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Giving Shape to the Moment

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

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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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8 ‘The Space between Louis and Me’: A Short Story (Mary O’Donnell)

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MARY O’DONNELL

8   ‘The Space between Louis and Me’: A Short Story

I think of Louis as a decorative essential. He doesn’t do much around the place beyond being there as much as I want. He doesn’t cook or clean up and can’t make a bed to save his life. I watch in frustration as he goes through the motions of holding a book, knowing reading is beyond him. Yet guided by me, conversation is lucid. He is by no means stupid.

Most mornings I’m alone again. He has slipped away, although he’s with me until sleep falls through the dizzy mire of my semi-aroused thoughts. Nights are dreamless places where I wallow in oblivion. When I open my eyes, unrefreshed, occasional sunshine hacks through the window-blind or I hear the swat of a wet westerly on the glass. I am persistently exhausted, though often happy.

At the clinic, a few male colleagues share my secret. The exhausted, prematurely wrinkled bags beneath eyes and that five o’clock unshaven look at 9 a.m. arouse my curiosity. As if they can’t be bothered keeping up appearances with basic grooming that, until recently, drove this city to a crescendo of open nail-bars, high-end barber-shops and massage parlours.

In general, my women colleagues are discreet. There’s no knowing who or what is observed across desks and filing cabinets as we prepare for another day of group-work, as we assemble files,...

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