Ann Owens Weekes
Julia O'Faolain was born into a family of writers and romantics; her mother, Eileen Gould O'Faolain, wrote children's stories; her father, Sean O'Faolain, was a distinguished writer and editor of the fine literary journal, The Bell. Disillusioned by the protectionist, isolationist Ireland of the 1940s, Sean became a voice of dissent against the pruderies and pretensions of this Ireland, a voice that his daughter would echo. Eileen also shaped her daughter's perspectives by keeping her home until she was eight, audience for her own stories of fairies, pookas, and leprechauns. When she finally went to school, Julia incautiously revealed her knowledge and belief in the fairy world. The mockery of her skeptical peers determined her never to be caught out again, and from this time, she turned a "cold eye" on all the myths of church and state and, we should add, class. Her parents, she says, bequeathed her a fascination with magic and an inability to believe in it; the conjurer's art attracts, but she is alert to the sleight of hand rather than the pleasure of mystery.
Many of the stories in O'Faolain's first collection, We Might See Sights! ( 1968), were reprinted in Melancholy Baby ( 1978). The stories range through several levels and age groups in Irish society and introduce a distinctive narratorial voice with an acute delight in penetrating pretention and an ability to paint a vivid picture with a few, apt, original, and witty words. The title story is a haunting tale about the irrational nature of desire and the link between sexuality and violence. It is an accomplished, brief story whose theme O'Faolain