Maeve Brennan's stories come back to life in re-issued book

By David Tucker

Published 18/06/2016 | 00:00

A study of Maeve Brennan.
A study of Maeve Brennan.

the most famous short story collection written by author Maeve Brennan, who spent much of her early childhood in Wexford town and Oylegate, is being re-issued by the Stinging Fly Press.

Brennan's book 'The Springs of Affection' is being re-issued by the Stinging Fly Press, with an introduction by the Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright.

Maeve Brennan, in the past referred as the greatest Irish writer you have never heard of, was the second daughter of Wexford revolutionary Robert Brennan, the Irish Free State's first ambassador to the USA.

'The Springs of Affection' was first published in 1997 and It contains autobiographical stories of Maeve Brennan's childhood in Ranelagh, alongside stories of two couples. All but one of the stories were originally published in the New Yorker.

Maeve Brennan, born in Dublin in 1917, moved to Washington, DC, in 1934, when her father took up his diplomatic post.

Later she worked at Harper's Bazaar before becoming a staff writer at the New Yorker, where she wrote under the pseudonym The Long-Winded Lady and where her short stories appeared from the early 1950s.

Maeve had struggles to contend with in her private life, which was not without tragedy. She published two collections of stories and a collection of essays during her lifetime. After her death in 1993, a novella, The Visitor, was published to great acclaim.

An article written for the The Women's Museum of Ireland says that despite her connections with the USA, Brennan could not shake off the formative influence that Ireland had on her life, and thus it became the setting of her finest works, which communicate authentic representations of the fear and anxiety that can permeate modern life.

Brennan left behind a legacy of short fiction at her death in 1993; The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin, The Rose Garden: Short Stories and the novella The Visitor.

Largely unknown in Ireland until the millennium, she has gradually become more recognised as more and more people become interested in her work and life.

While she grew up in Ranelagh, she spent long holidays in Oylegate. In her story, The Rose Garden, she interpolates her childhood memories of her granny's house in Wexford town, as the home of the fictional Bagot family.

Brennan's work has won praise from authors such as John Updike, Alice Munro and Edna O'Brien; she was the subject of a 2004 biography, Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker by Angela Bourke, and Emma Donoghue's play Talk of the Town, which premiered at the 2012 Dublin Theatre Festival, was an imagining of Brennan's life at the New Yorker.

Brennan's short stories relate in the most exacting detail the pain, fear and anxiety that can underlie middle-class life in Dublin, and her conception of the lives of her female protagonists gives the reader much to consider on Irish womanhood in the 20th century. Her stories have an emphasis on inner experience and reject chronological time, flitting from past memories to the present lived experience of the characters.

Wexford People

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