Last week I listened to Julian Barnes read the Frank O'Connor story "The Man of the World" for a New Yorker podcast. I was so moved by the story and I enjoyed the discussion between Barnes and Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker fiction editor, so much, that I went out and bought the new Everyman's Library collection of Frank O'Connor stories, edited by Barnes. Here's Barnes' first paragraph of the introduction:
Frank O'Connor was once stopped on the road west of Kinsale by a man who said to him: 'I hear you're a famous writer. I'd like to be a famous writer, too, but 'tis bloody hard. The comma and the apostrophe are easy enough, but the semicolon is the very divil.' The man was wrong, of course: the ability to punctuate, and even to spell, correctly are often missing from some of the best writers. What counts is the ability to be on that road, allow yourself to be stopped, listen to what the man says, remember the voice, and know when and how best to use it. O'Connor's art was that of a man who travels his native Ireland at the speed of a bicycle, happy to pause and listen, slow to come to a general conclusion, preferring the particular instance and the gradually revealed truth.
I'm really looking forward to joining O'Connor on that bicycle ride.