Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Bit More on Frank O'Connor

An Only Child [Frank O'Connor's autobiographical volume] is a writer's life, a storyteller's story, told because the bits and fragments of the remembered life haunt him like his dreams. Words and phrases and images from a lifetime of writing still color the fabric of O'Connor's prose: hysteria, melancholy, conspiracy, genius, gloom, gaity, loneliness, violence, hallucination, outcast, orphan, voices, Mozartean, home. It is often said that a writer has only one book, which he writes over and over again through the years, continually exploring a few basic themes. For O'Connor two fundamental ideas appeared in An Only Child as they had in nearly everything he ever wrote: first, his perception of life as divided between two worlds, one desolate, the other elusive, and variously figured in his mind as a tension between light and dark, judgment and instinct, masculine and feminine, dreams and reality, romance and realism; and second, his certainty of the ultimate loneliness and irony of human existence, capable of being only momentarily offset by "imaginative improvisation," by which he meant some creative absorption such as music or poetry or love or even faith.

-From Voices: A Life of Frank O'Connor by James Matthews (Atheneum, 1983), p. 337

I am once again on a Frank O'Connor kick, a writer I've loved since reading a short story of his when I was in high school. If you are interested, the biography by James Matthews is worth searching out. O'Connor (1903-1966) is an interesting figure quite apart from his stature as a writer of short stories. He fought in the Irish Republican Army--along with Sean O'Faolain, he worked as a messenger for Michael Collins--was on the Board of the Abbey Theater, and lived for a time at the home of William Butler Yeats.


I was saddened by the death of Sarah Hannah. I did not know her, but had seen--and admired--her work. I'm not sure what it is with poets and suicide. Peter Davison wrote a book titled One of the Dangerous Trades: Essays on the Work and Workings of Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 1991), and yes, poetry is, in fact dangerous work. Davison knew something about this. As a young poet he had a brief, troubled relationship with Sylvia Plath.

It's cold out this morning. More like October 5 than June 5.


Blogger c.mel said...

I think your observations on Frank O'Connor are astute. Rand's fragmented/neo-mythic (doesn't, but should exist) take on men is a loving description of him. It is questionable why so many poets choose their own way out of life. I look forward to reading your words. Mel.

6:46 PM  

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