Friday, June 24, 2011

Mary's Eyes and me


My friend Janis Ian saw my recent blog about the relationship of my story "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again" and her song, Mary's Eyes.  Then she sent me two mp3 files of different versions of the song and asked if I'd like to post them for people here to enjoy.

Why, yes.  I would.  Very much.  There's the first version up above.

For contractual reasons, I can't post my entire story here.  But I think I'm safe posting the first two paragraphs:

The bullet scars were still visible on the pillars of the General Post Office in Dublin, almost two centuries after the 1916 uprising.  That moved me more than I had expected.  But what moved me even more was standing at the exact same spot, not two blocks away, where my great-great-grandfather saw Gerry Adams strolling down O’Connell Street on Easter morning of ’96, the eightieth anniversary of that event, returning from a political rally with a single bodyguard to one side of him and a local politico to the other.  It gave me a direct and simple connection to the tangled history of that tragic land.
I never knew my great-great-grandfather, but my grandfather told me that story once and I’ve never forgotten it, though my grandfather died when I was still a boy.  If I squeeze my eyes tight shut, I can see his face, liquid and wavy as if glimpsed through candle flames, as he lay dying under a great feather comforter in his New York City railroad flat, his smile weak and his hair forming a halo around him as white as a dandelion waiting for the wind to purse its lips and blow.

There's more truth in this story than there is in most.  To begin with, though I fictionalize it as happening to the protagonist's great-great-great grandfather, that was me who saw Gerry Adams on that bright spring morning on O'Connell Street.  And it is my own grandfather, Michael O'Brien, after whom I was named, who dies in the second paragraph.  I was very young at the time -- three? maybe four? -- but I can still see his smile and know that he loved me.

The holy well in the Burren is exactly as I described it.  The Fiddler's Elbow is a real place, though I borrowed the peat fire and the back room from a pub in Galway.  I never went to the cinder block bar where my protagonist meets the boys but my mother once waited in the tour bus outside while her guide went in to buy her a Fresca bottle filled with illegal potcheen.  And I have lain down on the Stone of Loneliness not only figuratively, as we all must and have, but literally as well.  Once you discount all the science fiction and subtract everything that's plot, what remains is as close to an autobiographical piece as I'm ever likely to write.

So is it any wonder that Janis's song always brings tears to my eyes?  In that mysterious way art has of finding its recipients and making itself theirs, Mary's Eyes was written for me.  And for everyone else who's moved by it as well.

Here's the second version:

And I'm in reprint again . . .

My contributor's copy of David Hartwell's and Kathryn Cramer's Year's Best SF 16 came in the mail today, with my short story "Steadfast Castle."  It's written entirely in two voices and whoever wrote the intro to it (Kathryn, I'd guess) notes that it could be put on as a short play.

Which is almost exactly what Marianne and I have done the couple of times we've done readings of it.  I deliver the policeman's lines and Marianne does Cassie, the intelligent house.  Like every reading we've done together, it goes over very well.  And like every reading we've done together, everybody agrees that Marianne is the better actor.



Pageturners said...

Where is this stone - is it Poulnabrone? I'll be in the Burren in the next couple of weeks, and am curious about it.
I've tried every way I can to get Asimov's Science Fiction for August 2011 and read this story, which sounds good, but failed. Later today I'll give it one last go; perhaps Lonely Planet on Aston Quay in Dublin may keep the magazine.
Nice site; keep on writing.

Pageturners said...

Geoff Hart has written a fine review of the story, by the way.