Irish Author Marian Keyes Term Paper

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Marian Keyes

Evoking Ireland: The Writing of Marian Keyes

One of the great pleasures of reading fiction is the sensation of being transported to another place and vicariously enjoying experiences that we may never encounter in our own lives. Irish writer Marian Keyes gives her readers that pleasure, creating interesting characters who live in Ireland, a place that holds much fascination for many Americans. Although her books have plenty of humorous moments, the themes are often dark, dealing with universal issues such as domestic abuse, mental illness, divorce and alcoholism, The reader cheers the strong female characters created by Keyes, as they ultimately triumph over adversity. It is a formula that has worked extremely well for Keyes, credited with creating a genre referred to as "chick lit."

Although there is a long history of writers penning books for a female audience, Keyes' work managed to be different than anything done previously. Compared to another extremely successful Irish romance writer, Maeve Binchy, Keyes' work is darker and grittier but also much funnier. What Keyes' books do share with Binchy, however, are the hopeful endings. Keyes has said she could probably make more money if she did not give her books a happy ending (Nolan 37) but she claims she likes the optimistic endings for herself. Clearly, readers like her books just the way they are. She has sold more than twenty-three million copies and her work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages "Eleven Things") . In 2000, Marian Keyes was ranked 67th on a list of the wealthiest women in Britain and Ireland (Nolan 37).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Irish Author Marian Keyes Assignment

Keyes was born in Limerick in 1963. She attended Dublin University, where she earned a law degree. Quickly disenchanted with the profession, she moved to London and took a job as a waitress. She wanted to write but confined her efforts to short stories, feeling that writing a novel would take too long. In 1993, Keyes sent some short stories to a publisher with a note stating she was contemplating a novel. The response from the editor was very encouraging and her first book, Watermelon, was the result.

It may surprise fans of Keyes' work that the author has struggled mightily against depression. Her humorous approach to even the darkest topics seems to be at odds with debilitating depression. Keyes' most recently reported bout occurred in January 2010. She posted a letter to fans on her website, confessing she was "living in hell." Still, she somehow managed to keep a light tone: "My dear amigos, happy new year to you all and I hope your festive season was not too unpleasant. I'm very sorry but this is going to be a very short piece because I am laid low with crippling depression." She briefly addressed critics, whom she said would wonder what she had to be depressed about as a best-selling author who could enjoy a very nice lifestyle with seemingly no worries. She thought she might be called a "self-indulgent whiner" whose problems paled compared to "people out there with real troubles. Keyes made no apologies, however, nor is one needed for anyone who understands the insidious nature of the disease. Although she acknowledged that there are people with serious problems ("I'm aware that these are terrible times and that there are people who have been so ruined by the current economic climate that they've lost the roof over their heads and every day is a battle for basic survival') she says the two situations really cannot be compared: "I know lots of people don't believe it, but depression is an illness."

That depression is an illness is well documented in the literature. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression "interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her" ("What is Depression?). NIMH calls the illness "common but serious," and in most cases requiring treatment by medication and psychotherapy to improve. Keyes expressed a wish to get well; she has suffered from depression on and off for a long time. In her May 2010 newsletter, the most recent on her website, she admitted to feeling better. She has yet to publish another book; her latest, The Brightest Star in the Sky, was released in January 2010, coinciding with her serious depression.

Keyes also battled a serious alcohol problem in her 20s. She believes in exacerbated her feelings of low-esteem and contributed to the downward spiral of alcohol abuse and destructive relationships. To this day, Keyes has no explanation for her susceptibility to alcohol abuse and depression. She says there is nothing in her upbringing to logically suggest that she would battle these demons as an adult. In a way, however, Keyes feels that her problems have helped her become a better writer. "Apologies to writers who don't agree," she has said, "but I think pain is very important" (qtd. In Roncevic 43). She believes her pain has created a broader understanding of the human condition and provided rich fodder for inventing characters and situations. She is able to go to the darkest places with her characters and do so with both humor and empathy. "I often hear writers say that humor is the hardest thing to do, but for me it's the easiest," she has commented. "It's always been a part of me, something I used as a survival mechanism when life was tricky" (Roncevic 43).

Life has been somewhat less "tricky" since Keyes marriage to Englishman Tony Baines, a former computer analyst who has devoted himself to his wife's career. By all accounts, Baines has been a stabilizing force for Keyes, serving as both a sounding board when she is working on a new project and a constant source of emotional support when she has struggled against her demons.

The book that started it all for Keyes is Watermelon. The title refers to the shape of the sassy heroine, Claire Webster, before she gives birth. The opening paragraph tells the reader a good deal about Claire: "February the fifteenth is a very special day for me. It is the day I gave birth to my first child. It is also the day my husband left me" (Keyes 1). The author immediately draws us in with this "hook." First, the story is written in first person, which invites our empathy and helps us identify right away with the character. It also give us two important pieces of information about Claire (whose name we do not yet know), namely that she is a wife and new mother. We can approximate her age from this. Finally, we know that Claire has a wry sense of humor, as she refers to the day as "very special" and gives equal billing to two cataclysmic events that are on opposite ends of life's emotional spectrum.

Throughout the book, Keyes continues to draw the reader in by using internal monologue that gives the impression that Claire is speaking to each of us individually. It feels as though we are sharing private "girl talk" with a very funny friend. In Chapter Three, for example, Claire arrives at the airport in Dublin. She has left her husband to return to the comfort of her extended family. The chapter begins with three sentences, each standing alone as its own paragraph:

And so to the baggage pickup area!

I always find it such an ordeal.

Do you know what I mean? (Keyes 28)

By asking a question, Keyes invites the reader to respond, even if we do so only in our own heads. Of course we know what she means. We have all been in that place where Claire is standing. We can immediately recall what it felt like to wait for our bags. Very few of us, however, could describe this ordinary situation with the same degree of hilarity as comes to Keyes with seemingly little effort.

At the beginning of Chapter Thirty-Eight, Keyes opens with a single word: "Men." In the next paragraph, she continues "Ah, yes, men. I suppose the issue was bound to rear its ugly head sooner or later" (Keyes 386). Again, the author draws us in, even with a single word. Used in that way, "men" is meant to convey a feeling of exasperation and along with it an understanding that they are a welcome part of women's lives. The attitude is reflective of the old adage that recognizes the dichotomy inherent in relationships: "you can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em." Keyes readers understand this. Most women reading Keyes' books will have been in love and had some kind of maddening experience with the object of their affections. Once again, it is this ability to tap into universal feelings that makes Keyes so successful as a writer. She says what we are thinking, only she says it more succinctly and with a great deal more humor.

Throughout Watermelon, we worry about Claire as she struggles with… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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