009 72
The Troubles with Edna Jane Hardy / 2010 77
Edna O'Brien William Crawley / 2010 81
Key Resources 97