O'Connor, Joseph 1963- (Joseph Victor O'Connor)

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O'Connor, Joseph 1963- (Joseph Victor O'Connor)


Born September 20, 1963, in Dublin, Ireland; son of John Oliver Vincent O'Connor and Joanna Marie O'Grady; married Anne-Marie Casey, 1998; children: James Casey and Marcus Casey. Education: University College, Dublin, B.A., M.A.; University College, Oxford, University of Leeds, M.A.


Home—Dalkey, Ireland.


Full-time writer, 1989—. Amnesty Educational Trust, founding member; Macaulay fellow, Irish Arts Council, 1993; fellow, New York Public Library, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, 2005-06.


Hennessy First Fiction Award, 1989; New Irish Writer of the Year, 1989; travel writing award, Time Out magazine, 1990; special jury prize, Cork International Film Festival, 1992, for A Stone of the Heart; Whitbread Prize shortlist, 1992, for Cowboys and Indians; Miramax Screenwriting Award, 1995; best new Irish play award, In Dublin magazine, 1995; New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 2003; Prix Littéraire Européen Madeleine Zepter, 2004, for Star of the Sea; Premio Giuseppi Acerbi, 2004, for new literature; Hennessy/Sunday Tribune Hall of Fame Literary Award, 2004; notable book selection, American Library Association, 2004; Neilsen-Bookscan Golden Book Award, 2005; Premio Napoli, 2005.


True Believers (short stories), Flamingo (London, England), 1992.

Cowboys and Indians (novel), Flamingo (London, England), 1992.

Even the Olives Are Bleeding: The Life and Times of Charles Donnelly, New Island Books (Dublin, Ireland), 1992.

The Secret World of the Irish Male (comic essays), New Island Books (Dublin, Ireland), 1994.

Desperadoes (novel), Flamingo (London, England), 1994.

Red Roses and Petrol (stage play), Methuen (London, England), 1995.

The Irish Male at Home and Abroad, Minerva (London, England), 1996.

Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America, Roberts Rinehart, 1996.

The Salesman (novel), Picador USA (New York, NY), 1999.

The Comedian, New Island (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.

(Editor) Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by Fifteen Irish Writers, A.A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.

The Last of the Irish Males, New Island (Dublin, Ireland), 2001.

Star of the Sea (novel), Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2002.

Redemption Falls (novel), Free Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the fiction work Inishowen, 2000; the screenplays A Stone of the Heart, 1992; The Long Way Home, 1993; Ailsa, 1993; and the stage plays The Weeping of Angels, 1997. Former columnist for Esquire and the Irish Tribune.


Joseph O'Connor is an Irish writer. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in the early 1960s, O'Connor earned degrees from University College, Dublin, and University College, Oxford, before taking up writing fulltime in 1989. His writing has received numerous awards, including a Hennessy First Fiction Award and a New Irish Writer of the Year award in 1989, as well as the shortlist for a Whitbread Prize in 1992.

O'Connor published his first collection of short stories, True Believers, in 1992. The author covers a range of topics, including separation, abortion, and infidelity, oftentimes featuring Irish men as the protagonists who are at a turning point in their lives. A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that "O'Connor's style is terse and graphic, attuned to the voices of his young characters," adding that "it proves a powerful literary tool."

O'Connor published Desperadoes in 1994. Frank and Eleanor Little are forced back together after years of separation in their marriage after hearing about the sudden death of their son, Johnny, in Managua, Nicaragua. Once there, they talk to the only person they know in his life at the time, an American musician named Smokes. Together they go to the morgue to identify the body only to find that it isn't Johnny, starting a process of questions and confusion over what happened to him and where he is.

Douglas Kennedy, writing in the New Statesman & Society, called the story "a ferociously ambitious novel that aims high and, by and large, succeeds wonderfully." Kennedy warned, however, that the author will "sometimes get a little too colloquial for his own good." Kennedy concluded: "Told in clever, broad strokes, with a sharp eye for the nuances of such disparate cityscapes as contemporary Managua and 1950s Dublin, Desperadoes is O'Connor's shot at the big time."

In 1996 he published Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America. The premise of the account is that O'Connor visits every town in the United States that is called Dublin, nine in total. The travelogue explores not only these settlements but also the people who live and work there and tourists in general.

A contributor to the Economist commented that "there is a buoyancy and freshness to Joseph O'Connor's comical investigation of all nine Dublins. He writes with a poetic touch about his childhood holidays in Connemara where he fell in love with American tourists. But nothing he writes about America has the same impermeable sense of place." The same contributor concluded that "his best moments are en passant," adding that "he reacts to pop music with a buff's passion that might alienate the aged; the street beat bounces about in the prose like the songs. But he gets the ramshackle funkiness of it all. Classic travel writers may search out fast-disappearing strangeness, but Mr O'Connor finds a touching strangeness in the raw and the new." A contributor writing in Publishers Weekly labeled the book as "a travelogue for the hip who won't be upset with snide comments passing as humor and insight."

O'Connor released The Salesman in the U.S. market in 1999. Dubliner Billy Sweeney finds his daughter in a coma after she was beaten by thugs during a robbery. After the gang's leader, Donal Quinn, is set free from court custody, Sweeney kidnaps him and imprisons him at his own house. Quinn eventually escapes and in turn holds Sweeney prisoner. Eventually the two reconcile and learn to cope with the problems and losses they have faced in their lives.

A contributor to Publishers Weekly mentioned that "Billy's guilt and remorse for the drunken rages that destroyed their marriage, his keening memories of the brightness of a life now gone gray and sour, resonate heartbreakingly." Des Traynor, reviewing the novel in the World of Hibernia, commented that "The Salesman isn't quite Richard Ford's The Sportswriter. But give O'Connor time. He is still not as good as he thinks he is, but he is still better than he has ever been, and younger than he realizes." Dianna Moeller, reviewing the novel in Library Journal, found the story line "uneven and unbelievable," despite having "realistic dialog and a skillful use of language."

In 2002 O'Connor published the novel Star of the Sea, which tells of the people onboard the title ship who flee the Irish famine of the 1840s for America. A handful of first-class passengers mix with the hundreds of passengers in steerage to present a collage of stories about love, vengeance, loyalty, and violence during this voyage to suspected opportunity. The book won the Prix Littéraire Européen Madeleine Zepter in 2004.

Russ Haggerty, writing in Irish Culture and Customs, remarked that "Star of the Sea has all the essentials not so often found in a novel. It isn't one journey of a sailing ship. It is all of many journeys for the people of its day." Haggerty appended that "more telling and more true are the journeys of the Irish who kept and grew their wealth matched against those who lost their fortunes." Mary Whipple, reviewing the novel on the Mostly Fiction Web site, commented that "O'Connor presents a compelling story with many details of Irish history that the reader will not soon forget. His characters, the social strata they represent, and the ineluctable destinies they face are vividly portrayed and poignant in the emotions they elicit. The ending involves some polemics—Dixon, who writes the conclusion, is a dedicated socialist, after all—and those statements were jarring (to me, at least) and out of character with the tone of the story." Whipple noted that "he does provide a follow-up to the characters after their arrival in America, however, so the reader knows what happens to them. The fact that at least one character becomes a politician (later accused of misappropriation of funds) will surprise no one."

A contributor writing in the Economist remarked that "this is a confident and sumptuously entertaining book, filled with the voice of Mr. O'Connor's native Ireland and composed with the sweep of the Atlantic's horizon." Booklist contributor Karen Holt observed that the author's "luscious book brews the suspense of a thriller with the scope and passion of a Victorian novel." A contributor to Publishers Weekly found that "the complicated narrative paints a vivid picture of the rigors" of nineteenth-century Irish life. The same contributor wrote that "the engrossing, well-structured tale will hold historical fiction fans rapt." A critic writing in Kirkus Reviews recorded that the author "pulls out all the melodramatic stops for a thrilling tale without once losing his eye for the right detail or his ear for the perfect phrase." Joseph M. Eagan, writing in Library Journal, observed that the author "brilliantly weaves together an intriguing plot, a cast of memorable characters, and some stunningly realistic dialog," calling the thriller "first-rate."



Booklist, January 1, 1993, Angus Trimnell, review of Cowboys and Indians, p. 792; March 15, 2003, Karen Holt, review of Star of the Sea, p. 1275.

Bookseller, March 19, 2004, "O'Connor Commits to Random House," p. 12; April 23, 2004, "Plain Sailing," p. 15.

Contemporary Literature, summer, 2005, Jose Manuel Estevez-Saa, "An Interview with Joseph O'Connor," p. 161.

Economist, July 20, 1996, review of Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America, p. 3; May 10, 2003, "Breaking Waves; New Fiction"; December 6, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 77.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 263.

Library Journal, November 15, 1992, Ann Donovan, review of Cowboys and Indians, p. 102; July 1, 1996, Katherine Ellerton, review of Sweet Liberty, p. 143; October 15, 1998, Dianna Moeller, review of The Salesman, p. 100; May 1, 2003, Joseph M. Eagan, review of Star of the Sea, p. 157.

New Statesman & Society, March 18, 1994, Douglas Kennedy, review of Desperadoes; July 14, 1995, Patricia Craig, review of The Secret World of the Irish Male, p. 39.

New York Times Book Review, June 1, 2003, James R. Kincaid, review of Star of the Sea, p. 10; December 7, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 70.

Paragraph, January 1, 1991, review of Cowboys and Indians, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, November 23, 1992, review of Cowboys and Indians, p. 57; February 8, 1993, review of True Believers, p. 78; July 22, 1996, review of Sweet Liberty, p. 222; December 21, 1998, review of The Salesman, p. 51; April 14, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 47.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1992, Eamonn Wall, review of True Believers, p. 206.

Spectator, March 12, 1994, Albert Read, review of Desperadoes, p. 30.

Times Literary Supplement, October 25, 1991, Nicholas Clee, review of True Believers, p. 21; March 11, 1994, Michael Kerrigan, review of Desperadoes, p. 22; July 26, 1996, Andrew Rosenheim, review of Sweet Liberty, p. 12; January 30, 1998, Carol Birch, review of The Salesman, p. 22; December 20, 2002, Jonathan Keates, "Adventures with Wig and Pen: New Uses for the Historical Novel," p. 19.

Tribune Books, July 7, 2002, review of Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by Fifteen Irish Writers, p. 6; June 1, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 4.

Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2003, review of Star of the Sea, p. 6.

World Literature Today, spring, 2002, Peter Bien, review of Yeats Is Dead!, p. 154.

World of Hibernia, winter, 1997, Des Traynor, review of The Salesman, p. 171.

World Press Review, March 1, 2003, Judith Palmer, review of Star of the Sea, p. 38.


Identity Theory Web site,http://www.identitytheory.com/ (June 26, 2003), Robert Birnbaum, author interview.

Irish Culture and Customs Web site,http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ (July 30, 2008), Russ Haggerty, author interview and review of Star of the Sea.

Mostly Fiction Web site,http://mostlyfiction.com/ (May 15, 2003), Mary Whipple, review of Star of the Sea; (July 30, 2008), author profile.

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O'Connor, Joseph 1963- (Joseph Victor O'Connor)

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