Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of book reviews to periodicals including the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and the Village Voice Literary Supplement.
Aoibheann Sweeney is a graduate of Harvard University, where she earned her bachelor's degree and was awarded both the John Harvard Scholarship and Elizabeth Carey Agassiz Award. She continued her education, garnering a master of fine arts degree at the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. In addition, Sweeney has been honored with resident fellowships at both the MacDowell and Yaddo writers' colonies. She serves as the programming director for the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Within the confines of her position, she organizes various cultural and academic programs in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. These range from seminars for the faculty to public lectures, readings, conferences, and discussion groups. She also writes book reviews, contributing frequently to a number of publications, such as the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and the Village Voice Literary Supplement.
Sweeney's first novel, Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, offers readers a modern-day, extremely offbeat take on William Shakespeare's classic play TheTempest. Sweeney's heroine, like Shakespeare's, is called Miranda, but this current version has grown up on an island off the coast of Maine, and has always dreamed of running off to see New York City. In part, this dream was inspired by Sweeney's own youthful yearnings that eventually brought her to New York, first to study, and then to live and write. Miranda, however, has a purpose in Maine; her father's only child, and his source of comfort after her mother's disappearance, she types his work for him as he progresses through the monumental task of translating Ovid's Metamorphoses. But as Miranda comes of age, she begins to rebel against the life she has been living, losing her virginity to a sailor on the island only briefly, and purposefully missing her college entrance exam. Her father ultimately sends her to New York, where she works at the Institute for Classical Studies, courtesy of his connections. But she is finally in New York, and it is where she wants to be. The reader experiences the city through her eyes, and her own unpredictable reactions to the sights. Life in New York slowly pulls the fog from in front of Miranda's eyes, allowing her to understand the deeper truths of her life that she never noticed before, or perhaps was simply too naïve to understand. It seems clear her father is actually a homosexual, and that perhaps this is the dark secret that drove Miranda's mother to leave the house.
Patrick Condon, in a review for the Framingham Metro West Daily News Online, remarked of Sweeney's debut: "The book's ending comes abruptly, and some might prefer a less ambiguous resolution to Miranda's struggle toward adulthood and self-knowledge. But Sweeney wisely goes for something a lot more like real human existence, where rarely is a life radically altered by revelations from the past." Washington Post Book World contributor Ron Charles praised the book's style, commenting: "The pleasure of this novel stems from Sweeney's gentle balance of comedy and sorrow, the predicaments of an odd girl hurtling through adolescence with little guidance." He went on to conclude that "there's real talent in this sensitive novel." Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Susan Salter Reynolds remarked upon Sweeney's ability and talent for "carrying a reader through her character's childhood and young adulthood, maintaining a credible voice as clouds part and epiphanies arrive." Leah Strauss, writing for Booklist, dubbed the book "an accomplished coming-of-age tale," praising the way that Sweeney's "subtle prose elevates the moments when Miranda shrugs off another layer of loneliness."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2007, Leah Strauss, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, p. 33.
Books, July 21, 2007, Francesca Delbanco, "Making Her Way through Chilly Surroundings," p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking.
Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Donna Bettencourt, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2007, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking.
New York Times Book Review, July 29, 2007, Maria Flook, "Island Hopping," p. 13.
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 5, 2007, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking.
Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2007, review of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, p. 41.
Washington Post Book World, July 29, 2007, Ron Charles, "Island in the Storm," p. 5.
Brooklyn Paper,http://www.brooklynpaper.com/ (November 3, 2007), Katie Newingham, "Bard Girl."
Cultural Policy,http://www.culturalpolicy.org/ (December 5, 2007), author profile.
Metro West Daily News Online (Framingham, MA), http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/ (August 26, 2007), Patrick Condon, "A Hazy Youth."
Photography and Atrocity,http://www.photographyandatrocity.leeds.ac.uk/ (December 5, 2007), author profile.
Weekly Dig,http://www.weeklydig.com/ (December 5, 2007), author interview.