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Guest Review: "Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker"

Filed under: The Catbird Seat: Friends & Guests   Tagged: , , ,

Special to Emdashes: “Smart Set” and Lux Lotus-er Lauren Cerand reviews a biography of Brennan, a New Yorker great who had a sad decline. I just finished Gardner Botsford’s glorious (and sometimes grim) A Life of Privilege, Mostly; he devotes several pages to Brennan and reprints a few of her hilarious, sassy letters. This biography, plus her collected writing, is now a priority. If you’ve digested a book, seen a play, taken in a movie, viewed a painting, or, God love you, read a poem about The New Yorker or a related figure or event (and that’s a long list), email me with your thoughts; if I like them, I’ll print them.

Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker
Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker: An Irish Writer In Exile, by Angela Bourke, illuminates an overlooked life with expansive perspective and a sympathetic touch. The book unfolds with a fascinating section on the lives of Brennan’s parents, whose shared Irish roots and early political activism colored her life in Ireland and later America. Erudite, elegant, and achingly sharp, Brennan is exactly the sort of writer who, had she been a man, would have benefited enormously from having a wife. Instead, she had The New Yorker. Bourke’s study is filled with anecdotes of the magazine and stories of the community among its writers—sometimes sweet, often scandalous—which gives it a sense of being as much a history of The New Yorker as of Brennan herself. Tightly structured around a dazzling narrative thread that follows Brennan’s precocious streak as it matures into ethereal style and a penchant for revolutionary nonconformity before tumbling helplessly into eccentricity and finally mental illness, Homesick at The New Yorker uses letters, interviews, and lengthy excerpts of Brennan’s own criminally overlooked fiction and commentary to breath fresh air into a story with plenty of life left in it yet. Highly recommended.
Lauren Cerand writes about art, politics and style in New York.

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