EDNA O BRIEN ( born on 15th December 1930)
Edna is the queen of the Irish literary bad girls. And now at 83 her stock has never been higher as she has just become the second winner of the Charleston-Chichester Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction. She has been a heroine of mine since I first got my teenage paws on a copy of the ‘Country Girls’ and a few weeks later on ‘Girls in Their Married Bliss’. These novels had attained almost mythical status amongst my schoolfriends as the banned status gave them the exotic whiff of contraband. We would thumb through these novels looking forensically for any trace of the explicit sexual content that had irked the censorship board in 1960. We were a little disappointed with the level of indecency and obscenity that had been promised by the banned book status. Our interest had been piqued at the stories of her neighbours in County Clare burning copies because of their licentious content… but it was the eighties now and we were MTV kids.
Edna became famous for giving voice to the feelings and sexual experiences of young women in the repressive theocracy of Ireland at the time. Her amazing talent as a novelist, short-story writer, poet and playwright combined with her beauty and grace and her unmistakeable voice both on and off the page made Edna a star of Sixties London.
To get a true flavour of Edna’s trajectory from country girl to chelsea girl read ‘Country Girl:a Memoir’, which is a gripping read. O’Brien spent ten years signing over her earnings to her husband Ernest Gebler, before fleeing the marriage and losing custody of her two sons for a period. O’Brien recounts taking LSD with RD Laing, hangs out with Sean Connery, has a brief affair with Robert Mitchum, holidays with Gore Vidal and dines with Brando. Edna O’ Brien is our literary Grande Dame, with her talent and charm she put the IT girl in the LITerary Bad Girl.
To listen to her sonorous tones click on the link below:
Last Saturday I attended a book lunch ran by Dubray books, Sarah Webb and Vanessa Fox O’ Loughlin in the fabulous surrounds of the Royal St.George Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire. Our table at lunch was great fun and Liz Nugent, the author of ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was an amazing hostess. Liz has burst onto the literary scene this year with her riveting psychological thriller which in emotive prose tries to unravel the complexities behind the sociopathic Oliver. Liz’s stories at the lunch were fun and great conversation flowed with the same velocity as the wine. I for one felt a little unravelled the next day but am still basking in the memories of lunch with our new literary star.