Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bree O'Mara

It's been more than a month, I know, and I have so much I've been plotting and planning to write about, but everything is interrupted for this. I can't seem to get over the enormous tragedy of South African Irish writer Bree O' Mara's life being taken, in the recent Libyan plane crash--the one where the lone Dutch boy survived--along, of course, with all else on the plane. I'd not heard of her before, but just the tragedy of the circumstances--an "emerging" writer with a book deal traveling to London to sign said deal--and the enormity of her talent, along with the exuberance of her personality and her life, feels arresting.

What especially intrigues me in her writing is her interest in humor--Home Affairs, her first book, described in The Times as a satirical look at the new South Africa, won a Citizen book prize, voted on by the South African public, and her second book, Nigel Watson, Superhero, which she has described as being about "turning 30, hating your job, and finding your wings,” also pursues comedy. Quoting the Times: "Humorous in tone, it is set in London and follows its nondescript anti-hero as he tries to be “someone else, somewhere else, doing something completely different”."

I've become awfully interested lately in reading humor, because it brings to mind early obsessions with P. G. Wodehouse and Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde in particular, and I'm especially keen on reading "adult" takes on humor (rather than YA) although I'm still wallowing in children's humor these days, as I read to my daughter, who's five now, particularly Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss. Although it is probably gauche to admit it, I absolutely loved Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary--trust me, it beats the movie hollow, if you haven't read the book yet; and although this one felt less compelling (too much sameness), also The Edge of Reason. This spring, by way of his visit to GW and to my Intro to Creative Writing class, I also discovered Howard Jacobson, another writer whose work is deft with humor, whose books I am lining up to read. As also Tom Mallon's--he's the new Director of Creative Writing where I teach and I chanced to hear him read from one of his many novels, Two Moons, a year ago, a book I'm yet to read, but there you go, another for my list. My first novel (not yet published) has humor in it--and I want to return to that lightness which carries depth in other work.

So to me it feels like a double loss, a woman writer, who writes satirically, with humor and wit and intelligence. I want to read Home Affairs and Nigel Watson, Superhero. I wish there were a more natural, writing-world way I had come to know of these books and their author. I wish Bree O' Mara's work long life and continuity. I wish I could say to Bree, thank you, keep doing what you're doing, you inspire me. All I can say is I am sure when I read her I will learn from her. And I will write again about her books.

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