Are You Somebody?

Nuala O'Faolain's Are You Somebody

When she died earlier this year, “Fresh Air”: rebroadcast an interview they had done several years earlier with Nuala O’Faolain. I caught part of it on the way home from, if I remember correctly, a yoga class.

I think the thing that struck me most about the interview was about how she spoke about the problem of finding a meaning and a center to your life if you reject the things that traditionally define women’s lives–marriage and children. Effectively, she said, you have to go it alone, figuring out the meaning for yourself, because the answer is going to be different for everyone.

So, before we went to the beach, I picked up a copy. It made it to the top of the stack several days ago, and I just finished it last week.

It’s not really beach reading.

It is beautiful and evocative and bleak and blasted. I fear that she never did really figure out how to define herself. Her entire life, as she tells it, seems to be a fight between the recapitulation of her mother’s unhappy life and the knowledge that that path wouldn’t make her happy. But she never seems to find a path that does, or that would at least start down the road to happiness.

I guess the most interesting thing to me was that she eschews the status of victim–she knows she’s confused about what her own priorities are and what would make her happy, and although she sees the roots of it in her early family life and the cultural milieu in which she grew up, she doesn’t assume that it is beyond her control to change…even though, end the end, it seems it may have been.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.