When Susannah Dickey released her fantasy novel Tennis Lessons in July 2020 at the age of 27, it cannot be overstated to say that interest in the beginner was stimulated. Dickey has published several well-received poetry pamphlets, and is studying for a doctorate in creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Center in Belfast, but prose remains a very important thing.
Coming to life and realism, paragraph by paragraph, the Derry-born author charts the progress of an unnamed Northern Irish woman from the ages of three to 28. She deftly manages the complexity of a single sentence. Coming-of-age story with some interesting details. The main character’s path to becoming a woman is plagued with skin problems, her unfaithful father, an HIV-positive uncle, drinking, and sexual assault. Tennis lesson advertised as a style paver for the uncompromising Fleabag and I can destroy you.
“It didn’t work very well,” Dickey said of his debut humbly. “When I got my book deal, [being young] very beneficial to me because I think I’m part of a microcosm of young Irish writers who benefit from behind, you know, the giant of young Irish writers, ‘ she added, leaving Sally Rooney’s name undisclosed.
Fascinated by Elizabeth Day and Louise O’Neill, Tennis lesson described by The Observer is “a beautiful and psychologically profound text” billdungsroman… the emergence of a young writer to see “.
“I think as soon as it came out, I became a slave of [review site] Goodreads, like the Wild West, or Fargo,” said Dickey via Zoom from her London home. She imagines its users as “conscience graduates who can, you know, bring a tub of hummus back to Sainsbury’s because they’re selling it for 3p cheaper at Tesco”.
Critics have mostly referred to her debut, and many have referred to Dickey’s “unpleasant” descriptions of menstrual blood, pubic hair, sexual pleasure, and functions. body in general.
“I mean, I’ve always been incredibly drawn to the body,” says Dickey.
She went on to mention a Rodin exhibit she recently visited at the Tate Modern, and how the sculptor often collects and keeps drawers full of body parts, such as ears. , hand or nose, as part of studying his body.
“That’s probably the person I’m thinking of [while] writing about the body, that obsession with a particular body function or part,” she ventured. “You get a sort of semantic satire with it. You stare at it until it becomes almost alien to you. I mean, we’re just bags of meat that put together pretty badly. “
The young woman like a shipwreck at work, dealing with trauma while stumbling blindly in life, has now become the norm in the culture. Just last month, Guardians headlined: ‘How The Messy Millennial Woman Became the Most Boring Riddle on TV’.
I give this to Dickey, who doesn’t have it. “I mean, it’s hilarious, isn’t it? To think about it in those terms,” she said. “You’ve got this rule that has been dominated by white male authorship that has explored every possible manifestation or defect or malicious impulse of masculinity.
“If someone is thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve read so much about toxic, chaotic people,’ maybe what they’re thinking is that men should stop writing for a bit. The landscape is only just beginning to diversify, and it remains very desirable in terms of the lack of so many voices. To think it’s saturated implies a lack of imagination on the part of any reader. You know, what we need to focus on right now is not shutting down problematic or unreliable characters or chaos, and [instead] ensure a rich socio-economic [backgrounds] and the variety of those characters. “
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In that regard, Dickey has doubled down with his second novel and created two compelling characters who readers will alternately root for and despair. Lily and Siobhán are twenty people living in separate apartments of a modern apartment complex in Belfast. Lily is living in the horrific aftermath of her mother’s death, becoming stuck and alone in her grieving process. She believes her upstairs neighbor Siobhán is leading a happy and successful life – but Siobhán, a teacher, has problems of his own. She too, stuck and alone, waiting for the married man with whom she had an affair to become more emotionally available; an exercise in futility. Hoping that they would be friends, Lily began to become mildly obsessed with Siobhán. The feeling is not mutual, as Siobhán simply does not have enough bandwidth for a new friendship. Things get funny and complicated, fast. Does not light up.
“I’ve always been interested in writing the story of two people who exist close to each other and want their lives to mirror each other in some way, and then actually be completely different from the others,” Dickey said. “These two characters are linked by this palpable sense of desolation. With Lily, you’ve made her attempt immortality, or revive her mother’s spirit through these hypothetical conversations. But she overcame the obstacle of her own limited perception. Meanwhile, Siobhán is watching in real time about the death of her unhealthy, unhealthy relationship. “
Dickey is part of the charge of Northern Ireland writers, whose collective work seems to have built an interesting momentum over the past few years. However, while many of her contemporaries are focusing on the influence and legacy of Northern Ireland’s violent history, Dickey’s work boasts a distinct sense of place.
Like Anna Burns’ Milk delivery manDickey focuses less on the terrain of Northern Ireland and more on the conflicts, bodies, and introspections of her characters.
“I think there’s a pretty radical departure in the way I approach the position Tennis lesson with the way i did it in General,” she said. “I think [in the former] partly motivated by cowardice or caution or uncertainty about how to write a place. It helped me write this character, who is so deeply introspective that the world around her hardly matters. She could have been anywhere and would have such constructive thoughts. While with Generalit feels much more important to write about the symbiosis of the place with the way a person acts, thinks or behaves. “
That said, Dickey is aware of Northern Ireland writers’ desire to explore the identity and homeland. “People in the North have covered their place in the mainstream media, perhaps in a way that is a bit uncomfortable with the way they understand the place,” she said. “I think it was the first time that we even, in recent times, were explicitly acknowledged by Britain as an important place. I’m wondering if my type of writing is that I’m trying to regain control of a place I know is mine.”
There’s perhaps another reason Dickey might have felt, as she called it, a “cowardly” feeling when addressing the idea of Northern Ireland as a position in her writing. Still only 29 years old, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, she was five years old and somewhat different from the Worst Troubles. “I think I’ve been extremely privileged in some respects, in some ways my parents’ generation may have been inclined to protect us from certain narratives and from the pervasive violence that has plagued us. dominated the formative years of their lives,” she said. “It is a privilege to be protected from it. It means I’ve done a lot of retroactive catching up when it comes to its nuances. “
Work completed in the delivery of his second novel, Dickey returned to work on his PhD program, focusing on poetry. In terms of ideas and inspiration, her cup is running low.
“I have already started thinking about the next couple [of novels],” she said. “I think the next book will be a more natural successor to Tennis lesson than General.
“Over time, I want my work to become increasingly amnesiac,” she added. “I want to draw on these idiosyncrasies and the paradoxes that exist. I want to write something from the point of view of a dead whale. You know, like someone crying over how delicious pears are, while they die of an allergy to pears. Then again, George Eliot argues that the production of too much literature is an offense to society”.
Susannah Dickey’s ‘Common Decency’ is now available on Doubleday
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/susannah-dickey-i-want-my-work-to-get-increasingly-demented-over-time-41858601.html Susannah Dickey: ‘I want my job to get worse over time’