Eimear McBride and Marlon James and a guy from the NFL

I went to a reading in UCC last night. It was by Eimear McBride, an author, whose book A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was published in 2014.

Here are some of the awards and notices the book received.

Winner of 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize
Winner of 2013 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize
Shortlisted for the Folio Prize
Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014
One of Time Out New York’s Ten Best Books of 2014
Selected as one of NPR’s 2014 Great Reads
A New York Magazine Best Book of 2014
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2014
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal Best Books of 2014
Star Tribune Best Fiction of 2014
Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2014
The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014
Vanity Fair 11 Best Books of 2014

Not bad for a first novel, eh?

Anyway I haven’t read the book yet but I will. It tells the story of an Irish girl/woman and her life. It’s a tough story, by all accounts, but brilliantly told. It’s also written in a mixture of modernist and realist styles. It’s been compared to Joyce and Beckett in style, which says a lot. Her reading of it was stunning – it came alive, you were inside the character. That’s partly why she chose that style – because it allowed, no it demanded that the reader be inside and not outside. A privilege to have been there.

It took her almost ten years to have it published, having written it in six month. She had so many rejections that she ended up putting it away in a drawer and she began another book. Most publishers who were interested said that their marketing departments couldn’t sell it so they wouldn’t publish it. And we know, we know, that publishing is a business, but still. I hope they are sorry now…

Which reminds me of Marlon James, the 2015 Man Booker winner. Here’s a recent Guardian article about him which I found very moving and inspirational. You can and should read it here.

He says that he failed the main test of a writer which is never to give up. To keep going, no matter what. He says he failed that test because, in 2003, after 78 rejections by publishers at the age of 33, he destroyed all copies of his first novel John Crow’s Devil – he wasn’t cut out for it. Writing wasn’t for him. Delete, delete, delete.

Then he went to a writing workshop with Kaylie Jones and she liked some of his exercises and she asked him for some of his work and he had to go back home and try to find a copy of his novel from one of his friends who hadn’t obeyed his edict to delete it from his or her computer.

And he did, and he gave it to her. And it was published in 2005 and here he is now. And here is Eimear McBride now. And we’re all the richer for it.

Which reminds me of a quote by an American Footballer from last year’s Superbowl. New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman was assessed by a coach in 2009 who said he was too small, didn’t have the durabaility needed etc. He was quoted last year as saying: “There’s only two things you can do when someone says you’re not good enough: You can prove them right or you can prove them wrong.”



Novelist, short story writer, essayist, sports writer. Crime novel: Whatever it Takes due out 31 July 2020. The First Sunday in September, debut novel, published in 2018. Mercier Press, Stinging Fly, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, The42.ie, Holly Bough, Honest Ulsterman, Quarryman, Silver Apples.

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s