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Posts Tagged ‘ Maeve Binchy ’

More Tall Tales By The Sea: Dalkey Book Festival 2013

dbfAfter giving you advance notice of the book festivities due in September at the Mountains to Sea events, I’m now turning my attention to June’s book festival in Dalkey (14th -16th). This year will be the forth outing for Dalkey’s homegrown festival, which is organised by David Williams and Sian Smyth with the help of a host of dedicated volunteers. The festival originally sprang from a meeting of the Dalkey Business Group in 2010 and was conceived as a way of harnessing local literary talent to bolster trade in the seaside town. Continue reading

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A Difference of Opinion, Unresolved

Two prolific writers have left us in as many days this week. On Monday Maeve Binchy passed away from a short illness and many have written of her delightful character and steady literary output, culminating in some 15 novels. I have been assured of her prodigious ability in the fiction genre and quality of her narrative but, alas, I feel somewhat ashamed at my ignorance of her work. She was native to my own Ireland; you could not enter a bookshop without noticing Binchy alongside Banville on the fiction shelf.

The other was an American and he passed away on Tuesday at the ripe age of 86. Gore Vidal was at first an author of novels but he could turn his hand to any production literary. His prolific career spanned over 60 years and he chalked up tens of novels, numerous plays, screenplays and a phenomenal number of essays. His first major novel that earned attention in the literary world was The City and the Pillar, a ‘coming out, coming of age’ novel, dedicated to Vidal’s first love interest Jimmy Trimble. Trimble died while serving for his country in World War 2 and it is widely known that Vidal was deeply affected by this and indeed said himself that he never could feel what he felt for Trimble for anybody else ever again. This early loss in Vidal’s life hardened him and from then on was not a man sentimentalism, but one of cynicism.

His literary output was enormous and is only overshadowed by his peer of the left, Noam Chomsky, but his most brilliant skill was that of the orator. He was a quick-witted, sharp-tongued and eloquent master of speech. His grandiloquence was rivalled only by the Anglo-American Christopher Hitchens. Indeed, a comparison that is not without its merit is the one proffered upon Vidal by some, who speak of him in the same breath of Oscar Wilde. It is true that he was very open about his sexuality, he was extremely witty and humorous and was a contrarian in every sense of the word.

As a contrarian it is only natural to have some who are hostile and some that are just downright resentful of you in the worst ways. Gore Vidal had very public disputes with a number of individuals like Norman Mailer, for instance. Following a number of taunts from Vidal, Mailer threw a glass of whiskey in his face and headbutted him. William Buckley threatened to ‘sock’ him on live television. He had a number of disputes but, later on in life, his main one was with the United States.

He was increasingly scathing about some aspects of the US. His main critique of the US was that the US was a modern-day Imperialist power; he called it a ‘militarized Republic’ and not a democracy. He was also critical of the education system stating on live American television that “We have the worst educated population of any first world country… your lack of education is the joke of the world”.

Many were bewildered by Vidal’s conspiratorial tendency later on in life. In an interview on War and Iraq he stated that the American people had more to fear from the Bush Administration than from Militant Islam. None were more bewildered than Christopher Hitchens. The pair met in the 70’s when Hitchens was working for the New Statesman. The two contrarians took to each other quite well, which is surprising because usually when two charismatic contrarians with fantastic ego’s collide, the result is almost always ugly.

They remained friendly and some years later Vidal phoned Hitchens and asked if he would be his heir when he passed away. Hitchens was duly flattered and gladly accepted. They’re saddening divorce, as it were, came following the September 11th attacks on the US, and the consequent decision of the US to invade Iraq. Gore Vidal was staunchly against such an invasion while Hitchens was vocally for it. He lost many friends over his support, Vidal being undoubtedly the most notable. Vidal then, publicly, insinuated his retraction of his proposal as Hitchens as his heir. Hitchens agreed.

Hitchens wrote an article entitled ‘Vidal Loco’ which suggested that Vidal’s old age, coupled with his incessant anti-US rhetoric and conspiratorial tendency had overshadowed the career of a great novelist, essayist and general all-round literary giant. Speaking positively of Vidal pre-21st century he said that he ‘had the rare gift of being amusing about serious things as well as serious about amusing ones’. The world seems a little less colorful since the parting of these two great contrarians, and it is even more bitter knowing they both passed away without resolving their only disagreement in life, the one that will separate them forever.

Maeve Binchy dies at the age of 72

16 Novels, more than 30 years of writing and endless fans is the legacy that Maeve Binchy leaves behind. The wonderful and much loved Irish author died on Monday after struggling with illness throughout most of her adult life. But even at 72 she had a  much younger spirit and loved life, saying that after a brush with death in 2002 she lived every day as if it were her last.

Her best known works are possibly Tara Road and Circle of Friends as Hollywood turned them into films, but all of her stories, no matter if in short form or packed up into the parcel of a novel, are about real life, no hyped up glam or only beautiful people fill her pages, but the struggle of everyday life, joy, love and friendship overflow from her work into the readers minds and heart.

She didn’t start out as a writer but graduated UCD (University College Dublin) and became a teacher. But Maeve wanted to see the world and in her long summer holidays she would travel, her shipping guide always at hand telling her which ship was going where. Wanting a change she gave up her secure teachers job and pension to become a free-lance writer and soon was called to be a woman’s editor at the Irish Times. With a steady flow of work coming in from London Maeve moved there in the mid seventies to the Irish Times office in Fleet Street and started working on her first novel Light a Penny Candle. Setting herself strict deadlines and word-counts she would get up at 5am every morning to write before work and her discipline and structure paid off when in 1982 her first book was published.

At the age of 37 she married children book author Gorden Snell and with the invention of fax and emails they both moved from London to Dalkey, where Maeve had grown up, and would sit side by side in their upstairs office and write for several hours every day. Very disciplined her motto was “if you want to write just do it” and shelves filled with her work all around the world prove her right.

Inspired by Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, Maeve Binchy created a whole new form of literature. One filled with women who learn to be strong and independent, who begin to trust in themselves, be who they want to be and love life, friends, family, home and most importantly themselves.

Outselling other great Irish writers like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, Samuel Beckett, W.B Yeats, Maeve was quietly proud always encouraging others to write as well. She paved a beautiful path for other female writers to follow and was always generous in sharing her experience with her colleagues.

Maeve Binchy will be missed, not only by the Irish nation but by her fans across the world, but she has one final gift to her readers, her last book has just been finished and will be published later this year.

She will be cremated in a private ceremony following removal on Friday morning to the Church of the Assumption, Dalkey.

“I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy with one of her two beloved cats in her home in Dalkey
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