The Blagger's Guide To...Anne Enright
'Do you realise there is sex on every page?'
Sunday 01 May 2011
*Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz will be launched this week at a small party in the home of her editor at Jonathan Cape. Her first novel since the Man Booker Prize-winning The Gathering, this Dublin-set work is "a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing".
*In 2007, Enright became the fourth Irish writer to win the Booker (after Iris Murdoch, Roddy Doyle and John Banville), and the fifth consecutive winner to beat the bookies' odds. Not that she ever listened to the bookies. "They don't read," she said, "so how would they know?" Nonetheless, The Gathering was an unexpected victor. Before its appearance on the shortlist, it had sold fewer than 1,000 copies. At the end of February 2008, it had sold 250,000 copies, and been sold to 31 countries, including Bangladesh, Korea, and Macedonia. But this was the year that Katie Price's Crystal ("the sensational new novel by Jordan") sold more than all six shortlisted Man Booker novels put together.
*The Gathering received a mixed reception from the critics. One called it "pretentious" and "wearing" and said that it was obsessed with "the dirty-handkerchief side of life". Enright retorted: "I have to say, if there's any obsession with sex, it's on the critic's part". However, she has previously admitted that sex is important in her fiction. Of her second novel, she said: "When I wrote What Are You Like?, someone said disapprovingly to me, 'Do you realise there is sex on every page?' Well, good. I hope I'm not moral as a writer." This was not always the case. At school, in Canada, the 16-year-old Enright studied "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". "'She made moan,' said the teacher. 'Well, we know what that's about!' I was straight from convent school. Poetry and sex? I was outraged. I said: 'You've ruined Keats for me!'"
*Enright was born in Dublin in 1962, to civil servant parents, and educated in Dublin and Canada. She started writing fiction when she was given a typewriter for her 21st birthday, and studied on the prestigious creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, under Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter. But it was not until after a brief career in TV that she started writing in earnest. After working as an actor in the 1980s, she moved to the Irish channel RTE as a producer and director on the comedy show Nighthawks (on which Graham Norton made an early appearance). She left in 1994, after having a breakdown. "At the time, people said to me that I must be brave to leave," she says. "But I thought that a person would have to be much braver to stay. The place is an abattoir." She lives in County Wicklow with her husband Martin Murphy, an actor and director, and their two children.
*Before The Gathering, she had written three novels (The Wig My Father Wore, 1995; What Are You Like?, 2000; and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, 2002, which begins with the line: "Francisco Solano Lopez put his penis inside Eliza Lynch on a lovely spring day in Paris, in 1854"). Her non-fiction work, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood (2004) was written while she was doing exactly that. Her short fiction collections are The Portable Virgin (1991); Taking Pictures (2008) and Yesterday's Weather (2009).
*Her fans include Colm Tóibín and Angela Carter.
*She says: "'How do you know when something is finished?' I am sometimes asked...For novels I say: 'When I have a little cry.'"
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