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Giving Shape to the Moment

The Art of Mary O'Donnell: Poet, Novelist and Short Story Writer


Edited By Maria Elena Jaime de Pablos

This is the first book to provide a critical assessment of the work of the Irish author Mary O’Donnell. The essays collected here engage with O’Donnell’s writing across multiple genres and explore the themes and preoccupations that have characterized her oeuvre. Alongside her creative work, O’Donnell’s has been a steady and continuing voice for many years within the world of theatre criticism, book reviewing, essay writing, radio broadcasts and cultural commentary.

As a writer, O’Donnell’s principal themes include contemporary Irish society, the position of women in Ireland and the role of the artist. Throughout her career, her approach has been unconventional and her work has sometimes presented a challenge to the status quo. The contributors to this volume illuminate O’Donnell’s role as a humanist writer searching for truth at all costs, through the fictive lives of her often unusual characters, and through the emotional range and depth of her poetry.

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7 ‘Only on the Edge’: A Conversation with Mary O’Donnell (Anne Fogarty)


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7   ‘Only on the Edge’: A Conversation with Mary O’Donnell

This interview took place in UCD’s Department of Humanities during July 2016. Dr Fogarty spent several hours with Mary O’Donnell, during which her origins, her practice, and many of her views on the world of letters were discussed.

FOGARTY: I would like to begin with biographical questions: Where were you born? What was it like growing up in that particular time and place? I ask these questions partly because, unlike many other Irish writers, you do not seem explicitly to draw on your childhood in your work.

O’DONNELL: Yes, it is strange that as an Irish writer I don’t deal with my past much. I grew up in Monaghan, outside the town. I had, in some respects, a really lovely childhood. I loved where I lived, especially our home and our garden.

FOGARTY: Did you grow up on a farm then?

O’DONNELL: No, it wasn’t a farm, but it was in the country and it did have plenty of land with it. It was a wonderful physical environment. But, because as a schoolgirl I used to have my dinner in my grandmother’s house, I was partly a townie during the week. I had town friends and could roam Monaghan after school until I was collected. My mother was from Monaghan and my father was from Wexford or the Kilkenny border originally. He...

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