Heart Like a Wheel

It was with shock and great sadness that I read of Kate McGarrigle’s death this morning.  Hers was the music of my life.  From Things That Go Pop at CBC:

The descriptors “Canadian icon” and “national treasure” are often used as lazy shorthand to refer to those artists who’ve made some sort of impact on our country’s music scene. But Kate McGarrigle was one of the awe-inspiring few who truly deserved those epithets — and then some. McGarrigle, who passed away Monday after a drawn-out battle with clear cell sarcoma (she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2006), was one of Canada’s legendary voices, a woman who celebrated and elevated the rich history of our country’s musical traditions throughout a career that spanned more than three decades.

Though Kate and sister Anna McGarrigle may have viewed themselves as “accidental” recording artists, it was clear from the outset that the pair were unique talents. Raised in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, the McGarrigles were originally introduced to French cabaret chansons, French-Canadian folk music and jazzy standards as children — their family was given to cozy group singalongs around the piano. Kate and Anna honed their own piano skills at the elbows of nuns; later, they would make a career out of performing a fresh variation on the homey, honest music of their youth in folk clubs and on recordings.

Shortly after she gave birth to son Rufus Wainwright (one of two children she had with singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III), Kate and her sister were recruited to contribute backing vocals to a version of Anna McGarrigle’s Cool River that was being covered by another folk artist (Maria Muldaur). By some twist of fate, the right set of ears heard magic in those McGarrigle harmonies and offered the pair a record deal. And in 1976, Kate and Anna McGarrigle released their self-titled debut album, an enchanting collection of old-fashioned folk songs. It was immediately lauded by fans and critics. The New York Times and the music magazine Melody Maker named Kate and Anna McGarrigle one of the year’s best albums.

The album even included one tune, the arch Complainte pour Ste. Catherine, in which the two neatly encapsulated the sighs of a ’70s-era Montrealer in wry Québecois French:

“Moi, j’me promene sur Ste Catherine / J’profite d’la chaleur du métro / J’ne regarde pas dans les vitrines / Quand il fait trente en d’ssous d’zero.” (“Me, I walk along St. Catherine [street] / Getting the warmth from the Metro / I don’t look in shop windows / When it’s 30 below zero.”)

That these two unassuming sisters from Quebec could bring such an idiosyncratic tune to the largely Anglophone masses (the late English singer Kirsty MacColl even covered Complainte in 1989) is a testament to the great gifts of Kate (and Anna) McGarrigle.

Kate used her music to share her appreciation for Acadian culture and the understated beauty of folk songs, but she also instilled those same values in her children. Both Rufus and Martha Wainwright have paid tribute to their mother in their own songs. It’s not uncommon for listeners to be privy to the intimate family portraits that appear in the work of sharp songwriters who draw inspiration from their own lives, but it’s rare that we are familiar with the parties depicted in song.  [more]

“Shall I nevermore behold you?/ Never hear thy laughing voice again.”

A bit more:

From Anna McGarrigle:

Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. ♡

Update:  From Rufus

When inevitably I read today in the papers that my mother lost her battle with cancer last night, I am filled with an immense desire to add that this battle, though lost, was tremendously fruitful during these last three and a half years of her life. She witnessed her daughter’s marriage, the creation of my first opera, the birth of her first grandchild Arcangelo, and gave the greatest performance of her life to a packed crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Not to mention traveling to some of the world’s most incredible places with both my sister, her husband Brad, my boyfriend Jorn and myself. Yes, it was all too brief, but as I was saying to her sister Anna last night while sitting by her body after the struggle had ceased, there is never enough time and she, my amazing mother with whom everyone fell in love, went out there and bloody did it.  I will miss you mother, my sweet and valiant explorer, lebwohl and addio. X

RIP Nanao Sakaki

From a letter written by poet Gary Snyder:

“Last night I got word from Japan that Nanao Sakaki had suddenly died.  He was living with friends in the mountains of Nagano prefecture in a little cabin.  He had stepped out the door in the middle of the night to stargaze or pee and apparently had a severe heart attack.  His friends found him on the ground the next morning.  Christmas afternoon they’ll hold the otsuya  — intimate friends drinking party in his room, sitting with his body — and a cremation after that.  He was one of my best friends in this lifetime.” 


From the Allen Ginsberg Project

See also David-Baptiste Chirot

And Nanao Sakaki at About.com Poetry:

Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing Songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot

Odetta Rests


From NYT:

Rosa Parks, the woman who started the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., was once asked which songs meant the most to her. She replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”

Odetta sang at the march on Washington, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement, in August 1963. Her song that day was “O Freedom,” dating to slavery days: “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me, And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free.”

Read the whole thing here

“The Midnight Special”

Ron Lancaster, Rest in Peace

Today, Ronnie Lancaster died of lung cancer.  He was diagnosed this summer.  I didn’t know he was sick.

When I was growing up, I liked to watch sports with my Dad on Saturday nights Sunday afternoons and evenings.  I’ll never be sure whether I really liked the sports watching or if I just did it so I could hang with my Dad.  In many ways, he was a typical “Dad” of my generation.  Maybe more so.  I don’t know.  My Mom stayed home and raised five kids.  Dad mostly worked.  He travelled on business and was away from home frequently.  He left for work earlier in the mornings than the Dads of my friends and he returned home much later at night.

I guess because my Mom had little time with him herself, they developed a pattern to their evenings.  Till we reached the age of 8 or so, we were in bed by 6:30 p.m.  That meant that we were trying to go to sleep when it was still light out and other kids were playing on the street during the late spring and early summer months.  It always meant that we were in bed before Dad got home.

As we got older, we were allowed to play outdoors with the other kids, or we were sent to the basement to play and watch tv till bedtime.  Mom and Dad would have a couple of gin and tonics (or more) and a nice dinner to themselves.  We weren’t allowed to come upstairs and we caught shit if we tried.  (This also meant that we often ate hot dog stew while they had steak and, later, that I had to do two sets of dinner dishes – ours and theirs – damn I hated that!)

Dad took few vacations.  Sometimes, we got to tag along on his business trips.  But that still didn’t mean spending much time with him, as he’d be out working the same hours, or longer because of the pressure to socialize with associates.

Like most kids, we missed him and grew to resent his absence when we realized it wasn’t quite typical – likely it didn’t help that he was highly stressed and rarely energetic enough to spend much time with us even when he was around.  He also suffered profoundly from stress-related illnesses that seemed to get the better of him when he wasn’t working.  He was very ambitious and status oriented.  He loved his work but he also loved being a “big shot”, which he was.  Knowing that he was having a good time and apparently not suffering when he wasn’t with us rankled.  Pissed Mom off too!  Maybe we competed for whatever free time he had.  It wasn’t a fair fight.

One of the things Dad did to relax in whatever free time he had was to watch hockey, football and baseball.  I do think I liked those games.  But I know for sure that what I liked most was hanging with Dad.  I asked a billion questions – “what’s ‘offside’ Dad?”, “what’s a ‘clipping’ penalty?”; “what’s a ‘force play’?” and a “conversion” and why isn’t the “punter” playing with the rest of them?

To give credit where credit is due, Dad was a good and patient teacher.  He liked my curiosity and he answered my questions carefully, even in the heat of battle on the ice or field.  I think he was kinda pleased that I seemed interested in “his” interests and that he had a daughter who knew her way around a quarterback sneak and a squeeze play.  I still enjoy knowing and watching this stuff with my sons, though I almost never watch on my own.  For me, it’s a “family thang”.

Ronnie Lancaster, and the whole CFL for that matter, were family.  I knew the names of all these guys and I had my favourites.  They were my rock stars before there were rock stars.  My faves weren’t always my Dad’s either, but he cared for my faves – pointed them out to me when they were coming on or going off the ice or field and kept me up-to-date on their goings on.  I remember Frank Mahovlich, Davie Keon, Willie Mays and Cookie Gilchrist.  I liked some of these guys for their toothless, boyish smiles, some for their quirky names and others for the way they played.  I didn’t like the dirty players, like Gordie Howe, and I didn’t like the ones who didn’t know how to be “gentlemen” when they weren’t playing, like poor Roger Maris.  I knew what it was to be a team player and a good sport.  There was no one worse than an individualist except a poor sport.

Ronnie Lancaster was the team player to end all team players.  There was no greater “gentleman”.  He was the best sport ever.  And damn, he was good at what he did.

I didn’t read the following news piece on Lancaster before writing my own remembrance.  Pretty amazing, how similar some of the comments are to my own:

The CFL has lost a legend, and Canada has lost a friend.

Ron Lancaster, 69, died Thursday morning after a short battle with lung cancer.

The former standout quarterback, who also had a long career as a head coach, administrator and television commentator, was diagnosed in late July and had been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Lancaster’s death has prompted CBCSports.ca readers to write in and share their memories of the CFL great.

Here’s just a small sample:

Reader from Regina: “Many are recalling Lancaster’s contributions to the CFL, but I wanted to share a personal anecdote. While still playing in Regina, Ron worked for several years as a phys-ed teacher at Regina’s Central Collegiate. Although it was a treat to have a celebrity as a teacher, there was also a downside. On occasion, the class engaged in a game of murder ball. God help you if Lancaster placed himself on the opposing team, as it was hard to avoid his throws. And when hit by his thrown ball, you knew it! He always seemed to take great delight in picking guys off.”

Reader from Calgary: “I loved watching Ron Lancaster play. His appearance was a far cry from the tall, strong-armed passers of today. Lancaster could roll out and scramble, he could hit any of his fleet of receivers and he used his skilled fullback, George Reed, to score points in bunches, and put up those impressive team win-loss records from 40 years ago.”

Reader from Calgary: “When I attended my first Stampeders game as a young boy, Calgary was leading in the fourth quarter and Lancaster calmly led the offence down the field for the winning score as time expired. I hated him at that moment but also realized how special he was. RIP Ronnie.”

Reader from Victoria: “All of Canada mourns the loss of Ron Lancaster. As a child growing up in Ottawa, I remember the glory days of the Ottawa Rough Riders in the early ’60s, when Ron and Russ Jackson made such a potent QB combination. After Ron was traded to the green Riders, we all still had a soft spot for him in our hearts. Such a wonderful, talented, classy guy — he will live on forever in the annals of Canadian football.”

Reader from Hamilton: “I have been following the CFL for 40 years. Ron Lancaster was a professional football player, coach, television analyst and, most of all, a fantastic person. I live in Hamilton and was proud to have Ron Lancaster associated with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ron brought class to our organization and I will always remember him as a person who brought such a great example of what class and humility is to the Canadian people.”

Reader from Winnipeg: “As a youth growing up in Winnipeg in the ’70s I have many fond memories of the games between our Prairie rivals, led by the immensely talented Ron Lancaster. As often as not, my dad would be pacing the floor and cursing at the Bombers’ inability to contain the Little General.”

Reader from Hamilton: “My earliest football memories are of the player (Ron Lancaster), my mother (born in Saskatchewan) and my dad (an ardent Ticat fan). Watching the ’72 Grey Cup here in Hamilton between the Riders and Cats was tense in our house. But Ron found his way to Hamilton and we, like the people of Saskatchewan and Edmonton, will regard him as one of our own. A great player, coach and a greater person. Goodbye, Ron.”

Reader from Regina: “Ron Lancaster exemplified the style and grace of the golden age of the CFL. I think it would be appropriate to retire No. 23 league wide, as a small token of respect.”

Reader from Campbell River, B.C.: “Like many Canadians, I spent years watching Ron Lancaster in the CFL, first as a quarterback. His partnership with George Reed and the Saskatchewan Roughriders was unforgettable. His years as a broadcaster added a layer of class to his analysis of teams, players and plays that has not been matched since his departure. He was a very fine gentleman, a first-rate quarterback and superb commentator at games.”

Reader from Hamilton: “I was just a young lad then, but I’ll remember him most for the Grey Cup battles with the Tiger-Cats in the ’60s, or sneaking my transistor radio into bed to listen to the night games in Saskatchewan.”   from CBC

Farewell Ron Lancaster.  We’ve lost a good man and a good sport.  Rock on 23!

Check out CBC “Life and Times” for more on ‘The Little General’


The Hamilton Spectator


Richard Monette

A champion and hero of theatre in Canada, Richard Monette has died much too soon.  Rest in peace Richard.  The Globe‘s tribute to Monette is here and Richard Ouzounian’s column at The Star is here.

What laughing chains the water wove and threw!
I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; I
Drifted how many hours I never knew,
But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—

And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,
Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass —
Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.
I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass. . . 

from “The Dance”, The Bridge, by Hart Crane

Sheela Basrur RIP

I am saddened to learn of the death today of Dr. Sheela Basrur, an amazing medical doctor best known for her pivotal role in managing the SARS crisis in Toronto in 2003.

“We have ultimately, entirely and only ourselves the ability to choose where we want to shine our light. I choose to shine mine on those that are the gifts and the joys and the rose petals in my life, and when I do that, I see gifts in abundance.” – Basrur, describing the awareness she’d gained through battling her cancer.

  Here’s a statement from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario:

Nurses across Ontario mourn today’s untimely passing of Dr. Sheela Basrur and express their deepest condolences to her loved ones.
“Dr. Basrur had a distinguished career in public health. Her
determination to protect health and to prevent illness was enormous,” says
Wendy Fucile, President of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
“Sheela will be always with us, and her legacy will strengthen our
paths,” says RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun. “She will remain in our
memories as ‘Our Sheela,’ a passionate individual whose expertise, humanity,
and courage made her a formidable professional and an exemplary citizen of
Ontario,” adds Grinspun with deep sadness.
Measures of nurses’ admiration for Dr. Basrur’s contributions occurred in
2007 and 2008 when Dr. Basrur was made an honourary member of RNAO, and
nominated by the association to the Order of Ontario. Dr. Basrur was invested
with the Order in April 2008 and made a moving address to nurses at this past
annual general meeting.
“We join our fellow nurses across Ontario in mourning the loss of
Dr. Basrur,” Fucile says. “We hope her family and friends take some comfort in
knowing that her championship of public health and her outstanding and
multifaceted leadership earned her resounding respect in Ontario and beyond.”

And from Premier Dalton McGuinty:

“I was deeply saddened when I heard today of the passing of Dr. Sheela Basrur.
She was a remarkable woman and her passion for public service is what made her such an extraordinary Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario.
Even when her own health demanded her attention, I know she struggled with the decision to leave her post and concentrate on her treatment.
Today we are saddened by this loss, but we also celebrate the gift that was Sheela’s life and her work.
She was a woman of great courage and she always had the strength to give her best advice, no matter what.
When Ontario needed her most, she was the calm voice that guided our way.
Ontarians will remember her for her leadership during the SARS crisis, but I will remember her for her warm friendship, and her wisdom.
My thoughts and prayers today are with her family and her friends – especially her parents, and her daughter, Simone.”


Several months ago, John Goddard of The Star interviewed Dr. Basrur from her hospital bed in Kitchener-Waterloo.  Given the fragile state of her health at the time, this interview was clearly very important to her and an addition to her legacy to the people of Toronto and of Ontario.  In it, she describes how her travels to Nepal and India shaped her extraordinary career in public health:

Dr. Sheela Basrur sat up brightly in her hospital bed, looking almost fit enough to be discharged. She appeared changed but oddly vibrant. The endearing mop of black hair was still struggling to grow back after chemotherapy and the tiny body – “five feet tall and shrinking,” – looked even further diminished. But the large, expressive eyes shone with the same steady intelligence that Torontonians came to trust during the mysterious and deadly SARS outbreak of 2003, signalling Basrur was feeling back in charge.

“You can put your coat on that chair,” she said helpfully. “The tape recorder you can put beside me on the bed if you like.”

For more than a year, Basrur underwent care for leiomyosarcoma, or LMS, a rare malignancy affecting soft tissues including muscles, fat, blood vessels and nerves. In early March, at 51, she appeared near death. Relatives from as far away as India had gathered at her side.

Then she rallied.

“I don’t see this often,” said her father, Dr. Vasanth Basrur, a radiation oncologist at Grand River Regional Cancer Centre in Kitchener-Waterloo, where his daughter was being treated. “She has some special gift in overcoming all her incapacities, coming to the surface – shining.”

Now, at the end of March, Basrur sat poised to recount a trip to Nepal and India that led to what turned out to be her extraordinary public health career. When she embarked, she was a 26-year-old doctor ready to settle in as a general practitioner. By the time she returned six months later, she possessed an entirely new vision of her future.

Three phases of the journey proved particularly life-altering – “like a one-two-three punch,” she said.

Basrur’s parents originate from southwest India. Her father is from Bangalore, in Karnataka. Her mother Parvathi, a veterinary geneticist, is from neighbouring Kerala. They met at university, married and moved to Toronto in the 1950s, where Basrur was born. Later, they moved to Guelph, where they had a second daughter.

Early on, Basrur decided on a medical career. She took a biology degree at the University of Western Ontario and, in 1982, graduated from University of Toronto medical school. She returned to Guelph and filled in as a general practitioner – “like a temp,” she said – at doctors’ offices and two hospital emergency rooms.

The next step would be her own practice, but first Basrur wanted a break. After years of academic achievement, she longed for what she called “an extended, let your hair down, stop with your nose to the grindstone just for a minute kind of feeling.” She bought an around-the-world plane ticket, and in September 1983, headed for Europe, Nepal and India.

Her first epiphany came in Nepal. Basrur undertook the Annapurna Circuit, a 21-day trek through some of the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery, at altitudes of more than 4,800 metres. She stayed in tea houses – “animals on the first floor, people on the second floor, and cooking becoming more and more difficult with the rising altitude as water took longer and longer to boil,” she recalled vividly.

“I had an eyeful of experiences,” she said. “I saw how if someone needed to go to the hospital, they would be folded up into a cloth strung between two poles, or just carried like a gunny sack on someone’s back, because the roads you could count on maybe three fingers and the rest of the land was traversed strictly by walking. And you walked the person over your shoulder, or two shoulders, bumpity-bump, with broken bones and everything.

“I noticed there were a lot of medical decisions made on social and economic grounds,” she said. “It might literally be too expensive to try to save the life of someone who might not make it anyway. You might have to choose between paying your bills and feeding your animals, and saving your precious child’s life, which might involve an 80-kilometre round trip to the nearest city to get a blood transfusion. And that’s just one transfusion. You have to make a pretty tough business decision.

“I saw in very stark relief some of the health-care rationalization choices that can plague patients, as well as doctors and governments,” she said. “It smacked me squarely in the face.”

After Nepal, Basrur travelled to India. She stayed with cousins who ran a rural hospital in Karnataka, in southwest India, serving villagers for hundreds of kilometres around. She noticed the hospital teemed with patients suffering from preventable diseases.

“What do you think her problem is?” one of her cousins asked her one day, about a patient.

“I think she smokes too much,” Basrur replied.

“This woman spends 90 per cent of her life in her kitchen,” the cousin explained. “The chimney is so inadequate the smoke fills the room. She has the lungs of a smoker at age 50, even though she’s never smoked a cigarette in her life.”

Poor chimney design had condemned the woman to a life of coughing and antibiotic use.

Another woman lay attached to a ventilator, her jaw paralyzed from tetanus.

“Here we get a tetanus booster – no big deal,” Basrur said. “My cousin, bless her heart, said there must be some community vaccination programs out there but really she had no idea . . .

“It struck me there was a system breakdown . . . (and) I remembered (in Guelph) getting patients who needed home care, needed mental health, needed counselling, had problems that were social problems manifesting as physical ailments.

“They didn’t need a pill or a prescription,” Basrur said, “but I was disconnected from that system of (other) supports in just the same way my cousin was disconnected from the supports that might have helped her patients avoid more aggressive treatment. I saw the parallels.”

Basrur remembered public-health classes at medical school as dry and theoretical. “They had not grabbed my imagination,” she said. After the Nepal trek and the rural hospital observations, however, her interest had awakened. She decided to make one more stop – “the last, most seminal influence in my choice of career direction.”

She wrote to two doctors, Raj and Mabelle Arole, an Indian couple who had trained partly in the United States. They had established what they called a comprehensive rural health project in what was then an obscure, dusty village called Jamkhed, at the heart of Maharashtra state.

The project is internationally famous now as a model of how to raise rural health standards through community development. Mabelle Arole died in 1999, but Raj and their daughter, Dr. Shobha Arole, carry on the work in an ever-expanding number of nearby villages. Young American doctors can now train there for a year at a time on scholarships in Mabelle’s name.

“I remember travelling by myself,” Basrur recalled of her visit to Jamkhed. “I took one bus and then I changed and took another bus, and it ended in a corn patch somewhere out in the countryside. The sun was going down. I said, ‘I’m going to the Arole compound. Can you take me there?’ And some man, with a big turban, no English for miles, pointed to a bullock cart.”

Basrur arrived safely and for the next two weeks soaked in everything around her.

“They described for me what I had learned only in theory,” she said of the couple. “These doctors (when they first arrived) were told, ‘Fine and dandy that you want to help us, but first we need clean water. Can you help us dig a well?’ So their first job was to befriend the local municipal leaders – find them, befriend them, figure out how to make the system go in this part of India and then organize the efforts to arrange for safe water . . .

“And when that need was met with reliability, it built trust, a basis for communication and they could go on to the next thing,” Basrur said. “Eventually, they were able to talk about the provision of health services like physical examinations for the young girls before they got pregnant, prenatal care, those basics that ultimately can make a society much more healthful but need to be on a foundation of adequate community development in the first place.”

Back in Canada, Basrur took a Masters of Health Science degree from the University of Toronto, then enrolled in the university’s community medicine residency program. As part of her training, she undertook projects for the ministries of health and labour, and various public health units. She was on her way.

An amusing photo next to her on the hospital wall partly sums up the rest. It shows Basrur almost nose-to-nose with Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, about to exchange a kiss. It was taken a few weeks earlier, at the naming of a building to house the province’s first arms-length public health body called the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, modelled after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’m over the moon with delight about it,” Basrur said of the occasion.

As a lasting testament to her extraordinary contributions to public health in Toronto and Ontario, Smitherman named the building the Sheela Basrur Centre.

The Star

Nuala O’Faolain

Nuala O’Faolain, the Irish journalist and author of the frank memoir Are You Somebody, has died. She was 68.

O’Faolain revealed on Ireland’s public broadcaster just weeks ago that she had cancer. She was initially diagnosed with lung cancer, but it spread to her brain and liver.

She died Friday morning at a hospice in Dublin, her family said.

Are You Somebody: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman earned O’Faolain “entry into an exclusive club: the official (and mostly male) chroniclers of Irish pain and rebirth, from James Joyce to Frank McCourt,” The New York Times said of her memoir.

In the book, O’Faolain chronicles her upbringing, one of nine children born to an alcoholic mother and philandering father, himself a newspaper columnist.

Are You Somebody was considered both unusually frank and scandalous, because it told of her own struggles with alcohol and revealed her long lesbian affair with Northern Irish civil rights activist Nell McCafferty.

She also revealed personal doubts associated with being a middle-aged, childless woman, working in a male-dominated profession.

O’Faolain already had a following from her opinion columns in the Irish Times. An ardent feminist, she often used the column to castigate Irish attitudes on the role of women, including women activists in the peace movement.

She tackled many feminist and social themes, including domestic violence, Irish homophobia, the grip of Catholicism and the country’s high birth rate.

She also had a gift for humour and captured the stories of individuals in everyday situations in a way that made them interesting.

With her memoir, O’Faolain smashed the acceptance she had received from fellow, mainly male political journalists, questioning what she called her “fake objective” approach to journalism.

She revealed numerous affairs with men as well as a 15-year relationship with McCafferty.

The book, written when she was 60, had an initial print run of 1,500 but went on to be an international best-seller.

O’Faolain wrote a follow-up memoir, Almost There, in 2003, the novel My Dream of You in 2001 and the biography The Story of Chicago May in 2005. She won France’s Prix Femina in 2006.


“In my time, which is mostly the 20th century, people have died horribly in Auschwitz, in Darfur, or are dying of starvation or dying multiply raped in the Congo … horribly like that. I think how comfortably I am dying: I have friends and family; I am in this wonderful country; I have money,” she said.

“There is nothing much wrong with me, except I am dying.”

No doubt Nuala believed she would indeed rest in peace.  The last thing I read of Nuala’s was back in March when she wrote this piece for The Women’s Media Center, defending Hillary Clinton against the gleeful male press who insisted she had inflated her role in Irish peace talks:

March 10, 2008  In a story widely picked up in the U.S. media, Lord David Trimble-once an Ulster Unionist Partyleader, now a member of the Conservative Party-while speaking to The Daily Telegraph this weekend, dismissed Hillary Clinton’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process, calling it “silly” and saying Clinton was active only in a “woman politicky sort of way.” Here, veteran Irish journalist and author Nuala O’Faolain’s responds:

Oh friends, let me mark your cards!

I’m telling you as an Irish journalist, who was in Belfast in the bad, dark times, and has a view as to how much Hillary Clinton mattered: watch who is being quoted about her track record here. Watch who is talking about women.

They did lose, you know, the loyalist/unionist tight little pro-British, Protestant majority. A long-worked-for, brilliantly complex Peace Deal did screw the unionists out of the power they’d ruthlessly exerted over Northern Ireland for more than 300 years. A new Ireland began with the Anglo-Irish Peace Agreement of 1998, and it is a pleasure to mention Westminster and Washington and the EU and Dublin in the shaping of the achievement. The one lot of players that was ignored at that time and has been utterly forgotten since then is the sad little rump of former unionist leaders. That’s who is being quoted about Hillary Clinton.

Nobody’s asked their opinion on anything at all for years.  Then, hey presto! A right wing English newspaper sees an opportunity to put down Hillary Clinton and all of a sudden the phone rings in forgotten bungalows. Hey, old guys, what’s your opinion?

There was never a chance that that lot ever took anything any woman did in public life with respect. Especially, I might say, any American woman. We’re talking deep, impacted misogyny here.

read the rest here

I will miss Nuala O’Faolain.

Here’s an audio of O’Faolain interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel in June, 2007:   here