James McKeon Frank O'Connor: A Life

ISBN 13: 9781840180824

Frank O'Connor: A Life

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Frank O'Connor's enormous literary success is all the more remarkable given that he was born and brought up in the slums of Cork, his childhood marked by poverty and illness. In 1928, he set off for the excitement of Dublin, where he became great friends with W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and George Russell. After the success of his first book, Guests of a Nation, O'Connor was unstoppable. As well as writing plays, short stories, criticism, and poetry, he became the director of the legendary Abbey Theatre. He continued to write, even when illness forced him to give up all else. Much of what he wrote, however, was banned due to Irish censorship laws, and so he decided to broaden his horizons in America. There, his success was huge but short-lived—illness forced his return to Ireland for good, where he died in 1966. Today, more than three decades after his death, Frank O'Connor's works are as popular as ever. Jim McKeon's thoughtful portrait will surely be welcomed by all admirers.

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From Publishers Weekly:

In a rapid-fire, just-the-facts-style biography, McKeon offers a quick overview of Irish writer Frank O'Connor's life (1903-1966), from his miserable, poverty-stricken boyhood in Cork (where he was born Michael O'Donovan) to his ultimate lionization in the U.S. literary and academic worlds. McKeon (a poet, novelist and performer of a one-man show based on O'Connor's short story, "An Only Child") touches on most of the important events and people of O'Connor's life: his relationships with his adoring mother, Minnie, and his alcoholic father, Mick; his youthful experiences as an Irish patriot; his autodidacticism (he left school at 12); his successes as a professional librarian; his adventures in Irish theater; his literary friendships (George William Russel, Yeats, O'Faolain); and the various, sometimes debilitating illnesses he suffered. The complexities of O'Connor's domestic world are included here, too. His combination of honesty and indecisiveness led to his maintaining a household in Dublin that was home to his mother and his three children as well as a menage a trois with his wife, Evelyn Bowen, and his mistress, Joan Knape. But McKeon, despite offering a 10-page bibliography, discusses only some of O'Connor's poems, articles, short stories and books. Indeed, McKeon's brisk account is short on detail and analysis?he mentions, for instance, that the diagnosis he received at age 34 of "cancer, five years to live," which haunted O'Connor, was erroneous, but never explains what really was wrong. McKeon offers a quick, accessible source of information, but for fuller explanations readers will have to turn elsewhere; this book will supplant neither previous biographies nor O'Connor's autobiography, My Father's Son. Photos.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

In this chatty biography, McKeon tells the story of a poor boy from Cork whose inner drive led him to become a major figure in Irish literature. Best known for his short stories (e.g., "First Confession," "Guests of the Nation"), Frank O'Connor (1928-1966) was also a novelist, translator, teacher, librarian, and director of Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre. Like his subject, McKeon has had a varied career as actor, director, and author. His achievements include a one-man show, An Only Child, based on O'Connor's autobiography of the same title (LJ 3/1/61). McKeon maintains that growing up with an alcoholic father led O'Connor to seek father figures in such literary greats as William Butler Yeats, George Russell ("AE"), and Daniel Corkery. While this work is highly readable, readers seeking a more scholarly approach would be better served by James Matthews's Voices: A Life of Frank O'Connor (LJ 3/15/83), with its extensive documentation. Suitable for public libraries.?Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, CT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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