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JG Farrell in His Own Words Selected Letters and Diaries
JG Farrell in His Own Words Selected Letters and Diaries

Our Price:19.95
Authors: Lavinia Greacen
Publication Year: Softback 1 September 2010
Pages: 478
Size: 234 X 156mm

ISBN: 9781859184769


The novelist J.G. Farrell known to his friends as Jim was drowned on August 11, 1979 when he was swept off rocks by a sudden storm while fishing in the West of Ireland. He was in his early forties. ...Had he not sadly died so young,... remarked Salman Rushdie in 2008, ...there is no question that he would today be one of the really major novelists of the English language. The three novels that he did leave are all in their different way extraordinary....

Foreword by John Banville

John Banville, in his introduction to this engrossing and haunting book, describes Farrell's loss as 'little short of a disaster for English fiction'; he is surely right. For anyone interested in what makes a person a writer, and how the life of a professional writer is lived, it is matchless-Sunday Times, Robert Harris

'A moving and memorable portrait, one that his many fans will want to have; and not only fans but, increasingly, students. [His] was an unusual voice, speculative and whimsical [and] its very timbre is audible here.'- Irish Times, Derek Mahon

The Siege of Krishnapur, the second of Farrell's Empire Trilogy, won the Booker Prize in 1973, and it was selected as one of only six previous winners to compete in the 2008 international 'Best of Booker' competition. The strength of American interest in Farrell's books is underlined by the inclusion of all three Trilogy novels in the Classics imprint of the New York Review of Books. Troubles won the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010.

Many of these selected letters are written to women whom Jim Farrell loved and whom he inadvertently hurt. His ambition to be a great writer in an age of minimal author's earnings ruled out the expense of marriage and fatherhood, so self-sufficiency was his answer. Books Ireland has astutely portrayed him as 'a mystery wrapped in an enigma, a man who wanted solitude and yet did not want it, wanted love but feared commitment, reached out again and again but, possibly through fear of rejection, was always the first to cut the cord.' But Farrell's kindness, deft humour and gift for friendship reached across rejection, which must account for why so many such letters were kept.

Funny, teasing, anxious and ambitious, these previously unpublished letters to a wide range of friends give the reader a glimpse of this private man. Ranging from childhood to the day before his death, Farrell's distinctive letters have the impact of autobiography.

Lavinia Greacen is author of Chink: a Biography (Macmillan, 1990) and J.G. Farrell, the Making of a Writer (Bloomsbury, 1999)

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Average Rating: Average Rating: 5 of 5 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 2 Write a review »

  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 J.G. Farrell s trilogy Troubles probably the best January 10, 2011
Reviewer: Stephen Lalor Australian Journal of Irish Studies from Republic of Ireland  
J.G. Farrell s trilogy Troubles  probably the best novel about the Irish  War of Independence  The Siege of Krishnapour and The Singapore  Grip are compelling  face of empire  novels that display the British  Empire as it appeared to those Britons most directly in contact with the  subject peoples. If you want an unvarnished look at the man who wrote  them  this is the place to come.  In these private writings we see Farrell diligently at work observing  and recording his impressions  although we do not learn of his  emotional and intellectual responses to the landscapes and people he  observes until we read the novels. For his books he re absorbed his life  and research  and the final writing grew out of a well integrated sense of  the period and place about which he is writing. His seriousness is shown  not only in his great achievements but also in the things he chooses  his  cookery book is Child s superb Mastering the Art of French Cooking   his camera is the incomparable Zeiss Contraflex.  Farrell s private life comes across as strangely detached from his art.  The letters and diaries reveal little of how the creation of novels of such  depth and breadth grew out of his experience and understanding but  they do help us to understand and appreciate the man  and they are  entertaining in their own right. The diary does throw a light on Farrell s  struggle to find a form for his matter. On the 18th March  1967  we see  him reflecting  on the way Bellow and Nabokov set things up for  themselves . Farrell s wide reading of fiction is part of his commitment  to his writing profession  and he is very much a professional.  Unlike so many writers who emerge as more attractive personalities  in their letters than in their diaries  with Farrell it is the reverse. In the  diaries he reveals himself to be a thoughtful  compassionate  and  responsible friend. Yet  in the letters  possibly because so many are to  girlfriends of uncertain status  he can come across as just a little  awkward  perhaps through an inclination to avoid showing himself in a  positive light. The letters illuminate Farrell s emotional growth. The  callow youth becomes a considerably less callow adult  although in his  letters he never quite loses his youthful fear of speaking well of himself.  His attitude to women is unclear  if not a little strange; referring to  Allison Lurie  then in her forties with four major novels under her belt  already  as a  girl  looks odd. His letters show us life in literary London  which comes across as quite a small village  one where an ambitious but  unknown writer can quickly find a place at the dining tables of the  famous. But the letters show him working very hard indeed. He is  prepared to miss parties  put people off  lose contact with people  to  devote more time to writing.  He appears to be in the swim of things in London to such an extent  that one witnesses his move to rural Ireland with foreboding and it is a  surprise that he enjoys west Cork so much. This  after all  is the Ireland  of long ago where it could take two years to get a telephone  and the  present writer remembers being on the waiting list for five . In fact   Farrell s relations with Ireland are complex but calm. Many who have  written about Ireland have strong and troubled feelings about the  country  and feel a need to express them all  Farrell seems to take things  as they are  very much Proustian rather than Joycean.  The book is well edited. The index is good and the endnotes are  perfectly judged  always answering the question that had just sprung to  mind and never pile driving home the obvious. The only slip is in the  foreword where the editor mistakenly says that Troubles is set in  Wicklow rather than Wexford  hardly a mortal sin. It is not clear if the  letters are all that were available or are a selection  in which case on  what basis the selection was made. One is  of course  intrigued by the  deletions if they are brief why not leave in those that don t intrude  on the privacy of the living?

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  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 I may start out with the most serious and measure November 2, 2010
Reviewer: Katherine A Powers Barnes and Noble Review from Republic of Ireland  
I may start out with the most serious and measured intentions   J. G. Farrell wrote to a friend in August  1969 as he was finishing Troubles  his first great novel  but  everything I touch has a habit of turning to the absurd.  Bleakly and tragically absurd  as it transpired. Ten years later to the month of that letter  Farrell    rejoicing in his own little house on the Irish coast  the reward of years of material and emotional sacrifice in the interests of art    was drowned  swept from his favorite rock while fishing. Indeed  it is impossible to read this fine  revelatory collection of letters and diary entries  J. G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries  and not quail as its denouement approaches with steps of invincible irony.  My book is at last making a little progress   he wrote earlier in that fatal summer   though it has a rival now    viz. fishing off the rocks.  He boasted of his catch and wrote fondly of his fishing companion   an old grandpa seal who looks as if he s wearing a Twenties bathing cap  who  watches me with the air of someone who thinks he knows a better way of doing it.  And finally  working hard the day before he died  he declared  in his last extant letter:  I m running a bit behind schedule    but I m still confident that barring some unforeseen disaster  I ll provide you with a novel  before the end of the year.          Oh  dear.         These letters and diary entries show the determination and loneliness of a man who  though well supplied with girlfriends  gave up marriage  family  and material ease to write novels  three of which are brilliantly idiosyncratic  moving  and very funny depictions of the crumbling British Empire. The selections display Farrell s whimsical melancholy  his sense of the fragility of civilization  and his feeling for the poignancy of little people clutching onto social certainty. They also reveal any number of curious facts  among them that the Majestic Hotel of Troubles was inspired by the burnt out shell of a hotel on Block Island  RI and that he had thought of writing a novel about  doomed and fantasy prone  Emperor Maximilian. They are shot through  too  with wonderful self deprecatory descriptions of his own doings and person. Writing from India  where he was gathering impressions for what became the Booker Prize winning Siege of Krishnapur  he wrote:  I think I hear whispers in the bazaar that fat Smoothy Sahib will soon be having to purchase new churidars  trousers to you  to enclose his ample proportions.          In his foreword to the book  John Banville writes that Farrell s death  was little short of a disaster for English fiction : these pages  filled with personal reflection  acerbic observation  and comic dash  sadly confirm it.  .

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