Belinda McKeon

Life
1979- ; b. Co. Longford; grad. TCD and afterwards took MFA at Columbia Univ.; became an Irish Times staff journalist and a leading literary interviewer; also contrib. to The Paris Review, Irish Pages, Irish Theatre Magazine, The Dublin Review, Irish University Review, Magill and Circa;  contrib. to RTE Arts Show and The View; curated Dun Laoghaire Poetry Now festival, 2007- ; issued of Solace (2011), a novel of a novel of fractured family life in current times; winner of Bord Gáis Best Newcomer Award, 2011 and compared for manner with John McGahern; also Treasure - both novels having been acquired by Picador under aegis of literary agent Peter Straus, April 2010.

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Works
“Drapes”, in Fishamble Firsts: An Anthology of Plays by New Playwrights (New Island Books 2008); Solace (London: Picador 2011), 341pp. [novel].

The subjects of articles, interviews and reviews by McKeon on this website incl. Seamus Heaney, John McGahern, Colm Toibin, Michael Collins, Bernard Farrell, and Leanne O’Sullivan [all q.v.].

Numerous Irish Times reviews incl. "A long career: a late flourishing", in James Salter [sent from New York], in The Irish Times (18 May 2013), Weekend, p.7.

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Commentary
Anne Fogarty, review of Solace, in The Irish Times (30 July 2011): ‘in the manner of John McGahern, whose interest in the elemental rhythms of daily life McKeon mirrors, release the solace of the title is to be found not in large-scale gestures but in the diurnal patterns of commonplace existence / The poetic sinuousness of McKeon’s style deftly insinuates the reader into the emotional worlds of her characters which are outlined with unflinching clarity and a winning compassion. Solace, in sum, is an assured and poised debut, at once a moving and gracefully etched story of human loss and interconnection set in contemporary Ireland and a deeply affecting meditation on being in the world.’

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Freya McClements, notice on Solace, in The Irish Times (2 June 2012), Weekend Review - Paperbacks: ‘On the surface, Solace, the first novel by the award-winning playwright and Irish Times contributor Belinda McKeon, appears to be a conventional love story. Mark and Joanne meet in the garden of a Dublin pub and immediately fall for each other, but theirs is a romance played out in the shadow of an ominous prologue. When first we meet Mark, his father, a Longford farmer, is helping him care for a baby girl whose mother is mysteriously absent. McKeon’s skill lies in leading the reader back in time as she details the start of Mark and Joanne’s relationship, then forwards as the fractured family tries to make its way in a world that has been forever changed. [...] McKeon handles the novel’s complex structure with ease, creating both a subtle examination of the tensions within families and an engaging and entertaining portrait of contemporary Irish life.’ (p.13.)

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Ursula K. Le Guin, review of Solace, in The Guardian (12 Aug. 2011): ‘Intensely self-conscious, intensely controlled, this fine first novel brought to my mind the performance of a talented young dancer whose steps and movements are flawless but who has not yet learned to let herself become the dance she dances. [...] I have the impression of an austere decorum infusing much modern Irish fiction, a studied levelness of tone. Such restraint, if unvaried, leads to a flatness that smoothes even agony into the texture of ordinary, daily life. There is truth in this, to be sure the truth expressed in the saying “Life goes on”. Perhaps that truth is enough to ask of a novel. Certainly it is all the solace offered by the promise of the beautiful title.’ (Available online; accessed 20.05.2013.)

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References
Notice of her book contract with Picador appeared in “Loose Leaves” by Caroline Walsh [Lit. Ed.], The Irish Times (1 May 2010), Weekend, p.12.

Website: Formerly at belindamckeon.wordpress.com/author/belindamckeon/ - an Irish Times based page in 2008; latterly at www.belindamckeon.com].

The Irish Times (10 Nov. 2016) - available online.

 

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Notes
Solace (2011): Mark Casey, a doctoral student from Co. Longford where his family has farmed for generations and now living in Dublin, is on a collision course with his father Tom who doesn’t regard his way of life as real work. His mother plays the part of peace-maker but Mark is partying in Dublin to relieve the stress of his seemingly endless thesis. He hooks up with Joanne Lynch, a young solicitor only to find that her father once spectacularly wronged his father. She too is an escapee from her father, and together they enjoy a love affair until tragedy strikes. The novel has been praised by Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, and Colm McCann for its spare, intense lyricism and quiet truth and for its compassionate portrayal of Irish life today. (See McKeon's website; accessed 03.12.2011.)

On the election of Donald Trump

[...] If you are a woman, if you are a girl, if you are, like my young neighbour Ellie, ten years old and from a mixed-race family and trying hard at school and still holding onto your Hillary badge - well, fuck you, so many of these voters have said. You have been dealing with misogyny and sexually predatory behavior and with a culture that judges you in terms of your body most of your life, even if you are ten years old, and you don’t get to escape that. Why would you? It’s fun for some men, and fun for some women who’ve internalised misogyny so deeply it’s become a parasite. Here’s what’s real: the incoming Vice President created abortion laws which saw a woman sentenced to decades in prison because someone suspected she might have caused her own miscarriage. Here’s what’s real: the incoming President treated policy like a subject the other kids could waste their time studying; he knew how to prey so perfectly on the teacher’s jitters and insecurities that he’d pass, more than pass, without turning a page. Impossible not to believe that until around three months ago, he thought Mosul was a spice, if even that. [...]

The Irish Times (10 Nov. 2016) - available online.

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