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Old 12-08-2013, 01:30 PM   #1
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My Oedipus Complex and Other Stories by Frank O'Connor

This is the MR Literary Club selection for December 2013. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time! Guests are also always welcome.


Contents-
There are two different collections with the same name. The collection that is our monthly selection includes the following stories:
Spoiler:
The Genius
My Oedipus complex
The Study of History
First Confession
The Duke's Children
First Love
The Ugly Duckling
Don Juan's Temptation
The Bridal Night
A Salesman's Romance
In the Train
Pity
The Majesty of the Law
The Paragon
Song Without Words
Uprooted
The Miser
The Cheapjack


So, what are your thoughts on it?



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Old 12-09-2013, 01:22 PM   #2
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I think that a very good opener is "First Confession". A few interesting points are that the characters are based on members of his own family--giving this tale an autobiographical edge. It uses a dual narrative perspective; the narrator is a child--but a child whose memories and experiences are filtered through the mind of the adult who is aware that aspects of this particular event had the potential to have been far more serious in their consequences than seems apparent. It is, to an extent. a story of persecution; a persecution on a series of levels.

Note too, the great skill of O'Connor's use of "'significant detail'"--that is his skill in selecting the detail that will convey a great deal in terms of character and atmosphere." {Augustine Martin}

As a side note, if you wish to experience the tragic vision of O'Connor, try "Guests of the Nation"--which is not in our selection but is easy to find. It is based on his experiences in the IRA.

Finally, I hope that others who read the stories of this fine writer will share my admiration for his deep compassion for ordinary people--those whom he called his "hidden audience"--and his wonderful artistry in telling their tales.

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Old 12-09-2013, 03:01 PM   #3
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Thank you, Fantasyfan, for this information. I have started on the first of the Irish writers, James Joyce and will be starting on Frank O'Connor tomorrow and looking forward to it.
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Old 12-14-2013, 06:30 PM   #4
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I have just started reading O'Connor, and not having seen your suggestion, fantasyfan, I started with "The Genius" which was the first one on the list I had made. I loved it and can't wait to get back and read some more.

I'm all the more pleased as I have to confess that Dubliners, which I have just finished, didn't do anything at all for me, so I was hoping that I wouldn't have a similar experience with O'Connor. Clearly that isn't going to be the case.

Thanks so much for introducing me to a writer I hadn't ever come across, fantasyfan.
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Old 12-14-2013, 06:42 PM   #5
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My Oedipus Complex is the first story I read and it's cute and clever enough that I'll certainly be reading more of the stories. I have the larger collection from the library, so I'll have to jump around to find the nominated stories. If any of you enjoy specific ones, please recommend them in this thread.
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Old 12-14-2013, 07:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post
I have just started reading O'Connor, and not having seen your suggestion, fantasyfan, I started with "The Genius" which was the first one on the list I had made. I loved it and can't wait to get back and read some more.

I'm all the more pleased as I have to confess that Dubliners, which I have just finished, didn't do anything at all for me, so I was hoping that I wouldn't have a similar experience with O'Connor. Clearly that isn't going to be the case.

Thanks so much for introducing me to a writer I hadn't ever come across, fantasyfan.
I would agree with you about Dubliners. They are often finely constructed, but --and I stress that this is only my opinion--Joyce seldom conveys the breadth of humanity, compassion, and insight that is present in O'Connor. But then the short form was not Joyce's best field, just as the novel was not where O'Connor shone.

Synamon wrote: My Oedipus Complex is the first story I read and it's cute and clever enough that I'll certainly be reading more of the stories. I have the larger collection from the library, so I'll have to jump around to find the nominated stories. If any of you enjoy specific ones, please recommend them in this thread.

"Uprooted" is another masterpiece! I just finished it and it is a wonderful, sensitive piece that works both as an allegory about the loss of traditional Irish Culture and at the same time as a deeply personal choice that focuses on a lost opportunity. It is so autumnal in such a melancholy way.

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Old 12-14-2013, 07:33 PM   #7
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It's funny that I really thought the writing in Dubliners was excellent. I also really thought Joyce painted some very compelling tales for various early 20th Century lower to middle class urban dwellers. My main drawback was that apart from character names, and of course names of geographic locations, there was little in most of the stories that to me said Dublin, or even Ireland. Most could have just as well been in any large port city of the time such as London or even New York. I am looking forward to O'Connor.

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Old 12-15-2013, 02:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
I think that a very good opener is "First Confession". A few interesting points are that the characters are based on members of his own family--giving this tale an autobiographical edge. It uses a dual narrative perspective; the narrator is a child--but a child whose memories and experiences are filtered through the mind of the adult who is aware that aspects of this particular event had the potential to have been far more serious in their consequences than seems apparent. It is, to an extent. a story of persecution; a persecution on a series of levels.
I was interested to see that O'Connor drastically revamped "First Confession" twice; the first time to concentrate the action, the second time to put it in the first person. O'Connor: "I would wish you to believe that if you work hard at a stoary over a period of twenty-five or thirty years, there is a reasonable chance that at last you will get it right."

So far I've read four of the stories, and I prefer the first-person boy's voice to that of the third-person narrative ("First Love").

I'm laggard about highlighting, but I need to go back and select some of the choicest comments. Funny, funny stuff, yet "The Duke's Children" really tugged at my heartstrings.
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Old 12-15-2013, 06:14 PM   #9
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I enjoyed "First Confession" so much that I read it to my husband this morning as we had our coffee after breakfast.

I can see I am going to have to search out a complete collection of all O'Connor's short stories if it exists.
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Old 12-15-2013, 06:44 PM   #10
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Just started off with the first two stories in Fantasyfan's list - I was ok with Genius, but found My Oedipus complex delightful.
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Old 12-16-2013, 05:09 AM   #11
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I enjoyed "First Confession" so much that I read it to my husband this morning as we had our coffee after breakfast.
I got to that too, very funny, and it did bring back memories of my own first confession :-)

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I was interested to see that O'Connor drastically revamped "First Confession" twice; the first time to concentrate the action, the second time to put it in the first person.
issybird, did you find any of the third person versions?

As for O'Connor's collections of short stories, according to the "Notes on selection" in the edition I am using, compiled by Julian Barnes:
Quote:
O’Connor published six volumes of stories in his lifetime: Guests of the Nation (1931), Bones of Contention (1936), Crab Apple Jelly (1944), The Common Chord (1947), Traveller’s Samples (1951) and Domestic Relations (1957). He also chose The Stories of Frank O’Connor (1952), followed by More Stories (1954), which he later reworked as Collection Two (1964). After his death his widow, Harriet O’Donovan Sheehy, published Collection Three (1969) and The Cornet-Player Who Betrayed Ireland (1981). I have chosen thirty stories from the hundred and fifty or so these books contain. O’Connor was very attentive to the ordering of his stories within each volume; I have followed his lead, preferring a kind of overall narrative to the hazards of chronological order. So the book begins with stories about childhood; then war; then peace and adulthood; then age and death. This is not, however, intended to make the contents seem more autobiographical than they are. O’Connor’s letters to and from William Maxwell were published as The Happiness of Getting It Down Right, edited by Michael Steinman (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996)
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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
O'Connor: "I would wish you to believe that if you work hard at a story over a period of twenty-five or thirty years, there is a reasonable chance that at last you will get it right."
seems to have inspired the title of the correspondence with William Maxwell!

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Old 12-17-2013, 12:44 AM   #12
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I will forever be grateful to this club and Fantasyfan for introducing me to Frank O'Connor. I've read the first half of The Best of Frank O'Connor, including five of the stories in My Oedipus Complex and Other Stories. In The Train is still to come.

The first story in the book, Guests of the Nation, not on the 'approved' list, was a gut punch that is still haunting me. Unfortunately, I doubt I will ever forget it. The Genius, My Oedipus Complex, First Confession, and The Study of History were delightful, among the most entertaining short stories I've ever read. I love the way O'Connor writes, the way he thinks, the way he sees...I love Frank O'Connor.

His essays about James Joyce are not in My Oedipus Complex and Other Stories, but it was wonderful to read them immediately after finishing Dubliners.

Spoiler:
Joyce’s writing has all the virtues of a disciple of Flaubert; it is exact, appropriate and detached. ‘The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging, unceasing murmur.’ That is Flaubert, though the echo of the word ‘unceasingly’ is a trick of style which Joyce never tired of and had picked up probably from Pater.

But if the stories in Dubliners have Flaubert’s virtues, they have also Flaubert’s weaknesses. To be absolutely faithful to what one sees and hears and not to speculate on what may lie behind it, for fear of indulging in one’s own emotionalism, is a creed that produces obvious limitations. Two boys on the lang from school meet a man who talks to them for a few minutes; goes away and returns. What he is – a sexual maniac – what he has done in the meantime, are only suggested by the tone of his speech and the way it alters after his return. Subject value, emotional or intellectual values, do not exist; there is a certain experience to be conveyed; this is where it begins, this is where it ends – now watch me do it! This is a sort of asceticism which the average reader is incapable of, and it produces in his mind a certain feeling of stiffness, of gaucherie as though he were watching someone behave rather too correctly to be quite well-bred.


I am eager for the library to deliver The Collected Stories of Frank O'Connor and hope that the ten stories still to be found will be among the 67 in the book. Regardless, I will read every one of them.
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Old 12-17-2013, 04:50 AM   #13
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I am reading Frank O'Connors stories side by side with James Joyce's Dubliners. Though I have a difficult history with James Joyces Ulysses, I must admit to being intrigued by these stories. Off topic perhaps
Spoiler:
The first three stories of the Dubliners intrigued me by the development in the life of the boy that tells them. From the first story, where there is a kind of innocence and an almost, but not quite blind faith in the order of life. Then the loss of innocence in the next, where the boy grows aware of sexuality, I think. And the last story where he feel a desire, combined with an almost more than adult resignation, but still....
I cannot help but comparing these two books: the somewhat nostalgic glow over the stories of Frank O'Connor and the unmerciful harsh light over the The Dubliners. For an even more meaningful discussion; shouldn't we combine these two writers or is this a weird idea?
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Old 12-17-2013, 11:54 AM   #14
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I am really enjoying these stories. I've now read all that are included in the The Best of Frank O'Connor I was able to obtain from my local library system. A am still waiting to receive the special request for different collection of his stories which I hope will let me further complete this list. For now I am continuing to read additional titles that intrigue me. First up Stretched on Your Grave, just because I always loved that Sinead O'Connor song .



I find so many just little bits wonderful in these stories. Like in The Genius when his mother tells the boy her version of the facts of life (with the mother's engine needing the father's crank to start it ). At least three generations later some parents were just as uncomfortable with the subject. I remember that my sex talk was not even a talk. My parents just handed me a medical encyclopedia open to the section of reproductive anatomy and told me to read it. That at the same time told me much more than I needed to know about internal organs and failed to provide me with much information I was in need of.
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Old 12-17-2013, 12:16 PM   #15
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O'Connor had a deep love of the Irish Culture and did translations from the early Irish.

Here's one example of his work:

The Drowning of Conaing

The Shining waters rise and swell
And break across the shining strand,
And Conaing gazes at the land,
Swung high in his frail coracle.

Then she with the white hair of foam,
The blinding hair that Conaing grips,
Rises to turn triumphant lips,
On all the gods that guard his home.

8th Century (anonymous)
Tranlator: Frank O’Connor

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