Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"I See You, Bianca" by Maeve Brennan

"I See You, Bianca" by Maeve Brennan  (1960, 12 pages)

The Irish Quarter:  A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1

Maeve Brennan
1917 to 1993
A Truly Great Writer

Please consider joining us for this event.     Everything you need to participate is in the resources page, including links to 1000s of short stories, from brand new ones to stories now in the public domain.   Guests posts are also welcome.   

Prize offered by John Walsh, author of Border Lines-A free copy to a participant in the event.  Just send me an e mail if you wish to be entered in the drawing.   

Brennan's life should have been a fairy tale of one happy and exciting day followed by another.  It was not.

Brennan's father was the first Irish Ambassador to the United States.   Her father fought for freedom from British rule in  the Irish War for Independence.     The British imprisoned him for a while.    Brennan and her family lived in Washington DC until 1944 when her father returned to Ireland.   She stayed on in the US and moved to New York City where she got a job writing copy for Harper's Bazaar.   She also wrote a society column for an Irish publication.     She began to write occasional articles for The New Yorker.    In 1949 she was offered a job on the staff of the magazine.   She was incredibly beautiful, very intelligent, witty, petite, always perfectly dressed and made up.   She moved about frequently and had extravagant tastes.    Some people feel she was the inspiration for Holly Golightly, the lead character in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958).   In the 1960s people began to observe that she was now beginning to appear unkempt.    In the 1970s Brennan became paranoid and was an alcoholic.    She began to drift in and out of reality and was hospitalized   several times.    She ended up living either in transit hotels or in the ladies room at the offices of The New Yorker.   (I also read William Maxwell's introduction to one of her collections of short stories published posthumously and learned that to its great credit the magazine had secured for her a place where she could stay and be fed but she rarely went there.)    In  the 1980s she all but disappears.   She died in 1993 in the Lawrence hospital, a  ward of the state.    As I read this I could not help but be reminded of Jean Rhys but I think the story of Brennan is more tragic in that Rhys partially recovered from her years of darkness and was seen as a great writer while still alive. 

During Irish Short Story Week Year Two on March 19, 2001 I posted on Maeve Brennan's wonderful short story "Christmas Eve".  (There is a link in this post where you can listen to a podcast of the story, the reader is Roddy Doyle.)   I liked that story but I totally love "I See You, Bianca".   If you love cats, and I hate to say this, but Maeve Brennan was a cat of a woman and for me this is a very high praise and I think lovers of Brennan will get it, you are going to love this story.   It is just so beautiful, yet it does not care whether you like it or not.

I read the story in Wonderful Town:  New York Stories from the New Yorker Magazine.  As far as I know, it cannot be read online.   It also appears in a posthumous collection of her short stories, The Rose Garden.    The story is narrated by a woman living  in a New York City brownstone apartment.   She starts out by  talking about her feelings about New York City.   She tells us about  the apartment which she makes totally real for us with her wonderful descriptive power.   The story turns magic when she begins talking about her cat, Bianca.   Maybe Brennan has reached a point already where she prefers the company  of cats to people, I can sometimes relate, but she totally captures the essence of catness in this story.

I have not told much of the plot of this story.  This is in part as I do not want to spoil the story for others and also I know most will not be able to read the story.   

This post is more a tribute to Brennan than an attempt to analyse the story.

Please share your experience with Brennan with us.

Mel u

1 comment:

Séamus Duggan said...

Thanks for linking, and your kind comment, Mel. I have a couple more posts on Brennan - see