Edna O’Brien wasn’t the first author to stir my soul with her stunning prose and vivid imagery, but she was definitely the most recent.
I arrived in Dublin, wet and jetlagged, completely unaware of the river of arts and culture that runs through the city. I didn’t know that while I was there I would be faced with more stories and methods of storytelling than ever before: readings of translated poems from Malta at Oscar Wilde’s house, cold readings of plays about the AIDs epidemic at Dublin’s gay theatre festival, experimental plays about the consequences of consumerist culture, and Quebecois folk music retelling stories that are older than the building I’m sitting in to write this. Dublin is a place that encourages voices, young and old, to share their lives through the medium of their
I also arrived in Dublin just in time to witness the glory that was The Country Girls at the Abbey Theatre. The impact this play had on me rippled throughout the rest of my time in the country. From late nights spent dog-earring page after page of my copy of The Country Girls Trilogy in an effort to escape my closet of a dorm room to traveling to UCD to view some of the materials that reside within the 592 folders of their Edna O’Brien archive’s collection, just for the chance to sneak a peek at her many, many drafts and rummage through some of her ephemera to in the penultimate month of my trip actually getting to see Edna O’Brien speak live at Mansion house accompanied by two harpists playing Joyce poetry (even though I didn’t have a ticket and somehow got lucky enough that this woman named Sylvia gave me her extra ticket while I was in line), Edna O’Brien became an unwitting cornerstone of my Dublin experience. And by extension, her words became a vessel through which I could better navigate and understand my own life experience.
And now that I’m home in Pennsylvania, some nights, when I find myself forgetting the feel of the Irish grass beneath my feet or the sound of the Magpies that greeted my ears too early in the morning, I open The Country Girls, and suddenly I’m back.