Brian O’Doherty

Life
[occas. pseud. Patrick Ireland]; m. Barbara Novak, conceptual artist and art historian; grad. medicine and practised in a cancer hospital; emig. to America, 1957; worked for 19 years as director of film, radio and tv programmes at National Endowment of the Arts; 40 one-man show; appt. professor of Fine Arts and Media at Southampton College campus, Long Island Univ.; issued The Deposition of Father MacGreevy (2000), a novel dealing with the disintegration of an Irish rural community amid scenes of poverty, death and bestiality, as narrated by a priest who is victimised when he defends an innocent scape-goat.

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Works
The Deposition of Father MacGreevy
(London: Arcadia; NY: Turtlepoint 2000), 313pp.; 256pp.

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Commentary
Aisling Foster, review of The Deposition of Father MacGreevy (2000), in Times Literary Supplement (21 July 2000), supplies summary: Fr. Hugh McGreevy tried to explain the disintegration of his flock, 1939-1941; ‘starved acres plucked from the side of a hill’; emigration and poverty; dea[th] of seven mothers; Tadgh [sic], the village simpleton, runs wild among sheep; children removed to convent; scenes of bestiality; haunted by sheep all around him; priest disgraced when he tries to defend innocent man in court; William Maginn, Londo lit. editor, returns in mid-1950s to dig up facts of the ‘degraded nightmare’; novel, basically conveying the sincverity of the priest, is spiked with Maginn’s editorial asides; reviewer considers that ‘amid the current surfeit of ersatz literary Irishness, this novel rings true.’ (p.23.)

Eileen Battersby, review of Brian O’Doherty, The Deposition of Father McGreevy (Arcadia 1999), in The Irish Times, 14 Oct. 2000, relates how the narrator William Maginn investigates death of Kerry village and the career of Fr. Hugh MacGreevy, disgraced priest; a tale of rampant sexuality incl. the narrator’s mother’s repressed love of the priest and an amadan who has sexual intercourse with sheep; the boy dies; reviewer considers that the novel contains nothing believable; notes that previous novel, The Strange Case of Madamoiselle P (1992) ‘flounders under the weight of its own intellectual pretensions’ while this one ‘reaches after an earthy humanity and folksy usage’; ‘curious performance, random and inconsistent, somehow lacking real drama despite the violence’; Booker shortlisted; could be placed in hills of Tennessee; dated novel; lack of conviction; improbable monologue. Battersby concludes, the ‘they narrator doesn’t seem to believe in it. Nor did I.’

Michael Ellison, ‘What is greater than the Unexpected?’, interview article with Brian O’Doherty, author of The Deposition of Father MacGreevy (1999); O’Doherty is published by Jonathan Rabinowitz at Turtle Point Press after several other approaches failed incl. letter of encouragement from Seamus Deane; allegory about a village on the west coast of Ireland destroyed by illness, gossip and rumour at the end of the 1930s; events recorded in deposition of local priest and picked up decades later by a journalist in a London pub; wrote under alias Patrick Ireland, a name adopted after Bloody Sunday; conceptual art, paintings and sculptures presented under that name until British military removed from N. Ireland; practised as doctor after ed. in Ireland; worked in cancer hospital before leaving profession (‘After that nothing matters much’); moved to America, 1957; art critic on NY Times; 19 years as director of film, radio and tv programmes at National Endowment of the Arts; 40 one-man show; professor of fine arts and media at Southampton College campus, Long Island Univ.; admires Stanley Matthews and Franz Beckenbauer; without children. (Guardian Service; The Irish Times, 4 Nov. 2000, p.6.)

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