Last year for my birthday, my friend S got me a book. He told me that when he went to Half-Priced Books, he asked to see the Feminist Literature section. It tickled me to no end. He decided on Eavan Boland’s Object Lessons, which I had never read, though I *loved* In a Time of Violence, one of her poetry collections. He chose well, since Boland gets more personal in this memoir/poetry criticism hybrid. I found it to be an enjoyable, if challenging, read.
Object Lessons is a nonfiction text. It’s a blend of memoir, literary criticism, and poetic history and commentary. It’s the story of Boland becoming a poet, finding her identity as a woman, and understanding her place in Irish poetic history. It’s sort of a contemporary update to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, in which the author asks herself how a woman with children can be a poet, how is it possible to leave the kitchen and write? Can a woman be a poet and be a parent? Is it possible to balance all these elements in your life? The answer is obviously quite complicated. But the questions are worth exploring, as are the elements of heritage that Boland brings up throughout the memoir.
It’s not a straightforward sort of biography, nor is it pure literary criticism. Since I had read Boland before and knew something of her background, I enjoyed Object Lessons quite a bit. A casual reader may not get quite as much out of it, unless they’d also read some of her poetry or another Irish author’s. But the writing is absolutely gorgeous.