I interview the acclaimed Irish author for a chapter in her upcoming book on Irish writing. On the menu: McBride's novels, Irishness, writing sex, and what critics expect from women.
Eimear McBride’s debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has one of those publication stories that seems to fly in the face of editorial intuition. Written in six months in the early 2000s, it was left unpublished for nearly a decade, to be finally picked up by Galley Beggar Press in 2013.
Girl went on to win the Goldsmiths Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize among others. The original hope was that they would sell just a thousand copies; it's sold over a hundred thousand.
At the Port Eliot Festival this month, Eimear sat down to speak with me about A Girl is a Half Formed Thing and her 2016 novel The Lesser Bohemians, along with some chat about Irishness, writing sex, and what critics expect from women.
I'm currently writing a book chapter on Eimear McBride's first novel, some of which was presented in November 2017 at the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) in Washington, D.C.
“I was very aware of reviews coming out around Girl that said, “You could never write another book like this, this is the perfect symbiosis of form and content”—but I completely disagree with that.”
“I think that a lot of critics underestimate women. I think they expect women to write, so they get the love story, that’s clear, but that you can be playing a literary game in the middle of all that as well, that’s inconceivable to them. No woman’s mind works in that way. That’s for Joyce. That’s for Beckett. Women wouldn’t do that, they’re not interested in that.”
“A lot of sex is very compartmentalised in literature. It’s kind of the thing that happens Over There.”
“I’m not the first person who put a full stop in the wrong place, you know? That’s not new. ”
“[Joyce] showed me that you can do anything you want to with form if you have the ability to do it; I didn’t understand that before I read Joyce.”
“I would get up at five in the morning and write for two hours before I would go to work. And that was the beginning of learning how to write: how to get the muscles into working order. It was all rubbish.”