Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Bittersweet Day

I was astonished at my reaction this morning when I saw that Irish author Maeve Binchy had died.  It was as if I had lost a sort of friend.  And a kind friend.  What was with that? I don’t think I have ever felt that way when reading of the death of an author, no matter how much I loved or admired their writing.  Maeve’s books were good, but definitely not literary masterpieces.  They were more comfort food – reassurance that ordinary nice folk pull through, and sometimes even come out on top.  Gore Vidal who also just died, was, on the other hand, actually a literary great. And I am a huge fan.  His Lincoln, one of my all time favorite novels, is a wonderful portrayal of Lincoln as a troubled and torn man, beset with turmoil  on all sides. It is a shattering depiction of that terrible time in our history.  His essays are brilliant, if a bit on the acerbic side. More than a bit, actually.  I am sure that if I were to go out to lunch with him, he would think I was stupid, and wouldn’t hesitate to let me know he thought so. 

So what’s the deal with Maeve?  I first met her (in the literary sense I mean – I never actually met her) in the 70’s, when we lived in Dublin and I read her column and that of Nell McCafferty in The Irish Times.  I adored them both. I think that when one reads a columnist regularly, they become more of a real person – someone with whom one actually has a sort of relationship.  At least, that’s how I feel about these two. 

My mother was always trying to get me to read her favorite books, and usually, I spurned them.  However, when she gave me one of Maeve’s novels, I remembered the chummy relationship we had in Dublin.  So I read it with an open mind, unlike most of the novels my mother offered, which I would not have read at all – let alone with an open mind.  This opened up a new vista in my relationship with my mother.  I realized that everything she read was not totally stupid, and a lot was quite good. Later, we shared much reading, and this pleased my mom. So I have Maeve to thank for that too. 

I am sure that my luncheon with Maeve, unlike my lunch with Mr. V, would be quite pleasant, and if she thought me stupid, she would be kind about it and would never let on.  Just like she did in her novels, she would let me know that it would all be okay. 


I. F. said...

I will have to read one of her novels. I have always heard her name but never looked at one of her books. I might also have to look at "Lincoln."

Samos said...

One of my favorite Gore Vidal quotes: "A narcissist is someone better looking than you are..."

Lia Nord said...

My mother kept trying to get me to read Barbara Pym, but it wasn't till after she died that I finally did. I thought sadly about how many opportunities I'd missed being able to talk to her about Pym!

I've never read Maeve Binchy, either, but now I will. They don't have to be great literature to be enjoyable, worthwhile reading! I've only read a bit of Vidal, but now I'll have to go looking for Lincoln, as well!

I love your blog!


Laura said...

Gore Vidal was a sharp wit. I just watched an old debate he had with Buckley-I thought they would come to blows! Your beloved author sounds wonderful and most wonderful for the memories with your mother.

Marta said...

We just arrived home. I have a great story to tell you about our son Joe and his experience in Ireland.

Will tell you later