Anne Enright on Losing Loved Objects to the Gaze of Others
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: What qualities did you want Nora to have as you modulated her as the narrator and also brought in her own story? What was important for you for the novel and for her agency, both as the narrator and being true to the kid of a star.
Anne Enright: The UK version of the book has a photograph of Carrie Fisher as a child looking out from the wings at Debbie Reynolds and Debbie Reynolds is in a glittering dress. Carrie Fisher is a little child sitting on a stool with a pudding bowl haircut, a matinee coat, and lovely little Mary Jane shoes, and she’s gazing out from the darkness at her mother on stage and her mother has her hands uplifted to the crowd. It took me a long time to describe that moment somehow in the book. It was an image that I use to help the writing. I thought Nora looking at her mother onstage feels so lucky and so alone.
I was intrigued by that moment of glamour, or of beauty where we see the adored mother, the adored object as a beautiful or perhaps shabby, you know how embarrassed teenagers are about their parents. We see them in the world, and we’re mortified. But at an earlier age, we see them and they’re beautiful, and once you see and you know this loved object you are also losing them somehow and you’re losing them to the gaze of others. That moment is just so poignant and a tiny edge of theatrical camp to it and I just loved all of that.
Mitzi Rapkin: Is there any fiction coming out of Ireland right now that you think that we as Americans should be tuning in to?
Anne Enright: An amazing thing has been happening in the last five years maybe in the work of Irish women writers is that there’s a kind of golden moment in that the urgency of the things that have to be said are met with a kind of readership that’s able to hear them. There are some themes that are general, Irish women writers are writing more clearly about the body perhaps than young American writers that I’m looking at. If you look at Anna Burns or Eimear McBride, Sally Rooney, Lisa McInerney, these are terrific voices. They’re all incredibly different from each other. I think that’s the sign of a really true writer is that they have an Irish accent, but it’s like they’re speaking their own made up language, you know that their relationship with language is so particular.
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Anne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has written two collections of stories, published together as Yesterday’s Weather, one book of non-fiction, Making Babies, and six novels, including The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize, The Forgotten Waltz, The Green Road, and Actress. In 2015 she was appointed as the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, and in 2018 she received the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature.
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