A Fanatic Heart (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
In this ample selection of Edna O’Brien’s short stories, most of them previously collected, there are few or no surprises. For the reader already familiar with O’Brien’s writings, there are the familiar heroines desperately searching for and inevitably disappointed by love. For the general reader, there is the array of familiar elements from popular fiction, film, and television—the innocent country girl betrayed by her seducer; the bright country girl who prospers in the big city, only to find success empty and lonely; the perceptive sophisticate who can seduce any man but can hold on to none; the disappointed married woman whose only marital legacy is a son or two, soon grown and distant; the eternal other woman who simultaneously envies and despises the respectability of the wife.
What makes O’Brien’s writing better than pulp fiction is that she is honest, accurate, and unsparing of her heroines, despite their being patterned so closely after herself. The O’Brien heroine, whether young or middle-aged, whether naïve Irish country girl or sophisticated London writer and public figure, is a woman who defines her essential self in relation to men or, more accurately, in relation to one particular man. She waits on him, waits for him, lives to please him, lives for the next time she will see him, and lives in the expectation of the...
(The entire section is 2492 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Book World. XIV, November 25, 1984, p. 3.
Booklist. LXXXI, November 15, 1984, p. 419.
Kirkus Reviews. LII, October 1, 1984, p. 926.
New Leader. LXVII, November 12, 1984, p. 14.
The New Republic. CXCII, January 7, 1985, p. 34.
The New York Review of Books. XXXII, January 31, 1985, p. 17.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, November 18, 1984, p. 1.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXVI, October 12, 1984, p. 38.
The Wall Street Journal. CCIV, December 17, 1984, p. 32.
(The entire section is 55 words.)