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Return to JG Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries
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Lavinia Greacen Farrell s biographer has put tog January 20, 2010
Reviewer: Patricia Craig TLS from Republic of Ireland  
Lavinia Greacen  Farrell s biographer  has put together an illuminating selection of personal writings full of elegance and charm   and  occasionally  with an Anglo Irish dryness and scepticism.... As a correspondent he is both direct and diverting. His singular voice is geared to conciseness  and to creating an entertaining effect. And an engaging exuberance in his letters is tempered by an urbane reticence... There was no one like him   John Banville says in a felicitous preface   nor will there be again.

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Made up of a skilful patchwork of diaries travel January 20, 2010
Reviewer: The Irish Catholic from Republic of Ireland  
Made up of a skilful patchwork of diaries  travel  journals and personal letters  this is as close to Farrell s autobiography as we will ever get.... All his readers will be grateful to encounter once more this wise  impatient  often self critical voice and will mourn again the sad accident that silenced a writer who would surely have become a major force in modern literature.

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Another stylish voice is that of the late JG Farre December 21, 2009
Reviewer: Irish Independent from Republic of Ireland  
Another stylish voice is that of the late JG Farrell  whose In His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries  Cork University Press   39   edited by Lavinia Greacen  is a marvellous collection of writings from a novelist    Troubles is his masterpiece    whose early death when he was swept off rocks in Co Cork by a freak wave in 1979 was a tragic loss to literature. But these letters and diary extracts are a boundless joy.

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Thirty years ago in August 1979 15 people died d November 28, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Lynch Irish Independent from Republic of Ireland  
Thirty years ago  in August 1979  15 people died during a terrible storm that struck the Fastnet yacht race. The former British prime minister Ted Heath  a keen sailor and a participant in the race  very nearly died too. On the same day  but in relatively calm conditions  a man fishing on the rocks at Kilcrohane in Cork was swept away by a freak wave and drowned. Onlookers say that the man did not struggle in the water but seemed to accept his fate calmly.    This strangely unforgettable death was suffered by the then 44 year old James Gordon Farrell  the author of three novels  Troubles  which is set in Ireland  The Siege of Krishnapur  which won the Booker Prize  and The Singapore Grip.    By now Farrell s incipient greatness is widely recognised    he came very closely to snatching the Booker of all Bookers from Salman Rushdie. This recognition would probably have to come to him eventually on merit alone  but its early arrival owes a great deal to Lavinia Greacen who edits these letters meticulously and who published a fine biography in 1999.    As with all novelists of genuine originality  Farrell s character is plainly obvious and yet mysterious  almost impossible to grasp or explain. Many geniuses seem to to be forced into art for the first time by the death of a parent or by illness. Farrell belongs in the latter category. His relationship with his Anglo Irish Protestant parents in Dalkey was    unlike  say  Samuel Beckett s    warmly dutiful. But a youthful bout of polio and the claustrophobic experience of being locked up in an iron lung added hurt and distance to a naturally sharp intelligence.    This combination of characteristics made him extremely attractive to women  as did  perhaps  an unwillingness to make lasting commitments. As in the song  if he wasn t near the one he loved  he loved the one he was near.    Actually  these letters    and most of them are to women    show that he was quite capable of juggling with lovers even when they were in close proximity to each other. Again  like most novelists  he had a voyeuristic streak: a German girlfriend  who has allowed her cache of letters to be published but without her name being revealed  was in receipt of repeated requests to explain exactly  and I mean exactly  what it was like to lose her virginity.    Farrell was mild mannered and non judgmental  but he knew his own mind. When he won the Booker prize  for example  he made a speech criticising the Booker company for their colonialist work practices  they thought it  most unmannerly  . And a friend who asked for advice on his divorce received a stinging letter telling him and his wife to behave themselves for the sake of their children.    Add to this steeliness a sense of humour and a dash of the young fogey    he occasionally gives the impression of being a man in his 60s trying out phrases picked up from the younger generation    and the reader is guaranteed an experience almost as interesting as a Farrell novel.    At the end of his life he seems to have found a new contentment with his new house in Cork. This is not to say that he avoided infuriating troubles from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs  two years to get a phone  and comic troubles from the shopkeepers in Bandon     If I had been trying to squeeze the petrol out of her nipples it could hardly have been worth more of a performance.     But by the time one reads his last letter  on August 10  1979  which promises a new novel by the end of the year  the more one is convinced that a degree of lovableness went with his genius. It was a cruel wave that swept him away from Ireland and the world of literature.

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When Lavinia Greacen undertook her magisterial yet November 10, 2009
Reviewer: Patrick Skene Catling The Spectator from Republic of Ireland  
When Lavinia Greacen undertook her magisterial yet intimately sympathetic biography of James Gordon Farrell  she gained access to his diaries and many of his letters  especially love letters and letters to his literary agents  editors and publishers about his professional desires and requirements. In this supplementary volume  a selection of her prime sources is presented in their full extent  amounting to a warts and all self portrait of the novelist. It might well serve as an inspiration or a warning. Even with his fecund talent  ardent ambition  sound education  Rossall and Brasenose   eagerness to work and sufficient charm for social survival  English father  Irish mother   writing novels for a living proved intellectually arduous  financially precarious and often desperately lonely.    Lavinia Greacen s new book  with photographs  is a splendid memorial. Its appendix contains a poem dedicated to J.G. Farrell by his friend Derek Mahon.      http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/5503533/part_3/a literary gypsy.thtml

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THE NOVELIST JG Farrell 1935 1979 inspired great October 27, 2009
Reviewer: Irish Times Derek Mahon from Republic of Ireland  
THE NOVELIST JG Farrell  1935 1979  inspired great affection and esteem in his lifetime  and a mystique survives   owing  in part  to the tragic nature of his early death.  He drowned at Kilcrohane  Co Cork  where he had moved just months before.  His biographer  Lavinia Greacen   JG Farrell: The Making of a Writer   Bloomsbury 1999   has put together a fascinating and generously annotated selection of his letters to family  friends  agents and publishers  and added vivid passages from his diaries. The result is a moving and memorable portrait of the man  one that his many fans will want to have; and not only fans but  increasingly  students   for Farrell s fiction  a big hit in its day and never out of print  is now recognised as an important contribution to the post colonial  or perhaps post imperial canon  with special reference to the famous  Empire Trilogy ; not really a trilogy but  his own word  a triptych: Troubles  1970   The Siege of Krishnapur  1973  and The Singapore Grip  1978 .      Full review:  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2009/1024/1224257356756.html?via=mr

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