Below are two vignettes from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, a collection of edited radio interviews with nine women writers. The interviews were conducted by John Quinn, and centred on childhood in Ireland. In his introduction, Quinn writes that “because radio and print are such different media there are things that one can do which the other cannot. If the writers featured in this book were each commissioned to write an essay on their childhood, it would be a very different book.”
In the foreword, Seamus Heaney describes the invention of a narrative for one’s childhood as “to some extent a creative discovery of the self”. All the contributing writers offered a very interesting and mostly spontaneous glimpse of their formative years on the island, full of interesting recollections and some very funny anecdotes:
There were no books at all in our house. My mother was extremely suspicious of literature because she thought it was bad and could lead to sin. My father wasn’t interested in books. Hi reading was confined to the Irish Field and bloodstock manuals. There was no travelling library in our locality then. There were simply no books. Once, when someone in the village actually got a copy of Rebecca, there was such an avidity for it that it was loaned by the page. Unfortunately you would get page 84 and then page 103. As a result, I did not grasp the story of Rebecca for ages.
I discovered Shakespeare largely through Anew McMaster’s travelling players. When he came to Lismore with Hamlet, that was really one of the highlights of my youth. I was so excited that I couldn’t go home to bed. I had to cycle round the countryside for most of the night recovering from that performance.