Molly McCloskey


Life
1964- ; b. Philadephia, grew up in Oregon; dg. of a WWII veteran and Wake Forest basketball coach (“Jack”); took sports schol. to St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia; moved to Ireland in 1989; married and settled in Sligo, playing basketball with All-stars in West of Ireland for some years; separated, c.1992; published first short story appeared in Force 10 (ed. Dermot Healy); winner of 1995 RTÉ/Francis MacManus Award, and Fish Short Story Prize, 1996; issued Solomon’s Seal (1997);
 
moved to Dublin in 1998, after a brief return to Philadelphia; completed Philosophy MA at UCD; worked at writing abstracts; issued The Beautiful Changes (2002), novella and three stories, in which title-story concerns Henry, a former baseball hero who descends into alcoholism, leaving home and daughter, and his quest for recovery along with his daughters attempts to reunite them;
 
currently works as an editor and free-lance journalist in Dublin; scouted for Curtis Brown by David Marcus; recipient of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Bursary at the Princess Grace Irish Library, Autumn 2003; travelled to Shri Lanka and to Bosnia, 2004; issued Protection (2005), a Frantzenesque novel about memory - human and mechanical - incorporating a dystopic view of contemporary Irish society;
 
McCloskey has worked in Kenya for the United Nations; her story “This Isn’t Heaven” was short-listed for the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award, 2009; issued Circles Around the Sun (2011), a non-fiction account of her brother Mike’s schizophrenia, written with the assent of family members and using family papers to mine ‘the dramaturgy of my family’).
[ top ]

Works
Fiction
  • Solomon’s Seal and Other Stories (London: Phoenix House 1997), 144pp.;
  • The Beautiful Changes (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2002), 224pp. [stories];
  • Protection (Penguin Ireland 2005), 309pp.
Non-fiction
  • Circles Around the Sun: In Search of a Lost Brother (Penguin Ireland 2011), 233pp.
Contribs
  • ‘If a guy doesn’t think this is fun ...’, in The Dublin Review, 16 (Autumn 2004), pp.37-48 [infra];
  • ‘A Nuclear Adam and Eve’, in Arrows in Flight: Stories from a New Ireland, ed. Caroline Walsh (Dublin: TownHouse; UK & US: Scribner 2002), pp.233-66;
Reviews
  • review of Chinua Achebe, The Education of a British-Protected Child, in The Irish Times (16 Jan. 2010), Weekend, p.10;
  • review of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation,  by Elaine Tyler May, in The Irish Times (24 July 2010), Weekend [q.p.];
  • review of The Children of Lovers: A Memoir of William Golding, by Judy Golding [his daughter], in The Irish Times (23 April 2011), Weekend [‘written in a clipped, engaging and unsentimental style’; q.p.]
  • review of Jane Shilling, The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age, in The Irish Times (29 Jan. 2011), Weekend, p.11.
Miscellaneous

Irish Times reviews incl. review of The Sexual Life of Catherine M., trans. Adriana Hunter (Serpent’s Tail), in The Irish Times (29 June 2002) [‘... what you get in this book is a chronicler more tedious, more self-indulgent, than any dinner-party bore you have ever clapped ears on ... this blend of voraciousness and apathy rings false’]; review of Siri Husvedt, The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves, in The Irish Times (6 Feb. 2010), Weekend, p.12; review of Bird Cloud, by Annie Proulx, in The Irish Times (26 Feb. 2011, Weekend, p.11); review of The Long Goodbye: A Memoir of Grief by Meghan O’Rourke, in The Irish Times (13 Aug. 2011), Weekend Review, p.11; ‘The other side of psychosis’, review of The Locked Ward: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Orderly, in The Irish Times (21 Jan. 2012), Weekend, p.10.

[ top ]

Commentary
Shirley Kelly, ‘The Blow in from Oregon’ [interview-article], in Books Ireland (Feb. 2002), quotes McCloskey as saying: ‘One of the reasons I like it here is that it’s so small, like a stage. I come from a place that’s so huge and my family has had a peripatetic life. It’s nice to find such a strong sense of place.’ Further, ‘It’s not that the place hasn’t impinged on my consciousness and imagination. It has, deeply, but I think I could only ever write about Ireland as an outsider and I’m beginning to do that now. I’ve just written a story for a new anthology, which is set in Ireland but from an outsider’s perspective, and I’m working on a novel based on that story.’ Notes that The Beautiful Changes was first submitted to Phoenix as a novel but ultimately published by Lilliput Press as a novella with additional stories. McCloskey relates that her own father left home when she was eleven but was not an alcoholic - as in the title story of the new book. (p.47.)

[ top ]

Martin de Kerimel de Kerveno, ‘Molly McCloskey, nouvelle invitée’, in Happy Monaco [magazine online de la Pincipauté (7 Oct. 2003), supplies news-coverage on McCloskey’s tenure of the IFM Bursary at the PGIL [Princess Grace Irish Library), with these additional comments and quotations: ‘Egalement journaliste et critique indépendante, Molly a l’écriture dans le sang. Sa vocation date de son enfance: “A l’époque, quand j’en parlais, on me conseillait de devenir avocat, ou journaliste. J’ai fait un autre choix de carrière. Je ne sais pas vraiment ce qui m’inspire. Disons que ce qui m’intéresse, c’est la mémoire, collective et personnelle”. Peut-être une bonne façon, au-delà de la barrière de la langue, d’entrer en communication avec les autres. Native de Philadelphie, aux Etats-Unis, la jeune femme aime s’ouvrir à d’autres idées, d’autres cultures. Son grand-père, portoricain, l’a familiarisé avec la langue espagnole, qu’elle a ensuite étudiée et qu’elle parle suffisamment bien pour envisager de s’installer en Espagne. La France, elle s’y intéresse aussi, mais bien qu’elle ait aussi vécu à Paris, elle ne parle pas le français. La notion d’exception culturelle, elle l’ignore, mais s’y intéresse, et raconte: “Les Anglo-Saxons ne lisent pas beaucoup les auteurs d’autres langues. En Irlande, nous connaissons Michel Houellebecq, car il habite là-bas, mais peu d’auteurs contemporains sont traduits. C’est dommage, je pense qu’il nous manque quelque chose”. Quelque chose comme une ouverture sur une autre culture. Aussi Molly compte-t-elle bien profiter de son séjour sur la Côte d’Azur pour découvrir d’autres lieux, d’autres gens, d’autres façons de vivre. Et même si, comme elle le dit en souriant, “ici, à la Bibliothèque, tout le monde parle anglais …”.

Kathy Sheridan, ‘Family Faultlines’ [interview], in The Irish Times (25 June 2011), Magazine sect. (pp.18-19), gives an account of Circles Around the Sun (2011), McCloskey’s book about her brother Mike’s illness and its impact on their family, telling the story of a young man who was a star athlete and a diligent student at school but used psychotropic drugs at Duke college and was diagnosed schizophrenia at 23. Mike is 14 years older than Molly so that she has no memory of his pre-illness times when he was a ‘pure shooter’ in basket-ball parlance. Her closest brother is Steve; her unfailingly upbeat mother is Anita [Nita]; family stresses bring on divorce.

[ top ]

Anthony Glavin, review of Circles Around the Sun, in The Irish Times (15 June 2011), Weekend Review/Books, p.10: ‘[...] Early on in this brilliant, at times heartbreaking book, Molly McCloskey tells how she first tried to tell its story of her brother Mike as a novel. But, trusting in Tolstoy’s assertion that every family is unhappy in its own inimitable way, she ended up crafting instead a remarkably courageous memoir that is as strange and rich as any fiction. [...] Having scant memory of her brother’s younger, healthier self and little understanding of his illness during her pre-teen and adolescent years, McCloskey has crafted her story as a kind of reclamation project. It is a determined reconstruction of her brother’s life and loss, drawing on an archive of 40 years of family letters that her mother gave her, as if memoir itself were a kind of recovered memory. But it is also much, much more, for McCloskey candidly examines not only her brother’s illness and its impact on her family, but also her own at times near-desperate struggle with anxiety and alcohol.’ [Cont.]

[ top ]

Anthony Glavin (review of Circles Around the Sun, in The Irish Times, 15 June 2011) - cont.: ‘[...] McCloskey herself gave up the drink in 1996, after a late-September lost weekend in Sligo, which she describes in a majestic, loving valediction, “the early evening sun streaming in the window and all the food and drink and friends I would ever need”. Definitively clear since then about herself and alcohol, she steadfastly declines to draw any such conclusions about her brother Mike’s condition, unlike her father, a second World War veteran, who sees his eldest son’s illness as the straightforward result of the drugs he took during a storied era that laid waste to the prevailing simpler story of a happier, patriotic postwar US.’ (See full text online at The Irish Times - online.)

[ top ]

Quotations
If a guy doesn’t think this is fun ...’, in The Dublin Review, 16 (Autumn 2004): ‘[...] I did resurface, but I didn’t achieve redemption. Instead, I watched history repeat itself, in slightly more farcical form. Around 1990, while living in the West of Ireland, I discovered there was a “Ladies” team right there in Sligo. Despite initial reservations prompted by the term “Ladies”, I signed up. / We were the All-Stars, and our coach was a towering, balding, pear-shaped Englishman named Mike, or Miy-uk, as we called him, mimicking his accent. Miy-uk’s primary piece of advice to us seemed to be: Breathe through your noses, girls! Through your noses! But I liked Miy-uk, and Miy-uk liked me. I saw his eyes light up when he heard my American accent, and light up even brighter after he’d seen me play. It’s not that I was great. Even back in 1982, in the bloom of youth and with a full scholarship, I could’ve foreseen my own obsolescence. The women’s game was improving much faster than I was. I was not a good enough ball handler, I couldn’t jump that high, my shooting was inconsistent, I played (according to my brother) “matador defence”. And, I was never hungry enough, probably because deep down, I didn’t really care. I thought basketball was beautiftil - I loved the aesthetics of the game, the fluidity, I loved executing my trademark move: head fake right, quick first step left, one dribble, off the glass and in - but winning had always been more a pleasure than a need. Still, relative to the other Sligo Ladies All-Stars, who hadn’t the benefit of my training and pedigree, I was pretty good.’

[ top ]

Getting lost - review of John Edward Huth, The Lost Art of Finding Our Way [Harvard UP], in The Irish Times, 20 July 2013), Weekend Review: ‘For a long time I avoided Stephen’s Gren, or if I did go in, I ventured only into the shallows, never so far that I couldn’t retrace my steps to the gate which I’d entered. To go deeper was to invite frustration. If I attempted to use the Green as a shortcut from, say,, the Grafton Street corner to the Earlsfort Terrace corner, I would invariably become confused by all those curly paths, and wind up emerging on a side of the Green which was not the side I’d intended. It wasn’t the lost time that bothered me - these were minutes spent in a park, after all - it was the repeated sense of defeat. / Over the years the Green became, in my mind, proof (as if I needed more) of my utmost inability to navigate the simplest non-grid terrain, of my complete lack of an inner compass, of my propensity for sinking into daydreams. And then, some months ago - and here comes the embarrassing part - I though that if, instead of gazing at the ducks or the people or the curly paths, I would pick a building visible above the tree line and, as I moved through the Green, I would track my position relative to this rooftop. Having to do this made me feel even more foolish, but it worked. I got to where I wanted to. [...]’

[ top ]