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- Frank O’Connor as Literary Critic
I was intended by God to be a painter. But I was very poor, and pencil and paper were the cheapest tools. Music was out for that reason as well. Literature is the poor man’s art.
“Only Child,” 1950
Excerpt from Towards an Appreciation of Literature
“Some Important Fall Authors Speak for Themselves,” 1952
The real writer has to be ruthless. He has to be able to say to other people: ‘I don’t have to read your manuscript or revise it.’ The writer has to have a good streak of solid selfishness to get his own work done. He should throw his wife out and make his children go out and work to support themselves at a really early age so he will be able to concentrate on his own writing. If his best friend drops in when he is writing, he should say: “Get the hell out.” Real dear friends won’t mind.
O’Connor, in Newsweek, 1961
“For an American, it’s easy to think, ‘Well, O’Connor always sounds Irish,’ and I guess that’s right. But it’s not the local voice of West Cork. It’s something that the whole story embodies in all of its tonalities, which causes the story to have one unified voice, which is its intelligence. You don’t want to separate, in talking about voice, its music – it’s the way the story sounds in making itself plausible and intelligent. In that regard, O’Connor was as various as Raymond Carver, as various as Eudora Welty, as various as Flannery O’Connor, or O’Flaherty or any of these great story writers.”
Richard Ford, quoted in Frank O’Connor - The Lonely Voice, a Hummingbird / Harvest Films production for RTÉ
“[O’Connor] described without parallel a certain Ireland - provincial, priest-dominated, impoverished, hard-drinking, secretive, generous, collusive - at a certain time: after independence but before modernization or prosperity or (a key factor in numerous stories) contraception. His stories both look and are profoundly Irish in character and setting (there are occasional excursions among the Irish living in England.) Yet they are by no means all Irish in origin. Some writers seek to prove their universality - or, at least, their appetite and diversity - by setting their work in different places and times. O’Connor did the opposite. English or American life might provide a story, an anecdote, a potentially useful scrap, but if he came to write it, he would quite deliberately repatriate it to Ireland. In 1955 he was living in Annapolis, and discovered three impeccably ‘Irish’ stories among local Annapolitans, including ‘The Man of the World’. The reasons for such transportation are partly defensive - stick with the voice, and voices that you know and can render best - but also more high-minded: the external details of the story may vary, but its inner truth is universal.”
Julian Barnes (Taken from the Introduction by Julian Barnes to Frank O’Connor’s My Oedipus Complex and Other Stories)
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