Monday, August 6, 2012

An unsent letter

by Joan

My writing directory includes a What Women Write folder where I store half-written blog posts. Some will be finished one day, others leave me baffled at why I imagined others might be interested. I like running Q&As because we get to peek inside our favorite authors' minds, learn about their motivations and interests. Sometimes my requests come from book signings, like with Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Jamie Ford, or, when I feel brave, email introductions, like with Kate MortonAdriana Trigiani and Dani Shapiro.

A while back I began a note to one of my most beloved authors, first to tell her what her books have meant to me, second to invite her onto the blog. I’m not sure why I was so intimidated or why I hesitated, but the half-written invitation lingered in the someday folder.

I deeply regret not sending my invitation to Maeve Binchy. She died July 30 in Dublin at the young age of 72. But I will share my note here.

Dear Ms. Binchy,

My letter is long overdue—your books have lined my shelves ever since my oldest sister suggested I’d enjoy Light a Penny Candle over twenty-five years ago. She was right. Since that first book, I’ve read (and own) your sixteen novels and two of your short story collections. When I settle down with one of your books, I know I’m in gifted hands.

My letter stopped there, but today I finish it. 

Though I didn’t know you personally, my heart goes out to those who did. I will mourn you, but luckily for the rest of us, your characters will live on.

Through you, Ireland came to life for me on a glass lake, in a working-class pub, a convent school, a tailor shop, an Italian class. Through the characters you managed to draw as both ordinary and extraordinary at once. Thank you for your novels, for your Night of Rain and Stars, your Glass Lake and Circle of Friends, for your Firefly Summer. For your Heart and Soul that you shared with us so generously.

Maeve Binchy's inspirations were the people she saw on the street, the conversations she eavesdropped. She said she got some of her best material from riding the bus or listening on the old party telephone lines.

Over the last few days, I’ve read many touching obituaries, lovely tributes, and interviews and here. For those who’d like to hear her lovely voice and spirit, here’s a lovely 25-minute interview with Gay Byrne about her feelings on spirituality, life and writing.

When I met Elizabeth, she knew we'd hit it off when she learned we shared a favorite author. And Julie is a big fan, also. If there’s a silver lining to Ms. Binchy's untimely death, it’s that she had submitted another manuscript to her editor and they will set a release date for publication. 

What's your favorite Binchy book?

1 comment:

  1. My favorite is Firefly Summer--mainly, I think, because it was the first I read and the feeling I had when I turned the last page can't be duplicated. From the more recent years, I loved Quentin's, which I have often heard people say wasn't their favorite, which was interesting to me. I loved each of the books where she wrote interconnected stories.


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