ACIS Logo Fine Meshwork: Philip Roth, Edna O’Brien, and Jewish-Irish Literature

Dan O’Brien

“Exceptional, original. . . . O’Brien takes on a fascinating topic about which very little has been written and, in so doing, makes a valuable contribution to the growing corpus of books in the emergent field of Irish-Jewish studies.”—Stephen Watt, Indiana University

“O’Brien’s Fine Meshwork interlaces intricately the works, lives, and preoccupations of two (variously) misunderstood contemporary writers so as to ask questions that go beyond considerations of nation and biography.”
—Tara Stubbs, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and Kellogg College, Oxford

In a 1984 interview with longtime friend Edna O’Brien, Philip Roth describes her writing as “a piece of fine meshwork, a net of perfectly observed sensuous details that enables you to contain all the longing and pain and remorse that surge through the fiction.” The phrase “fine meshwork” can apply not only to O’Brien’s writing but also to the connective threads that bind her work to others’, including, most illuminatingly, Roth’s.

Since the publication of their first controversial novels in the 1950s and 1960s, Roth and O’Brien have always argued against the isolation of mind from body, autobiography from fiction, life from art, and self from nation. In Fine Meshwork, Dan O’Brien investigates the shared concerns of these two authors, now regarded as literary icons in their home countries. He traces their fifty-year literary friendship and the striking parallels in their books and reception, bringing together what, at first glance, seem to be disparate milieus: the largely feminist and Irish scholarship on O’Brien with Jewish and American perspectives on Roth. In doing so, and in considering them in a transnational context, he argues that the intertwined nature of their writing symbolizes the far-ranging symbiosis between Irish literature and its American—particularly Jewish American—counterpart.

Paper $34.95s | 9780815636397

Hardcover $70.00x | 9780815636212

Published on: February 13, 2020