Happy birthday, Edna O’Brien

The magnificent Edna O’Brien was born on this date, December 15, in 1930. She blew the lid off Irish women’s writing in 1961 with The Country Girls, the likes of which no one had ever seen. It eventually grew into a trilogy to which it gave her name, and those and a few other titles gave her the title of most banned writer in Ireland. She would be famous–and notorious–just for those books, but there is so much more. Her 1972 Night, a rejoinder to James Joyce’s Molly Bloom soliloquy, let us see how a woman’s mind really works through a long, sleepless night. In the Forest, her version of a terrible set of murders by a disturbed young man, made the awfulness of his violence inescapable, and unforgettable. House of Splendid Isolation brought together the Big House tradition of the Irish novel with IRA terrorism. Through it all, she has used language as if it would never run out and she could never get enough of it: rich, profligate, hilarious, appalling, colorful, dangerous. I can’t imagine a literary world that had never contained her. Not that anything could really contain her.