Joseph O’Neill is the 2010 Literary Arts Series author. O’Neill is author of Netherland, which won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. He is also the author of two works of fiction, This is the Life and The Breezes, and a memoir, Blood-Dark Track: A Family History.
He will be speaking October 7, 2010, 1:40 p.m., at the Ciccone Theatre.
We encourage you to incorporate an excerpt, short story, or part of Netherland into your syllabus and course material. To this effect, LAS will be offering several “teaching approaches” to Joseph O’Neill before the event.
Discussion Questions | Excerpt
In The Relevance of Cosmopolitanism, O’Neill writes that “I have always been very aware that literature is subject to categorization by nationality, partly because none of the resultant categories easily includes me or, indeed, my writing. I was born in Ireland, as befits an O’Neill, but what followed was a hotchpotch in which even the question of a native tongue was unclear. My Turkish mother spoke French to me, my Irish father English. At preschools in Mozambique and Turkey, I picked up and forgot infantile Portuguese and Turkish (and never understood the Arabic in which my maternal family chattered). When I was 5, in Iran (where apparently I involuntarily learned some Persian), an American family friend taught me how to read and write in English. Then came the Netherlands, where I went to British and French international schools and equipped myself with memories of a marginally Dutch childhood. Then, after a decade as a Londoner, I spent a decade in New York, where I added a U.S. passport to my Irish one.”
Joseph O’Neill, an Irishman raised in Holland, talks to The Atlantic about The Great Gatsby, post-9/11 New York, and his novel, Netherland.
“Netherland is only superficially about September 11 or immigrants or cricket as a symbol of good citizenship. It certainly is about anxiety, but its worries are formal and revolve obsessively around the question of authenticity. Netherland sits at an anxiety crossroads where a community in recent crisis – the Anglo-American liberal middle class – meets a literary form in long-term crisis, the nineteenth-century lyrical Realism of Balzac and Flaubert. (…) It is absolutely a post-catastrophe novel but the catastrophe isn’t terror, it’s Realism.” - Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books
“But here’s what Netherland surely is: the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell. (…) I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had. (…) Netherland is a bit like the wily and ebullient Chuck Ramkissoon. It has more life inside it than 10 very good novels.” - Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review
“Despite cricket’s seeming irrelevance to America, the game makes his exquisitely written novel Netherland a large fictional achievement, and one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read. (…) Perhaps Joseph O’Neill is the writer this city has been awaiting: born in Ireland, reared in Holland, educated in England, and resident in Manhattan. If his writing has an English ease and classicism, it also has a world-directed curiosity, an interest in marginal lives which might owe something to O’Neill’s origins.” - James Wood, The New Yorker
Literary Arts Series