It seemed to me that when attempting to tell a story from a point so far back in the mind that it is completely experiential, completely gut-reactive and balancing on the moment just before language becomes formatted thought, English needs to be made to pick up its feet and move. When I needed the language to do more, it had to come from the way a phrase was constructed.
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In trying to find a new origin of perspective and coercing the language into working in a way that might plausibly suggest it, I was attempting to take what I considered to be the successes of that era, then turn them inside out to achieve the opposite effect. So while — in my very undereducated opinion — the non-specialist reader finds those books obtuse and alienating, I wanted mine to go in as close as the reader would reasonably permit.
I wanted the simplicity of the vocabulary to allow the more complex construction to slip in under the radar so that the decoding would take place within the readers themselves, almost as though they were experiencing the story from the inside out rather than the outside in.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that even though every word selected and phrase constructed was held to a standard that was mine alone, the idea of communication was absolutely central — which was probably also the reason I was willing to take an editorial note about the opening. On the technical side, Mammy etc. This is why I would describe it as feminist rather than post-feminist. The best she achieves is a moment of absence from her own inner turmoil which mostly leads to yet greater disconnect within herself.
She is not someone enjoying the hard won fruits of sexual liberation, she is almost the opposite.
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The product of a system that could offer nothing to women but sexual shame, ignorance and servitude. Luckily a chance conversation during which I was roundly cursing Henry as yet another time-waster revealed the mix-up and we got in touch. Responses like that are a problem for everyone interested in serious writing. I will be eternally grateful to Galley Beggar for the risk they took in publishing Girl and for possessing the imagination to see beyond the narrow perimeters marketing departments offer to their giant international counterparts.
Both readers and writers deserve better. El Polaco appears brandishing his Stanley, as he lovingly calls his pocket knife. Five young hooligans huddle round him Much has been written about the precocity and talent of Jonathan Safran Foer, whose debut novel Everything is Illuminated I was there to see the locker-like vault containing the The White Review. Toggle navigation.
Interview with Eimear McBride - The White Review
Latest Reviews Features Fiction Poetry. Print Prizes Events Shop. Interview with Eimear McBride. Were your parents first generation exiles? What prompted them to leave Liverpool and return to Ireland? They were only in the UK from to but returned to the Republic rather than the North because of the Troubles.
Sligo just happened to be where the job came up. My father was a psychiatric nurse. Both of my parents were nurses. Q The White Review — Was there any sense of loss and dislocation? A Eimear McBride — I was only two at the time so not for me.
For my parents and older brothers the return was difficult enough, economically certainly, then being strangers in a place where belonging was prized above all else. A Eimear McBride — The source of most of my cultural experience growing up was the drama class I attended from age 9.
Ireland was a hotbed of amateur dramatics in those days so I got to see a lot of Synge — not bad — and John B. Keane — very bad — though not much else. Castlebar was different. It was a much larger town. I think the first Pinter I ever encountered was there and I remember it being particularly exciting because there was a parental warning about bad language on the poster.
Terrible or not, what sort of things did you write? A Eimear McBride — I tried to write novels, or stories, even as a small child. It was about an eagle, living in a place called Sandom, who could fly very fast. Q The White Review — Were you interested in other literatures? Actually, it occurs to me now that most of my reading was in translation in my teens.
I think it was a way to connect with some kind of world beyond my narrow own. Though I do remember D. I was very fond of biographies as well. And I was mad about Tennessee Williams. Streetcar particularly. Right from the start it was like breathing properly for the first time in years. It was a very broad, very literary training. If anything, it was a slightly laborious one for an actor, and certainly involved fewer jazz hands and more Nietzsche than one might have expected, but it turned out to be an excellent training for a would-be experimental writer and all that running around in a toga was great preparation for the humiliations of publishing.
He operated outside the ethos. Q The White Review — What about your theatre career after graduation? Then a short while after I started work on Girl , I happened to see a production of Crave and it was like lightning. I went home afterwards and immediately read all the rest of her work.
What I mean by purity is her lack of cynicism. Her work is utterly confrontational and uncompromising.
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She stretches both characters and audience, out to the very edges of their humanity to see what they can see, and I find something incredibly beautiful and admirable about that. And was there a connection between your decision to leave acting and your commitment to being a writer? A Eimear McBride — I continued writing the whole time I was there but the decision to leave acting came in the year my brother was dying, which began about six months after finishing Drama Centre. At first I decided that I just wanted a break. With everything else, I was finding it hard to cope with the rejection. A year after my brother died, I went to Russia for two months because I wanted to be alone.
I was in St Petersburg, with the white nights of summer and no darkness. I had insomnia for months so I wandered around, looking at everything. Then it hit me that I wanted to work towards writing.
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I actually spent four months in St Petersburg but, yes, I was alone. I had a job teaching English a few mornings a week which paid the rent for a room in an old communalka on Liteniy Prospekt owned by a very nice elderly Russian couple. It was a difficult time for me and a lonely time but very useful in terms of piecing myself back together and extremely rich culturally — which certainly helped with the task in hand.
It was over the summer months so the White Nights were in full swing for much of my time there. So I spent a lot of time just walking the streets at very odd hours.
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It just shifted something into place which helped me to make the leap from scribbling when the mood took hold, to being serious about what I wanted to do. Growing up in Holy Catholic Ireland, my keenness for Russia and Eastern Europe probably contained more than a drop of contrariness too…. A Eimear McBride — Those years were mostly spent temping and usually of the lowest variety. Working on switchboards, filing, data entry, photocopying, licking envelopes.
It was the dogsbody work of office life and being at the mercy of people who knew it. Then William was offered a job running the Midsummer Festival in Cork. I was reluctant to go back to Ireland but a combination of circumstances ranging from not having time to write to narrowly escaping being stabbed to death on my doorstep, persuaded me that change of any kind would be better than staying where I was. We spent four years in Cork. He did and so we moved to Norwich in Did you abandon something else when you began the novel?
A Eimear McBride — I started writing in the autumn of In the previous June, our house in Tottenham had been burgled and about two years-worth of my longhand notes were stolen.
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At the time I was distraught but in retrospect it was a good thing. Q The White Review — Do you write in longhand? Or on a laptop? Do you have any kind of regime? I started work around nine and went through to four or five most days. It was a good habit to get into and I still work that way now. Q The White Review — Perhaps you could say something about the composition of an episode. I decided to include it purely as a way to move the plot forward and — somewhat depressingly — it appears to have written itself.
Q The White Review — It is, for want of a better word, a transgressive episode — a dispassionate look at a continuing tradition — the laying out of the body and so on. A Eimear McBride — As far as it being transgressive to an Irish audience, I think this is to do with the fact that although Irish literature teems with wakes, descriptions of the old methods of preparing the corpse — packing the cavities etc.
Nowadays, even for the traditional laying out in the home, bodies are usually professionally prepared by an undertaker. So I wanted to note the unsavoury old ways before they disappear. Q The White Review — The prose of A Girl has a cinematic quality and it often puts me in mind of rough cuts and outtakes without the slickness of a final edit. Could you say more about films and filmmakers who have influenced you? Q The White Review — Your spare, highly focused approach puts me in mind of Robert Bresson in particular, an austere Catholic filmmaker.