Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Notes For May 28th, 2024

This Day In Literary History

On May 28th, 1940, the famous Irish writer Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey, Ireland. Her father William was a prominent barrister in Dublin. He and his wife both encouraged their children to be avid readers and to share stories at the dinner table.

Nobody loved telling stories more than Maeve. She once quipped, "I had a very happy childhood, which is unsuitable if you're going to be an Irish writer."

Maeve Binchy went to University College in Dublin, majoring in history and French, and after she graduated in 1960, she became a schoolteacher, teaching history, French, and Latin at a Catholic grade school in Dublin.

She spent her summer vacations indulging in her passion for travel. Binchy became such a popular teacher that her students' parents chipped in to send her on a trip to Israel.
While there, Binchy wrote long, detailed letters home describing her adventures there, the country, the daily life, and the people that she met.

Her father, very impressed with her writing, typed up the letters and submitted them to the Irish Independent newspaper. When Maeve returned to Dublin, to her surprise, she found that she'd become a published writer.

Interested in journalism, Binchy landed a job as women's editor for The Irish Times. In the early 1970s, she switched to feature reporting and moved to London to be with Gordon Snell, a BBC broadcaster turned children's book writer and mystery novelist.

The couple had met and fallen in love with during Maeve's previous visit to London. They married in 1977. In 1980, they moved to Binchy's hometown of Dalkey and bought a cottage, where they remained for the rest of her life.

After returning to Dalkey, Binchy began her writing career, publishing two collections of her newspaper work and a collection of short stories. In between reporting assignments, she wrote her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, which was published in 1982.

Set during the outbreak of World War II, the novel tells the story of Elizabeth White, a young British girl sent to stay with a large Irish family, the O'Connors, whose daughter Aisling is Elizabeth's age. The girls form an inseparable bond of friendship that remains long after the war ends, as they write to each other frequently.

As a novelist, Binchy has been described as a modern day Jane Austen. Her novels mostly dealt with the trials and tribulations of Irish women in the 20th century. They are also steeped deep in Catholicism, though as the influence of the scandal-plagued Church ended in Ireland, it also ended in Binchy's writing.

(It was revealed that thousands of Irish children had been molested by Catholic priests over the past several decades, crimes that were known and covered up by the Church, which had pretty much controlled the Irish government until recently.

The Irish Church agreed to pay a nearly 150,000,000 euro settlement to the victims. In addition to the sexual abuse, it was also revealed that some 50,000 Irish children, confiscated from their young, unwed mothers whose families placed them in brutal Church-run homes, were kept in squalid Church-run orphanages and starved, viciously beaten, and exploited for cheap labor.

So great was the outrage that the Catholic Church finally lost its death grip on Ireland and her people. In a final, stinging knockout punch to the Church, same-sex marriage and abortion were legalized in Ireland, in 2015 and 2018, respectively.)

Eleven of Maeve's novels reached the New York Times bestseller list; in reader polls taken in Ireland and England, she was rated higher than James Joyce. She quipped that it was because most of her books were sold in airport bookshops and "if you're going on a plane journey, you're more likely to take one of my stories than Finnegan's Wake."

In 1995, Binchy's popular 1990 novel Circle Of Friends was made into a movie starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell. Unfortunately for fans of the book, in his adaptation, screenwriter Andrew Davies elected to give the film a completely different ending.

In 2000, Binchy announced her retirement from writing, but it proved to be short-lived. She returned to write several more novels. In addition to her novels and short stories, she was also a playwright, and her plays have been staged at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin.

For over 30 years, Maeve wrote a hugely popular monthly column called Maeve's Week for The Irish Times which was part advice column, part gossip column, and part humor column.

Throughout her long career, Maeve Binchy proved herself as one of Ireland's greatest writers.
She died in July of 2012 at the age of 72.

Quote Of The Day

"I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks."

- Maeve Binchy

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a documentary on Maeve Binchy. Enjoy!

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