Apr 14, 2010

Home Sick at the New Yorker

I emigrated from Ireland in the mid 90s but have often wondered what it would have been like to move to America from Ireland in the 40s or 50s. I have many family members who did it, but they kept their stories to themselves, so I'm delighted to discover Maeve Brennan. Maeve was an Irish-born journalist and short story writer who emigrated to America with her family when she was a teenager and began working as a fashion copywriter for Harper’s Bazaar in New York during the 1940s. She also wrote a Manhattan society column for a Dublin based magazine called Social and Personal and contributed a few pieces to The New Yorker before being offered a staff position in 1949. The New Yorker began publishing her short stories in the 1950s and she worked there until the 1980s.

Brennan was admired for her beauty and style and was known for being self-isolating and for wearing all black outfits and oversized glasses. Apparently, she is often considered to be the inspiration for the character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as she worked alongside Truman Capote at Harper’s Bazaar.

Brennan's best known works are The Long-Winded Lady, pieces she wrote for The New Yorker observing life in the city which were compiled into a book The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker,a volume of her short stories titled The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin, and her novella The Visitor, which was written in the 1940s but not published until 2000. Many of her stories were about Ireland, including Wexford where her parents were born and Dublin where she was raised, as well as about the Irish in America. Sadly, she died penniless and mad in an obscure nursing home in 1993.
In 2004 Angela Bourke wrote a biography about Brennan called Home Sick at The New Yorker—the cover of which makes me sorely wish I had known/been Brennan (except for the sad ending, of course). I'm going to to start getting to know her now, starting with The Visitor, and working my way up to her biography.

Find Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker

1 comment:

Debbie said...

You have me curious now. I came to visit your blog out of curiosity for the bouncing mad photos, but after reading this post, I strangely wonder what it was like to be Irish in New York in the 40's. I am American (UK mix ancestory) having lived in California and Texas (now) and having worked as an editor/writer for our major newspaper. Your blog entry makes me want to read Brennan's works too. Even more oddly, I wonder what it was like to live in Ireland in the 40's and what career Brennan might have had, had she remained in Ireland.

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