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FRANK O’CONNOR IN THE NEW YORKER, 1945–1967 JAMES D. ALEXANDER ireland’s most gifted storyteller, Frank O’Connor began a twenty-yearlong association with the American magazine The New Yorker in 1945. During this time O’Connor readapted his narrative style and innovated some Wctional techniques to appeal to his new reading public. The literary connection between O’Connor and The New Yorker oVers a case study in how a writer makes a second career for himself by writing magazine Wction and, incidentally, how a writer develops an American reading public with European material. Actually, it was not O’Connor’s original intention to publish in The New Yorker. His American biographer James Matthews tells that O’Connor, who had been a librarian, translator of Irish poetry, poet, playwright, novelist, and biographer, and who then gave himself over to storywriting for a living, found his career at a low ebb in the spring of 1945. He was forty-two and was living in Dublin; his family was growing, but his sources of income were drying up. Unknown to him, his wife Evelyn stuVed his Wnished story “News for the Church” into an envelope and mailed it to The New Yorker. The story was instantly accepted and appeared in print a few months later. When O’Connor found that his London agent did not strenuously object, and when he saw how handsomely the American periodical paid for a story, he signed a Wrst-reading rights contract with The New Yorker. This agreement was renewed successively for the next twenty years.1 It meant that in the last two decades of his life O’Connor was writing exclusively for the magazine, whose staV could cull out from his submissions the ones they felt were suitable and let O’Connor place the others elsewhere. The result was that, up to 1967, O’Connor put a total of fortyWve stories in The New Yorker, three times as many as he published in any FRANK O’CONNOR IN THE NEW YORKER, 1945–1967 130 1 James Matthews, Voices: A Life of Frank O’Connor (New York: Atheneum, 1983), pp. 216–17, 430 n. 27. other periodical on either side of the Atlantic—an output that amounted to a career of authorship in itself. O’Connor’s entry into this new literary relationship—though he remained in Ireland for over half this period—was accompanied by some experimentation in his technique. His earlier books Guests of the Nation (1931), based mostly on the Wghting involved in the Irish Revolution and Civil War, and Bones of Contention (1936), largely concerned with clashes in values among the rural Irish, present stories delivered largely in the tradition of Irish oral narrative. It was a tradition O’Connor had learned in his native Cork and had begun to use early in his writing career, and one that was most congenial to his view that a story should be recounted “with the sound of a man’s voice speaking.” The tradition was tied to the primacy of the local storyteller or seanchaí, a consummate performer, who embellished his stories with gestures, asides, and references to self and audience . O’Connor’s early Wction mainly possessed this heavy overlay of the personality of the teller, and a delivery that evoked the atmosphere of people gathered in a rural Irish back room. O’Connor’s collection Bones of Contention shows varied instances of narratorial intrusion. “The Man That Stopped” begins with dialogue. Ordinarily, this device thrusts the reader into the incident, and it is one that O’Connor used in his early Wction. Here the dialogue is between the teller and a respondent and is apparently designed to draw attention to the teller as a person in command of a unique story. The interchange operates to invite readers into the role of listeners. Another instance is the title story “Bones of Contention,” whose second sentence reads, “My grandmother , if I may be permitted to digress so soon, was a terror.” The expression “if I may be permitted . . .” makes the reader aware of a rather self-conscious narrator. There follow three long paragraphs of artful digression chockablock with gossip, before the narrator...


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