Steven's Notebook

Look Ma - No Hands!

Maeve Brennan

Backup information on Maeve Brennan, daughter of Robert Brennan. Text from Princess Grace Irish Library, copied here for family archival purposes only. Feb 2003


Life

1917-1993 [pseud. ‘The Long-Winded Lady’]; b. 6 Jan. & ed.
[Dublin,] Ireland; dg. of Robert Brennan, a participant in the Easter
Rising and later Propaganda chief of the IRA [Sinn Féin] under
Michael Collins; appt. first Irish ambassador to America 1934; Maeve remained
in New York on return of family to Ireland; worked as copywriter on Harper’s
Bazaar
before joining New Yorker staff to write on women’s
fashion at invitation of William Shawn, 1949; issued “The Holy Terror”,
her first story, 1950; contrib. to “Talk of the Town” column
under pseud., 1953-1968; issued In and Out of Never-Never Land
(1969), 22 stories; also Christmas Eve (1974), 13 stories, and
The Long-Winded Lady (1969), 47 short pieces from “Talk of
the Town”, 1953-1968; m. St Clair McKelway, living at Sneden’s
Landing (Hudson), and divorced, becoming migratory after; suffered nervous
breakdown; settled in cubby-hole at rear of ladies’ lavatory at office
of the New Yorker; d. Nov. 1993, after a decade spent as inmate
of several mental hospitals; posthumous collection issued as The Springs
of Affection: Stories of Dublin
(1997), being 21 stories of family
love and its failures in Dublin, introduced by William Maxwell, former-editor
of New Yorker and friend; followed by The Rose Garden (1999),
20 stories from The New Yorker; also The Visitor (2000),
a haunting narrative of a young girl whose parents are dead, and who returns
from Paris to live with her emotionally cold grandmother, recently discovered
in US university archive and published in Washington; a biography by Angela
Bourke is in preparation.

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Works

Christmas Eve (NY: Charles Scribner & Sons 1974); The
Long-Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker
[1st Edn.] (New York:
William Morrow & Co. 1969), 237pp. [infra], and
Do. [another edn.] (NY: Houghton Mifflin/Mariner Boston 1997 [1998]);
In and Out of Never-Never Land: Twenty-two Stories (NY Charles
Scribner’s Sons 1969) 274pp. [ded. ‘For the Bolgers of Coolnaboy,
Oylegate: Anastasia James John Elizabeth Ellen Walter’; infra];
The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin [1st edn.] (NY: Houghton
Mifflin 1997; 1998), [vi]viii, 358pp.; Do. (London: Flamingo 1999),
346pp., port.; The Rose Garden (Washington: Counterpoint 2000),
312pp. [hb.; ded. ‘To W.S.’; infra];
Do. (London: HarperCollins 1999), and Do. (Washington: Counterpoint
2000, 2001) [pb.]; another edn. (Perseus Books Group, Washington, USA
2001), 320pp.; The Visitor (Washington, DC: Counterpoint Press
2000), 86pp. [incl. Ed. Note by Christopher Carduff, pp.[82]-86; Do.
[another edn.] (Washington: Perseus Books q.d.); Do. [another edn.],
foreword by Clare Boylan (Dublin New Island Books 2001), [i-vii], [3]-86pp.;
Ed. Note, ppp.[82-86] Do. (Atlantic Books UK 2000), hb. [in assoc.
with New Island Press].

Miscellaneous, With Frank O’Connor,
John Updike, Roald Dahl, Dorothy Parker, Elizaberth Taylor, Nancy Hale
et. al., Stories From the New Yorker 1950-1960 (NY: Simon & Schuster
1960), 780pp., hb.

In and Out
of Never-Never Land
(NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1969), Contents,
BLUEBELL: The Door on West Tenth Street [3]; A Large Bee [14]; The Children
Are Very Quiet When They Are Away In and Out of Never-Never Land [22];
The Children Are There, Trying Not to Laugh [41]; I See You, Bianca [47].
48, CHERRYFIELD AVENUE: The Morning After the Big Fire [59]; The Old Man
of the Sea [64]; The Barrel of Rumors [73]; The Day We Got Our Own Back
[80]; The Clever One [85]; The Lie go The Devil in Us [95]. MRS. BAGOT:
The Twelfth Wedding Anniversary [107]; The Carpet with the Big Pink Roses
on It [123]; The Sofa [131]; The Shadow of Kindness [140]; The Eldest
Child [155]; Stories of Africa [164]. TWO PEOPLE: A Young Girl Can Spoil
Her Chances [193]; The Drowned Man [228]; A Free Choice [246]. (See Quotations,
infra.)

The Long-winded
Lady
(NY: William Morrow 1969), Contents: Author’s Note [9]; They
were both about forty [15]; A mysterious parade of men [19]; The solitude
of their expression [2]; On the A train [26]; Balzac’s favorite food
[29]; The dark elevator [32]; Broccoli [37]; A shoe story [40]; In the
Grosvenor bar [44]; A Chinese fortune [47]; From the Earle Hotel [51];The
farmhouse that moved downtown [57]; A lost lady [62]; The flower children
[67]; Wild money [75]; Lovers in Washington Square [78]; I wish for a
little street music [82]; Jobs [86]; Little birds in torture [93]; A young
lady with a lap [95]; The morning after [99]; The two protesters [104];
Lost overtures [108]; The man who combed his hair [112]; The good Adano
[117]; A busload of scolds [122]; Movie stars at large [126]; Faraway
places near here [132]; The traveller [137]; Sixth Avenue shows its true
self [143]; I look down from the windows of this old Broadway hotel [147];
Mr. Sam Bidner and his saxophone [154]; The ailanthus, our back-yard tree
[160]; A little boy crying [167]; A young man with a menu [170]; Painful
choice [178]; The new girls on West Forty-ninth Street [180]; The view
Chez Paul [187]; The sorry joker [193]; Giving money in the street [198];
Bad Tiny [201]; An irritating stranger [206];; The cheating of Philippe
[212]; West Eighth Street has changed and changed and changed again [217];
Ludvík Vaculík [223]; The name of Minnie Smith [230]; Howard’s
apartment [233]. (See Quotations, infra.)

The Springs
of Affection
: Stories of Dublin
(NY: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1997),
Contents: Introduction by William Maxwell [1]; The Morning after the Big
Fire [15]; The Old Man of the Sea [21]; The Barrel of Rumors [30]; The
Day We Got Our Own Back [37]; The Lie [42]; The Devil in Us [47]; The
Clever One [56]; A Young Girl Can Spoil Her Chances [63]; A Free Choice
[99]; The Poor Men and Women [128] An Attack of Hunger [148]; Family Walls
[171 The Drowned Man [193 The Twelfth Wedding Anniversary [215]; The Carpet
with the Big Pink Roses on It [232]; The Shadow of Kindness [240]; The
Sofa [255]; The Eldest Child [264]; Stories of Africa [273]; Christmas
Eve [299]; The Springs of Affection [308]. Note [357]. Dustjacket [end,
flap] shows photo of Brennan by Jill Krementz, 28 May 1984.

The Rose
Garden
(Washington: Counterpoint 2000), Contents: Preface [vii];
The View from the Kitchen [3]; The Anachronism [16]; The Gentleman in
the Pink-and-White Striped Shirt [39]; The Joker [52]; The Stone Hot-Water
Bottle [70]; The Divine Fireplace [94]; The Servants’ Dance [111]; The
Bride [153]; The Holy Terror [159]; The Bohemians [172]; The Rose Garden
[184]; The Beginning of a Long Story [204]; The Daughters [225]; A Snowy
Night on West Forty-ninth Street [232]; I See You, Bianca [250]; The Door
on West Tenth Street [263]; A Large Bee [275]; The Children Are Very Quiet
When They Are Away [279]; In and Out of Never-Never Land [283]; The Children
Are There, Trying Not to Laugh [302]; Note [309].

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Commentary

Clare Boylan, review of Maeve Brennan, The Visitor (Counterpoint
[2001]), in The Irish Times (24 Feb. 2001) relates that the short
novel deals with Anastasia, returning to Dublin after the death of her
mother in Paris; her father being dead also, she stays in the family home
where her grandmother, Mrs King, sees the chance to revenge herself upon
the woman who took her son away and then left him and the child who took
her part. Boylan considers that Brennan has created one of the great monsters
of modern Irish fiction in Mrs King, a ‘patient predator who feeds
daintily on the fears of the vulnerable’; cites Mary Lavin’s
description of the short story as ‘an arrow in flight’ and calls
it an ‘exquisite novella’. [Note that Boylan is the author of
the Atlantic Books foreword.]

Clare Boylan, Foreword to The
Visitor
(New Island Edn. 2001), writes: ‘The word “lonely”
tolls like a solitary bell through the pages of The Visitor. Brennan does’t
just write about loneliness. She inhabits it. She exhibits it. She elvates
it to an art form. The shy, the dispossessed, the dominated, are seen
not in the world but teetering on some perilous rim of it, from where
they cannot possibly keep their balance but have a unique view. The painful
self-consciousness of her cnaracters is reflected in a constant feeling
of watchfulness. […] The sense of understated foreboding that runs through
The Visitor reminds one of […] The Turning of the Screw by
Henry James. The suburban house in Ranelagh, with its memories and resentments,
is permeated by a sense of danger and unease, heightened by Anastasia’s
lack of awareness and her monumental lack of judgement. The late Penelope
Fitzgerald wrote that Brennan’s writing “carries an electric
charge of resentment and quiet satisfaction in revenge that chills you
right through.Ӊ۪ (Foreword, The Visitor, pp.[4-5].)

Compass Rose Books (Kensington,
CA, U.S.A) notes of Brennan’s contributions as The Long-Winded Lady:
‘This delightful eccentric practice, later abandoned during the disastrous
tenure of Tina Brown’s editorship of that magazine, enabled a host of
talented writers – young and old – to essay the abreviated essay under
cover of the editorial “we”, which put the emphasis on writing as writing,
as opposed to celebrity. The Long-Winded Lady was one of several correspondents
who flourished during this period.’ [See Abebooks online.]

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Quotations

‘Howard’s Apartment’ (The
Long-winded Lady
, 1969): ‘The rain is falling fast and as black
as ever. The windows of the front apartment where the party is must be
streaming with rain-frothing, almost-and Tenth Street must be streaming,
too, and frothing black. But a cocktail party has to expand, if it can,
and now the people in front have opened their door and left it open. What
a lot of noise they are making with glasses and bottles and music and
voices! They must have hundreds of people in there. Once in a while, over
the low roar of conversation, there is a loud laugh, and once in a while
a little shriek. Outside, all the noise in the world is being hammered
into the earth by the rain, and, inside, all the noise there is is effervescing
at the cocktail party. Only in this room there is stillness, and the stillness
has gone tense. The room is waiting for something to happen. I could light
the fire, but my friend forgot to leave me any logs. I could turn on a
lamp, but there is no animal feeling in electricity. I stand up again
and walk over to the phonograph and switch it on without changing the
record that I played this morning. The music strengthens, and moves about,
catching the pictures, the books, and the discolored white marble mantelpiece
as firelight might have done. Now the place is no longer a cave but a
room with walls that listen in peace. I hear the music and I watch the
voice. I can see it. It is a voice to follow with your mind’s eye. “La
Brave, c-est elle
.” There is no other. Billie Holiday is singing.’
(p.237; End.)

‘The Twelfth
Wedding Anniversary
’ (In and Out of Never-Never Land,
1969): ‘Martin Bagot knew perfectly well it was his wedding anniversary,
and the thought of it embarrassed and irritated him. Things were going
along well enough, and he wanted no sentimental reminders. He wanted no
reminders of any kind. He wanted to be left alone. When Delia hesitated
after putting down the breakfast tray, he thought he knew what she was
going to say, and he felt panic-stricken. Then when she left the room
without speaking he was glad-ashamed of himself but glad anyway. / Lately
he had the feeling of putting things off. He only had that feeling when
he was at home, or when he was on his way home, and he would have liked
to put off coming home indefinitely. He would have liked to have a rest
from himself. When he was in the house he was hateful to himself. The
feeling of being hateful to himself grew worse every day. He knew it grew
worse, because at times he was able to remember his feelings of six months
ago, and the feelings that had seemed so painful then were nothing compared
with what he felt today. / He wanted time to think. He wanted a chance
to separate the hateful picture he had of himself from his real self,
so that he could stand back and decide what to do. […].’

New York, New York: Brennan called
her pieces in The New Yorker a series of snapshots ‘taken during
a long, slow journey not through but in the most cumbersome, most reckless,
most ambitious, most confused, most comical, the saddest and coldest and
must human of cities.’ (Quoted in ‘About the Author’, end-note
to The Rose Garden, Counterpoint, 2000, p.307.)

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Reference

Abebooks lists Christmas Eve, 13 Stories (NY: Charles Scribner
& Sons 1974) [13 stories of which 6 set in Herbert’s Retreat, Hudson River,
1 in New York and 6 in Ireland]; The Long-Winded Lady [1st Edn.]
(NY: William Morrow & Co. 1969), 237pp. [dustjacket by Lydia Rosier; 47
short pieces publ. anonymously in Talk of the Town section of The New
Yorker during 1953-1968]; Do. [another edn.] (Houghton Mifflin/Mariner
Boston 1998); The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin, intro. by William
Maxwell [1st edn.] (Houghton Mifflin 1997; 1998), [vi]viii, 358pp. [21
Dublin stories]; Rose Garden (Washington: Counterpoint 1999, 2000), 312pp.,
hb.; Do. (Washington: Counterpoint 2000, 2001), pb.; and Do. (London:
HarperCollins 1999); In and Out of Never-Never Land: Twenty-two Stories
(NY Charles Scribner’s Sons 1969) 274pp. [var. 1st edn. 1964]; The Visitor
(Washington, DC: Counterpoint Press, 2000), 96pp.; Do. [another edn.]
(New Island 2001); Do. (Atlantic Books UK 2000), hb.; Do. [another edn.]
(Perseus Books q.d.) [hb.]; Frank O’CONNOR, John UPDIKE, Roald DAHL, PARKER
Dorothy, Elizabeth TAYLOR, BRENNAN Maeve, Nancy HALE, et al. [in] Stories
From the New Yorker 1950-1960 (Simon & Schuster 1960) [hb.], 780pp. Also
lists copy of James Joyce, Collected Poems (NY: [4th imp.] Viking 1946)
with signature of Maeve Brennan, and copy of Gerald Murphy, Early Irish
Lyrics Eighth to Twelfth Century (Clarendon Press [2nd. corr. imp. 1962),
signed by Brennan in 1965.

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Notes

The Springs of Affection (1997) traces patterns of love
in three middle-class Dublin families – love between husband and wife
beginning in courtship and laughter and later vanishing through loss of
expression; love of sister for brother and mother for son, twisted into
possessive rage, as well as the rituals that sustain family love. Back
cover blurbs by Edna O’Brien, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallantback,
among which O’Brien: ‘Wonderful vignettes of a bygone Dublin, with
a truth and freshness that makes them timeless.’ Introduction: ‘Set
in the Dublin of a bygone era, 21 stories (1952-1973) by the former New
Yorker writer trace patterns of love within three middle-class Dublin
families, patterns as intricate as Irish lace.’ Another edn. Flamingo
1999. Quotes [?Introduction]: ‘Maeve Brennan contributed to The
New Yorker’s
“Talk of the Town” department under the pen name
“the long-winded lady”. Her unforgettable sketches – prose snapshots of
life in the streets, diners, and cheap hotels just off Times Square –
are a timeless, bittersweet tribute to what she calls the “most ambitious,
most comical[,] saddest and coldest and most human of cities.Ӊ۪

In & Out of focus:
In and Out of Never-Land: Twenty-Two Stories (q.d.): first edn.
dates given as 1964 by Monroe Street Books, Middlebury, VT, USA but 1969
by sundry booksellers.]

Namesake: Maeve Brennan, author
of a letters to and 1968 memoir of Philip Larkin at Brynmor Library, Hull,
is not to be confused with Maeve Brennan of the New Yorker. (See
Abebooks Online Cat., as supra, and rep. edition, 2002 [TLS reviews,
&c.]

Atlantic shuffle (1): The
New Island Edn. of The Visitor (2001) is printed from the same
plates as the Counterpoint/Persues Edn. (2000), with an unpaginated Foreword
by Clare Boylan placed prior to p.[3], being the first page of the novella.
The Editor’s Note by Christoper Carduff occupies pp.[82]-86 in both editions.

Atlantic shuffle (2): The Rose
Garden
was issued by HarperCollins in 1999 but the Counterpoint edn.
bears the Library of Congress and copyright stamps 2000, with prior copyright
stamps of 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966,
1967 & 1968 [presum. in resp. of indiv. stories]; there is an author’s
preface (‘… there are a number of places I am homesick for …’)
dated 1976 in the US edn.

Atlantic Shuffle (3): End-note
in Counterpoint Edn. of The Rose Garden begins: Maeve Brennan was born
in Dublin, on January 6, 1916 [sic] but that she died aged 76 in Nov.
1993.

The family: Maeve Brennan spent several
months writing reviews for the New Yorker in the Doyle’s backgarden
– that is, the parents of Roddy Doyle, as his book Rory and Ita (2002)
reveals. See ‘The novelist who ghosts for his ma and da’, in
Books Ireland (Dec. 2002), p.305.

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Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco):
2002

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