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Keyes who last year, according to her publisher, outsold every other Irish and English author, responded to each questioner with encouragement, sympathy, and wry humor. To the uninitiated, “chick lit” sums up a kind of disposable fiction à la ; all about airhead babes negotiating the minefields of office life, dating, and the January sales.But as this Q&A session made clear, chick lit is also a kind of candy-coated feminism.It was in that hopeless space that I read a short story. But I had no idea that I wanted to write – could write.” The experience didn’t entirely rescue her. My mother will never have that confidence.” Keyes has plenty to bolster her self- esteem these days: a successful career, a happy marriage, not to mention the effects of the passage of time (“Turning 40 was great.I can’t remember what it was now, but I thought, That’s lovely; I really like that! Something had cracked open in me that tried to save me. Early in the following year she attempted suicide and ended up in rehab, where she got sober. “People misunderstand because they think ‘Oh you’re dying for a drink.’ But it’s not that I’m dying for a drink. Because for one reason or another I was born without the coping mechanism that other people seem to get. Suddenly I was able to speak my truth without the worry that I would offend other people and they wouldn’ t love me anymore”).But when Marian’ s first novel, , was published, Mrs. “People like my mother were disgusted with my first book. So many women said, ‘Thank you for saying the stuff that goes on in my head.’ And they thanked me for articulating that Irish women have a sex life; that Irish women can be raunchy. But Keyes with her tumble of dark hair and her lively blue eyes has the look of an Irish fairy princess, and her own story, with its extremes of dark and light and its satisfying twist of redemption, has closer parallels to a mythological tale.Born in the West of Ireland and raised in Dublin, Keyes earned a law degree in Dublin before moving to London where, as she quips, she put the degree to good use waitressing.
The knowledge that her contemporaries had all settled into successful careers drove her. But in September 1993, the month she turned 30, she says, “I was drinking all the time; I was thinking about suicide a lot.
It didn’t help being brought up in Ireland in the 60s. The whole culture prevailed against women having any self-esteem. She moved back to Dublin eight years ago with her English-born husband, Tony, who now runs the business side of Keyes’ career.
The children they’d hoped for haven’t come but now they are resigned to it, and instead keep company with two imaginary dogs, a conciliation to Keyes’ fear of dogs, which she’s working on.
All combine topics like death, depression, and domestic abuse with a large dollop of humor.
Keyes believes Irish women have a particular facility for writing this kind of fiction. We’re in tune with the darkness of life and we know that humor is our survival mechanism. Having to let go of alcohol, which was the love of my life, was excruciating.
She’s an anomaly, if not a downright impossibility — an Irish mother who takes on board the details of her daughters’ sex lives without fearing for their eternal damnation.