Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Date: 31/05/2010
Grade: 4
Details: Memoir & Opinion Columns

This is a book in two parts.
When some of her opinion columns from the Irish Times were to be bundled in a book and published, Nuala O'Faolain was asked to write an introduction to them. She did, and the end result was the memoir that forms the first two hundred pages of this book.
Her life story is fascinating as well as shocking. Brought up in a large family with two totally incapable parents it's down to both good fortune and sheer determination that O'Faloain made a success of her life. However, reading her memoir I couldn't help wondering if that success was limited to her professional life. On a personal level she came across as lonely, desperate and lost.
All the nuances she can see in life in general appear to vanish when it comes to looking at her own life, the decisions she made and the consequences they carried.
I don't want to get into the details of her life story here. I do want to say the following though, something which occurred to me about half way through the memoir and which I wrote down at that time: "Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living". This book though makes me wonder about the "over-examined" life. It seems to me that for O'Faolain things are never just what they are, never happen just because they do. Everything she does, says, experiences has to have a deeper meaning, an ulterior motive or profound explanation. Which leads to the question, can a life, lived under a self-imposed microscope ever leave you simply happy in the moment, smiling at a memory? (See page 112: "I'm sorry I hurt you." Why turn it into a manipulative move by Seamus Deane when she could have just accepted the apology).
Overall I was more impressed by the columns than the memoir. The first seem far more balanced. Of course it is easier to be balanced about general issues than about your own history, but even taking that into consideration, reading the memoir was hard work, far harder than the columns.

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