Edna O’Brien’s memoir is a marvelous read, a rich adventure from an extraordinary woman. What a life! She went to the movies with Jackie Kennedy, had a tryst with Robert Mitchum, conversations with Samuel Beckett, her palm was read by Shirley MacLaine, Paul McCartney sang to her young sons, priests burnt her novels, she wrote first hand accounts of The Troubles in Ireland, and had cocktails at the literary Algonquin Hotel in NYC between performances of her play. But the way Edna told the stories behind these names, and her amazing recall of detail that took you to the kitchen table of her childhood home in County Clare, gave you the smell of the Irish grass and the longing for more. When I closed the book it was all I could do to seek out a cider at Molly’s.
Irish pubs abound in NYC, but none quite as authentic as Molly’s Shebeen. The spot ( no longer an illegal drinking establishment as the name would suggest ), has been a bar since before Prohibition. But when the Irish moved in they bought shepherd’s pie and generous portions of chips, put in an open fire, and threw sawdust on the floor. The staff are all Irish, and many of the customers sound the same, or at least have names like Gabrielle Fitzgerald to get them through the door. Pictures of the old country line the walls, although through the darkness it is only the candles that allow you to see. Edna would never be one to hide in the shadows, but what an absolute treat to slide into a booth one day and find her sharing stories. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl…
Just heard your report on Overnights & am inspired to read Edna O’Btien’s memoir! What an amazing life she led & is obviously still having!
And your’s sounds pretty amazing as well!
That’s lovely of you to say Pamela. Whenever the time comes to leave NYC I want to be sure I experienced as much as I possibly could. I don’t remember being this proactive in Australia, but there’s the rub, when you’re there you think you can go anytime to visit this or that and so you delay and miss out. I am sure I have that FOMO ( fear of missing out ) condition!
Gabrielle, my daughter and I plan to visit NYC next year. With surnames Riordan & Delaney we will certainly include Molly’s Shebeen on our ‘must do’ bucket list. Thanks
Great to hear Lizzie – I wonder if you are coming during March when St Patrick’s Day will be celebrated? Not that it matters, any day is a great day for the Irish!
I must buy her book. If you go to Charlotte Rampling’s website there is a beautiful black & white photograph of them both. My favourite actress & one of my favourite authors.The ABC in Melbourne recently sceened a marvellous half hour interview with Edna O’Brien.
Whoa – what a powerhouse those two women would be in each other’s company!