Cover image for Frank O'Connor : a life
Frank O'Connor : a life
McKeon, Jim.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Edinburgh : Mainstream, 1998.
Physical Description:
192 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PR6029.D58 Z764 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Today, more than three decades after his death, Frank O'Connor's works are as popular as ever. This is a portrait of an author who made a great impact on the literary world - and the man behind the books.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Frank O'Connor was one of the best, and certainly one of the best loved, Irish short-story writers of the twentieth century. This tightly written biography generally eschews critical evaluation, offering instead all the relevant details of a life rooted in poverty yet elevated by hard work to an international reknown. Born in a rough neighborhood of Cork, O'Connor grew up a timid mother's boy; but, as foreshadowing of his writerly future, he absorbed all the rich atmosphere of this milieu. His participation in the Irish Civil War resulted in imprisonment; after that were tamer days as Cork's first county librarian. His writing career took off, but, as was the case with many other Irish writers, his work was at the mercy of the Irish censorship board. But, of course, quality will not be suppressed forever, and O'Connor's writing, particularly his stories, have earned a permanent place in the world's literary canon. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a rapid-fire, just-the-facts-style biography, McKeon offers a quick overview of Irish writer Frank O'Connor's life (1903-1966), from his miserable, poverty-stricken boyhood in Cork (where he was born Michael O'Donovan) to his ultimate lionization in the U.S. literary and academic worlds. McKeon (a poet, novelist and performer of a one-man show based on O'Connor's short story, "An Only Child") touches on most of the important events and people of O'Connor's life: his relationships with his adoring mother, Minnie, and his alcoholic father, Mick; his youthful experiences as an Irish patriot; his autodidacticism (he left school at 12); his successes as a professional librarian; his adventures in Irish theater; his literary friendships (George William Russel, Yeats, O'Faoláin); and the various, sometimes debilitating illnesses he suffered. The complexities of O'Connor's domestic world are included here, too. His combination of honesty and indecisiveness led to his maintaining a household in Dublin that was home to his mother and his three children as well as a ménage à trois with his wife, Evelyn Bowen, and his mistress, Joan Knape. But McKeon, despite offering a 10-page bibliography, discusses only some of O'Connor's poems, articles, short stories and books. Indeed, McKeon's brisk account is short on detail and analysis‘he mentions, for instance, that the diagnosis he received at age 34 of "cancer, five years to live," which haunted O'Connor, was erroneous, but never explains what really was wrong. McKeon offers a quick, accessible source of information, but for fuller explanations readers will have to turn elsewhere; this book will supplant neither previous biographies nor O'Connor's autobiography, My Father's Son. Photos. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this chatty biography, McKeon tells the story of a poor boy from Cork whose inner drive led him to become a major figure in Irish literature. Best known for his short stories (e.g., "First Confession," "Guests of the Nation"), Frank O'Connor (1928-1966) was also a novelist, translator, teacher, librarian, and director of Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre. Like his subject, McKeon has had a varied career as actor, director, and author. His achievements include a one-man show, An Only Child, based on O'Connor's autobiography of the same title (LJ 3/1/61). McKeon maintains that growing up with an alcoholic father led O'Connor to seek father figures in such literary greats as William Butler Yeats, George Russell ("AE"), and Daniel Corkery. While this work is highly readable, readers seeking a more scholarly approach would be better served by James Matthews's Voices: A Life of Frank O'Connor (LJ 3/15/83), with its extensive documentation. Suitable for public libraries.‘Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.